Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lucille Ricksen: Tragic Star

2015 is the year of the Tragic Star at A Person in the Dark. February's Tragic Star is Lucille Ricksen.
Lucille graces the cover of Picture Play: she was only 13
Sadly, dying young is an all too common story in Hollywood. However, the story of Lucille Ricksen would make even the the most cynical among us break a bead of sweat or two.
Charming Child: Lucille's beauty caught the eye of Hollywood
Lucille's story has all of the ingredients of a cliched story of the quest for fortune and fame. 

The daughter of Danish immigrants, little Lucille (born Ingeborg Myrtle Elisabeth Ericksen) began earning her keep at age 4 as a model. While most actresses shave a year or two off of their actual year of birth, Lucille's parents added a year, always making her older than her real age (she was born in 1910, but was reported to be born in 1909). Her charming looks caught the attention of Hollywood and, in 1920 Lucille and her ever-watchful mama, Ingeborg,were summoned by Samuel Goldwyn for Lucille to appear in a series of short films. At age 10, Lucille was on her way.

Lucille is featured in an advertisement for the Edgar Pomeroy serial
Little Lucille was surely the family's breadwinner (family included father Samuel and brother Marshall in addition to mama Ingeborg). From the moment she stepped before the camera, Lucille worked steadily and without respite.  But, besides having the face of an angel, the camera revealed something else: Lucille photographed much older than her actual age. Jackpot!

Young teen Lucille photographed by Edwin Bower Hesser
And so, from about 1922 (at age 12), many of Lucille's roles cast her as a woman. In 1924, along with Clara Bow and Dorothy Mackaill, she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star. Big things were predicted for Lucille.

Lucille (second from left next to Clara Bow) with her fellow baby stars
Sadly, fate had other plans for Lucille. From 1922 through 1924, Lucille appeared in 24 films. While working on 1924's The Galloping Fish with Sydney Chaplin*, Lucille fell ill and remained bedridden for weeks. Her exhausted and fragile condition only made her recovery more difficult and she was ultimately diagnosed with  tuberculosis. While tending to her daughter, mama Ingeborg suffered a heart attack and died in February 1925. Cared for by Hollywood friends, including actress Lois Wilson and Producer Paul Bern (who paid for her medical care), Lucille passed away only a few weeks later on March 13, 1925. She was only 14.
A rather disturbing photo of Lucille and her older brother, Marshall. 
The death of the beautiful Lucille Ricksen sent a chill through Hollywood. She was not a leading lady of 16 as the fan magazines pronounced, but a child of 14; a child who never had a real childhood. A lesson should have been learned, but there were more childhoods sacrificed to Hollywood to come. 

Please visit these sites for a more comprehensive version of Lucille Ricksen's story:

Michael G. Ankerich's Close-Ups and Long Shots: Lucille Ricksen: Sacrificed to Hollywood

Lucille's story is also covered in Michael G. Ankerich's Dangerous Curves Atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen


Silence is Platinum

* There are some lingering rumors that Lucille died from a botched abortion with Sydney Chaplin's child, but these rumors seem to be unfounded (and nasty). 



I'm heartbroken here! What a sad, sad story... and she definetely didn't look like 14. Poor Lucille :(
You made me cry on a Sunday, Marsha. Shame on you.

FlickChick said...

Oh, Le, it is so sad how terrible exploited she was. There are several very suggestive photos of her as a little girl that I just could not post because they were too offensive. Shame on her parents.

Inge Gregusch said...

Amazing research, FC. The story; the photos; the whole tragic tale. Yet another example of abuse and exploitation in pursuit of the almighty dollar--something too often found in Hollywood. Great post! Very, very sad.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Inge. The poor girl never had a childhood. Very sad story.

Caftan Woman said...

The poor little thing. At a time when many of us try to prolong childhood we still see this story of exploitation.

Silver Screenings said...

Oh no! This is so sad in every way. Poor girl! Not allowed to be a kid, the exploitation by her parents, and then to die in such a way... I'm glad you featured her on your site so more people are aware of her story.

FlickChick said...

Yes, CW, someone was in a big hurry to make this little girl grow up.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Silver Screenings. Sadly, it happened to so many more children.

ClassicBecky said...

Although I hope Lucille was never victim to a Hollywood sexual predator, in all other ways she reminds me of the little girls in certain countries now -- made to marry and be a woman when they are children themselves. What a beautiful girl, and you are right, it's terribly sad...

lollipop said...

I just read this great book, Dangerous Curves A Top Hollywood Heels by Michael G Ankerich. Lucille is featured in it, among other ladies of the silent era. I highly recommend it. ITA, her story is very sad indeed.