Florence Turner

Florence Turner (January 6, 1885 – August 28, 1946) was an American actress who became known as the "Vitagraph Girl" in early silent films.

Florence Turner
Florence Turner 1916 2.jpg
Turner in 1916
Born(1885-01-06)January 6, 1885
DiedAugust 28, 1946(1946-08-28) (aged 61)
Years active1907–1943


Born in New York City, Turner was pushed into appearing on the stage at age three by her ambitious mother. Turner became a regular performer in a variety of productions. In 1906, she joined the fledgling motion picture business, signing with the pioneering Vitagraph Studios and making her film debut in How to Cure a Cold (June 8, 1907).[1]

At the time there were no stars per se, unless an already famous stage star made a movie. Performers were not even mentioned by name. Long, drawn out screen credits were non-existent. There was nothing but the name of the company and the picture. As the content of movies evolved from simple incidents or situations into definite stories, some of the heroes and heroines were conceded a vague identity, such as the "Edison Girl", etc.

The "Vitagraph Girl" in 1912

Though she was known only as the "Vitagraph Girl" in the early motion picture shorts, Turner became the most popular American actress to appear on screen (which at that time was still dominated by French pictures, especially from the Pathe and Gaumont companies). Her worth to the studio, as its biggest box-office draw, was recognised in 1907 when her pay was upped to $22 a week, as proto-star plus part-time seamstress. It was somewhat less than the male leading players, especially those with stage experience, particularly the super-popular Maurice Costello. In March 1910, she and Florence Lawrence became the first screen actors not already famous in another medium to be publicized by name by their studios to the general public.[2]

Later that year, Florence was paired several times with heartthrob Wallace Reid, who was on his way to stardom. But with the rise of more stars such as Gene Gauntier and Marin Sais at Kalem Studios, Marion Leonard and Mary Pickford at Biograph Studios, and Florence Lawrence (Biograph, moving to IMP in 1910), Florence Turner was no longer quite as special. By 1913 she was looking for new pastures and left the United States accompanied by longtime friend Laurence Trimble, who directed her in a number of movies.[3] They moved to England, where she and Larry began performing together in London music halls.

Turner sometimes wrote screenplays and directed her own movies, including a number of comedies. She also organized her own production company, Turner Films, for which she made more than thirty shorts.[4] These were shot at the Walton Studios of Cecil Hepworth, west of London.

Turner entertained Allied troops during World War I. She returned to the U.S. after the Armistice, but was not as successful as before. In 1920, she again went to England, where she remained until moving to Hollywood, virtually forgotten, in 1924.[5]

By then she was thirty-nine years of age, and her starring days were long behind her. She continued to act in supporting roles into the 1930s.

“Florence Turner was the original innocent heroine, spirited and resourceful but still pure and virginal, who, stemming as she did from the girl-woman ideals of Gene Stratton-Porter and Eleanor Porter, set the style for Mary Pickford. Blanche Sweet and scores of others later on.” —Biographer Charles Higham in The Art of the American Film (1973).[6]

In 1928, she acted in a minor role on Broadway in Sign of the Leopard, which ran for 39 performances.[7]

Turner was placed on the payroll at MGM by Louis B. Mayer in the 1930s, but was limited in the assignments offered. She mostly played bit or small parts and worked as an extra.

Last yearsEdit

She later moved to the Motion Picture Country House, a retirement community for the industry in Woodland Hills, California.[citation needed]

After appearing in more than 160 motion pictures, Turner died at 61 in Woodland Hills.[8] She was cremated at a mortuary in Hollywood and, at her request, there was no funeral service. She was buried at Chapel of the Pines Crematory.[citation needed]

Film appearancesEdit

Other film creditsEdit


  1. ^ "How to Cure a Cold". June 8, 1907 – via www.imdb.com.
  2. ^ Eileen Bowser, The Transformation of Cinema, 1907–1915, University of California Press, 1994, p. 112–113; ISBN 978-0-520-08534-3
  3. ^ Passenger list of S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm II, Port of Plymouth, England, May 5, 1913. Ancestry.com. UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Florence Turner, bfi.org.uk. Accessed 16 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Would You Be Famous? Consider for a Moment the Fortunes of These Stars of Yesterday!", The Evening Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina, July 21, 1924, p. 8.
  6. ^ Higham, 1973 p. 8
  7. ^ Internet Broadway Database.
  8. ^ "Obituaries; Florence Turner". Chicago Tribune. August 30, 1946. Retrieved November 28, 2015.


External linksEdit