||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (May 2012)|
- For the actress who married NYC Mayor Jimmy Walker, see Betty Compton.
|Born||Eleanor Luicime Compson
March 19, 1897
Beaver, Utah, United States
|Died||April 18, 1974
Glendale, California, United States
|Spouse(s)||James Cruze (1925–1930)
Silvius Jack Gall (?-1962) (his death)
Betty Compson (March 19, 1897 – April 18, 1974) was an American actress. Born Eleanor Luicime Compson in Beaver, Utah, she had an extensive film career. Her father died when she was young, and she was forced to drop out of school and earn a living for herself and her mother. She obtained employment as a violinist at a theater in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Compson made 25 films in 1916 alone, although most of them were shorts for Al Christie. She completed The Miracle Man (1919) for George Loane Tucker. Compson's rise as a star in motion pictures began with her portrayal of Rose in this production.
In 1920, she began to head her own company. She worked at the Hollywood Brunton studio and acquired three stories for films. Compson returned from New York City where she obtained financial backing for her motion picture productions.
Her first movie as producer was Prisoners of Love (1921). She played the role of Blanche Davis, a girl born to wealth and cursed by her inheritance of physical beauty. Compson selected Art Rosson to direct the feature. The story was chosen from a work by Catherine Henry.
Compson worked for the Christie Company as a newcomer in films, followed by Famous Players-Lasky. After completing The Woman With Four Faces (1923) she signed with a motion picture company in London, England. There she starred in a series of four films directed by Graham Cutts, a well-known English filmmaker. The first of these was a movie version of an English play called Woman to Woman (1924), the screenplay for which was co-written by Cutts and Alfred Hitchcock.
In 1928, she appeared in Court-Martial as Belle Starr, and in The Barker, a silent movie which contained some talking scenes. Compson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in The Barker. Mainly due to this success, she became one of the busiest actors in the new talking cinema. Unlike a number of other female stars of silent film, it was felt that her voice recorded exceptionally well. Although she was not a singer, she appeared in a number of early musicals, in which her singing voice was dubbed.
One of her most revered films remains The Docks of New York (1928), noted for its dark visual ambiance and superb performances. In 1930, she made a version of The Spoilers in which she played the role later portrayed by similar-looking Marlene Dietrich in the 1942 remake, while Gary Cooper played the part subsequently acted in the later film by John Wayne, perhaps the only time that Cooper and Wayne played precisely the same role. One major film in which she did not appear was Gone With the Wind; although she shot a Technicolor screen test for the role of Belle Watling, she was not cast in the role. Unfortunately, most of her later films were low-budget, even exploitation, efforts, though her acting was always competent.
Compson's last film was Here Comes Trouble (1948). She retired following that film and helped her husband run a business called "Ashtrays Unlimited".
Compson wed three times and produced no children. From 1924 to 1930 she was married to film director James Cruze. Later she married and divorced agent-producer Irving Weinberg. Her third husband was Silvius Jack Gall. He died in 1962.
Betty Compson died in 1974, of a heart attack, at her home in Glendale, California. She was 77. She was interred in San Fernando Mission Cemetery in San Fernando, California. She left no surviving relatives.
- The Devil's Trail (1919)
- The Miracle Man (1919 Paramount)(lost; short fragment exists)
- Prisoners of Love (1921)
- For Those We Love (1921 GoldwynPictures)(lost)
- At the End of the World (1921)(extant; held at Gosfilmofond)
- Ladies Must Live (1921)(lost)
- The Little Minister (1921)(lost)
- The Law and the Woman (1922)
- The Green Temptation (1922)(lost)
- Over the Border (1922)(lost)
- Always the Woman (1922)(lost)
- A Trip to Paramountown (1922 Paramount)(extant) (*short)
- The Bonded Woman (1922)(extant;Gosfilmofond)
- To Have and to Hold (1922 Paramount)(lost)
- Kick In (1922 Paramount)(extant)
- Woman to Woman (1923)(lost) directed by Alfred Hitchcock
- The White Shadow (1923)(extant) directed by Graham Cutts
- The Royal Oak (1923)(lost)
- The White Flower (1923 Paramount)(lost)directed by Julia Crawford Ivers
- The Rustle of Silk (1923)
- The Woman With Four Faces (1923)
- The Stranger (1924)
- Miami (1924)
- Dangerous Virtue (1924) screenplay by Alfred Hitchcock
- The Enemy Sex (1924)(survives; Library of Congress)
- The Female (1924)
- Ramshackle House (1924)
- The Fast Set (1924)
- The Garden of Weeds (1924)
- Locked Doors (1925)
- New Lives for Old (1925)
- Eve's Secret (1925)(extant film;Library of Congress)
- Beggar on Horseback (1925 Paramount)(extant)
- Paths to Paradise (1925 Paramount)(extant)
- The Pony Express (1925 Paramount)(extant)
- Counsel for the Defense (1925 BurtonKing/AssociatedExhibitors)
- The Palace of Pleasure (1926 FoxFilmCorporation)(lost)
- Wise Guy (1926 FrankLloydProds./FirstNationalPictures)(lost)
- The Belle of Broadway (1926 ColumbiaPictures)(extant; Library of Congress)
- The Ladybird (1927 Chadwick/1stDivisionPictures)
- Say It with Diamonds (1927 Chadwick)(survives; Library of Congress)
- Temptations of a Shop Girl (1927 Chadwick/1stDivisionPictures)
- Love Me and the World Is Mine (1927 Universal Pictures)
- Cheating Cheaters (1927 Universal Pictures)(lost) remade n 1934
- The Big City (1928 MGM)(lost)
- The Desert Bride (1928 Columbia)(lost)
- The Masked Angel (1928 Chadwick/1stDivisionPictures)
- Life's Mockery (1928 Chadwick)
- Court-Martial (1928 Columbia)
- The Docks of New York (1928 Paramount)(*her last pure silent film)
- The Barker (1928 FirstNational)(extant)
- Scarlet Seas (1928 FirstNational)(lost)
- Weary River (1929 FirstNational)(extant)
- On with the Show (1929 Vitaphone/WarnerBrothers)(extant)
- The Time, the Place and the Girl (1929 WarnerBrothers) (lost)
- Street Girl (1929 RKO)(extant)
- Skin Deep (1929 WarnerBrothers)(lost)
- The Great Gabbo (1929 Sono Art-World)(extant)
- Woman to Woman (1929 Gainsborough/Tiffany-Stahl)
- The Show of Shows (1929 WarnerBrothers)(extant)
- Blaze o'Glory (1929 Sono Art-World)
- The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1930)(lost)
- Isle of Escape (1930 WarnerBrothers)(lost; a short fragment exists)
- Those Who Dance (1930)
- Czar of Broadway (1930)
- Midnight Mystery (1930)
- Inside the Lines (1930)
- The Spoilers (1930)
- She Got What She Wanted (1930)(lost)
- The Boudoir Diplomat (1930)
- The Lady Refuses (1931)
- The Millionaire Kid (1936)
- Cowboys from Texas (1939)
- Mad Youth (1940)
- Los Angeles Times, Betty Compson Has Film Unit, February 15, 1920, Page III1.
- Los Angeles Times, Betty Compson Star, January 2, 1921, Page III20.
- Los Angeles Times, Flashes; Star To Travel Betty Compson Signs For London Films, April 5, 1923, Page II7.
- Los Angeles Times, Ex-Film Star Betty Compson, April 23, 1974, Page A4.
- Ogden, Utah Standard-Examiner, Closeup and Comedy, Monday Evening, May 25, 1934, Page 7.
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