Wednesday, February 25, 2015

You Stepped Out of a Dream: Madeleine Carroll

This is my entry in the Madeleine Carroll Blogathon hosted by the lovely ladies at Tales of the Easily Distracted and Silver Screenings. Click Here to read more about the beauteous Miss Madeleine.

Many years ago I had a friend named John. John was an elderly gentleman who grew up poor in the Bronx and became something of a self-made man, while he lived in obvious comfort, he loved to tell stories about his youth in the Bronx, growing up with many brothers and sisters and making do with very little. As we got to know one another better, we discovered that we shared a love of classic film, or, as we called them back then, old movies. He would sometimes call me in the middle of the day to try to stump me with a trivia question or to identify the name of an actor or actress whose name he couldn't remember.

Madeleine casts her spell
One of John's favorite movie stories to tell (and when he liked a story he told it many times) was about his first crush - Madeleine Carroll. John was very proud of his Irish heritage and never let anyone forget that Madeleine was a (half) Irish lass, herself. As a boy, the vision of love and romance that was Princess Flavia from 1937's "The Prisoner of Zenda" never left him and formed his image of a desirable woman.

Around this time I made my first trip to Hollywood. This was right before the days of EBay, so movie memorabilia was not so easy to come by if you didn't go out of your way for it. while diving through treasures at the Larry Edmunds Bookstore, I came across a press photo of Madeleine and knew it was something John would love. He was delighted and grateful and immediately found a place for her on his desk next to his wife and children and grandchildren. I was so happy that I could add a little Madeleine to his daily life.

Princess Flavia
This got me thinking of of how those first movie crushes shape our desires as we sail forth into the real world and into adulthood. In 1963 my Mom and I went to see "Charade" and forever after Audrey Hepburn has been my ideal of the woman I would like to be and Cary Grant as the man I wanted to love me.

The photo that sat on John's desk
So, here's to you, my old friend John. Thank you for sharing your story of your young love for this beautiful actress and how her perfect image always lingered in your dreams.

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).