Ina Claire

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Ina Claire
Ina Fagan

(1893-10-15)October 15, 1893
DiedFebruary 21, 1985(1985-02-21) (aged 91)
Resting placeMount Olivet Cemetery
Years active1909–1954
James Whittaker
(m. 1919; div. 1925)

(m. 1929; div. 1931)

William R. Wallace
(m. 1939; died 1976)

Ina Claire (born Ina Fagan; October 15, 1893[1] – February 21, 1985) was an American stage and film actress.

Early years[edit]

Ina Fagan was born October 15, 1893 in Washington, D.C. After the death of her father, Claire began doing imitations of fellow boarders in the boarding house where she and her mother, Cora, and brother, Allen,[2] were forced to live. Claire's mother took her out of school in the eighth grade, and she used her mother's maiden name when she began her career appearing in vaudeville.[3] In 1906, she gave a recitation as the grand finale of a program presented by Miss Cora B. Shreve's pupils in Washington, D.C. She was identified in a newspaper article as Ina Claire Fagan.[4]


Claire made her professional stage debut in October 1907 in Elmira, New York. She played Florie in a production of The Fatal Flower — the beginning of a two-year contract.[5]

In 1909, she appeared in a vaudeville act entitled "Dainty Mimic", which included an imitation of actor Harry Lauder. A booking agent described this act as "one of the best single Acts" he had seen that season and remarked that "She possesses a great deal of magnatism [sic] and is a big hit."[6]

Ina Clare pictured on a movie card (1922)

She performed on Broadway in the musicals Jumping Jupiter and The Quaker Girl (both 1911) and Lady Luxury, and starred on Broadway in plays by some of the leading comic dramatists of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, including the roles of Jerry Lamarr in Avery Hopwood's The Gold Diggers (1919), Mrs. Cheyney in Frederick Lonsdale's The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1925), Lady George Grayston in W. Somerset Maugham's Our Betters (1928), and Enid Fuller in George Kelly's Fatal Weakness. Between 1929 and 1931, she was married to screen actor John Gilbert, who was her second husband.

Ina Claire in a pre-code publicity still for The Greeks Had a Word for Them (1932), lying in her nightgown in a seductive pose, which provoked outrage from civic and religious leaders.

Claire later became identified with the high comedies of S. N. Behrman, and created the female leads in three of his plays: Biography (1934), End of Summer (1936), and The Talley Method (1941). Behrman wrote of Claire's performance in one of his comedies: "Her readings were translucent, her stage presence encompassing. The flick of an intonation deflated pomposity. She never missed a nuance."[7] Critic J. Brooks Atkinson praised Claire for her, "refulgent comic intelligence".[8]

Claire was retired from the stage for five years in the early 1940s, living with her husband in San Francisco. She returned to perform in the comedy The Fatal Weakness.[9] Her last stage appearance was as Lady Elizabeth Mulhammer in T. S. Eliot's The Confidential Clerk (1954).

She made her film debut in Cecil B. DeMille's The Wild Goose Chase (1915).[10] She is best remembered today for her role as the Grand Duchess Swana in the romantic comedy Ninotchka (1939), directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Greta Garbo.


Ina Claire died on February 21, 1985, in San Francisco, California, following a heart attack. She was 91 years old. She is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery located in Salt Lake City. She was an inductee in the American Theater Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


from the trailer for the film Ninotchka (1939)
Year Title Role Notes
1915 The Wild Goose Chase Betty Wright Short
Lost film
The Puppet Crown Princess Alexia Lost film
1917 National Red Cross Pageant Jeanne D'Arc - French episode Lost film
1920 Polly With a Past Polly Shannon Lost film
1929 The Awful Truth Lucy Warriner Lost film
1930 The Royal Family of Broadway Julie Cavendish
1931 Rebound Sara Jaffrey
1932 The Greeks Had a Word for Them Jean Lawrence
1939 Ninotchka Grand Duchess Swana
1940 I Take This Woman Cesca Marcesca (scenes deleted)
1943 Claudia Mrs. Brown
Stage Door Canteen Ina Claire (final film role)


  1. ^ Born in 1893, not 1892 as per the Social Security Death Index under the name Ina Claire and her gravestone
  2. ^ 1900 United States Federal Census
  3. ^ Flint, Peter B. (23 February 1985). "Ina Claire, 92, Who Brought Comic Artistry To Stage Roles". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  4. ^ "End of May Carnival". Evening Star. May 24, 1906. p. 19. Retrieved November 13, 2018 – via open access
  5. ^ "'The Fatal Flower' Distinct Surprise". Star-Gazette. New York, Elmira. October 22, 1907. p. 3. Retrieved November 13, 2018 – via open access
  6. ^ Ohio State University, Theater Research Institute, Scrapbook #172, n.p.
  7. ^ S. N. Behrman, People in a Diary (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1972), 196.
  8. ^ J. Brooks Atkinson, "Americans Stopping in London", The New York Times, February 21, 1928, p. 18
  9. ^ "Ina Claire here in Kelly comedy". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 30, 1947. p. 61. Retrieved April 28, 2021 – via
  10. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: The Wild Goose Chase". Silent Era. Retrieved 2011-04-25.

External links[edit]