Juanita Hansen

Juanita C. Hansen (March 3, 1895 – September 26, 1961)[1] was an American actress who performed in silent films. She became one of the Sennett Bathing Beauties and appeared in a variety of serials through the late 1910s. She was well known for her troubled personal life and struggle with addiction to cocaine and morphine. In 1934, she became clean and traveled lecturing on the evils of drugs. She wrote a book about addiction and started her own charity to help raise awareness about drug abuse.[2]

Juanita Hansen
Hansen, c. 1913
Born(1895-03-03)March 3, 1895
DiedSeptember 26, 1961(1961-09-26) (aged 66)
OccupationActress, Author, Speaker
Years active1915–1921

Early lifeEdit

Hansen was born in Des Moines, Iowa.[1] Her family moved to California when she was a girl, and she graduated from Los Angeles High School.

She began acting in films when she was 16,[3] and she secured her first acting job with L. Frank Baum's Oz Film Manufacturing Company. She appeared in The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914), a film based on Baum's book, in a minor role as the bell ringer. Hansen next appeared in The Magic Cloak of Oz, an adaptation of Queen Zixi of Ix.

Early in her career the actress was also associated with Famous Players-Lasky and acted with Jack Pickford. In 1915, Hansen appeared in six films. One of her early feature roles was in The Secret of the Submarine. The following year, her good looks landed her work as one of the Sennett Bathing Beauties doing comedy shorts at Keystone/Triangle Studios. Although she told reporters she liked working for Mack Sennett, she wanted to do more than slapstick comedy.

Serial careerEdit

The Secret of the Submarine (1916)
Advertisement (1916)

After Hansen left Keystone, she began soon playing serious roles for Universal Studios. She starred in the 18-episode serial The Brass Bullet. The actress made seven films in 1919. Soon she was cast in the starring role of Princess Elyata in the 15-episode serial The Lost City, which was produced by William Selig, Harry Warner, Jack L. Warner, and Sam Warner. The serial was edited to seven reels and re-released in the form of the feature-length film The Jungle Princess. However, during this time, Hansen's increasingly reckless lifestyle led to a cocaine addiction that quickly overwhelmed her life.

Hansen's performance in the Universal productions led to a 1920 deal with Pathé to star with Warner Oland and William Bailey in the 15-episode serial The Phantom Foe. She made a second Pathé serial, The Yellow Arm (1921).[citation needed] In 1928, Hansen retired from movies after she was scalded in a bathroom accident in the Hotel Lincoln in New York City.[3] She was awarded $109,269 in damages and interest following a long legal battle.[4]

Personal problemsEdit

When she returned to work, behavioral problems caused by her drug addiction disrupted filming and ended her relationship with Pathé. She appeared in secondary roles in two more films, but by 1923 her film career was over at the age of 28.

In 1923, Hansen wrote a nationally syndicated "lengthy account of her journey through addiction".[5] She attributed her recovery to treatment by Dr. John Baker at Oakland Sanitarium.[5] She also spent a year on the Pantages vaudeville circuit speaking about the dangers of addiction to drugs.[6]

Her life became a series of constant ups and downs fighting her addictions. Hansen and Anna Luther were named as two co-respondents in a divorce suit brought by Evelyn Nesbit against Jack Clifford. Clifford left Nesbit in 1918, and she divorced him in 1933.[7][8]

She began working in live theatre, appearing as The Lady in Black in the Broadway production The High Hatters (1928).[9] Ten years after her last film in 1933, she was given a secondary role in the Monogram Pictures B-movie Sensation Hunters (1933). This, her first talkie, was her last film, and the ensuing years were marked by continual struggles with her drug addiction. In 1934, Hansen tried a comeback in movies but it was unsuccessful.

At one point, she attempted suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. She survived, and the experience helped turn her around. Although her acting career was long over, and her drug habit had left her penniless, she took a job as a clerk for a railroad company. She also worked in the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.

Later career and charitable workEdit

Eventually, the former actress went public with her story. She created the Juanita Hansen Foundation to raise awareness of the dangers of drugs. She was jailed in 1937 on a narcotics charge but was cleared when she testified that tablets that police found in her purse were prescribed to her for medical purposes. She went on a lecture tour, crusading against traffic in illegal drugs.

In 1938 she wrote the book The Conspiracy of Silence, arguing that drug addicts should be sent to specialized medical institutions for treatment instead of being sent to prison.

Hansen died in 1961 at her home in West Hollywood, California, of heart failure. Her residence was 858 Hilldale Avenue. Her body was found by her maid, Pearl Edwards, who told deputy sheriffs the actress was suffering from a heart ailment.[citation needed] She was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery[1] in Culver City, California. In the years before her death, she resided in a neighborhood only a few miles from where she once made motion pictures.


Year Title Role Notes
1914 The Patchwork Girl of Oz Bell Ringer Uncredited
1914 The Magic Cloak of Oz Short
1915 The Love Route Lilly Belle
1915 The Absentee Genevieve Rhodes / Vanity
1915 Betty in Search of a Thrill June Hastings
1915 The Secret of the Submarine Cleo Burke
1915 The Failure Ruth Shipman
1915 Martyrs of the Alamo Old Soldier's Daughter
1916 The Mediator Maggie
1917 Glory Glory
1917 Dangers of a Bride The Country Girl Short
1917 A Clever Dummy A Leading Lady
1917 Whose Baby? Short, Uncredited
1918 Broadway Love Cherry Blow
1918 Fast Company Alicia Vanderveldt
1918 The Risky Road Lottie Bangor
1918 The Mating of Marcella Lois Underwood
1918 The Brass Bullet Rosalind Joy
1918 The Rough Lover Helen
1918 The Sea Flower Lurline
1919 Breezy Jim Patricia Wentworth
1919 A Midnight Romance Blondie Mazie
1919 The Poppy Girl's Husband Polly Dutton
1919 Devil McCare Mary Archer
1919 Rough Riding Romance The Princess
1919 Lombardi, Ltd. Phyllis Manning
1920 The Lost City Princess Elyata of Tarik
1920 The Phantom Foe Janet Dale
1920 The Jungle Princess Zoolah / Princess Elyata of Tarik
1921 The Yellow Arm Suzanne Valette
1921 The Red Snow
1922 The Eternal Flame
1922 The Broadway Madonna Gloria Thomas
1923 Girl from the West
1933 Sensation Hunters Trixie Snell (final film role)


  • Michael G. Ankerich (2010). Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. BearManor. ISBN 978-1-59393-605-1.


  1. ^ a b c Ellenberger, Allan R. (May 2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-7864-0983-9. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
  2. ^ "Notes." Time Magazine.
  3. ^ a b "'Movie Stunt' Actress Nearly Killed in Her Own Bathtub". The San Francisco Examiner. American Weekly. February 10, 1929. p. 113. Retrieved September 6, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ "Juanita Hansen wins bath suit". The Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. November 18, 1931. p. 6. Retrieved September 6, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ a b Gregory, Fiona (20 September 2018). Actresses and Mental Illness: Histrionic Heroines. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-03548-4. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
  6. ^ "Juanita Hansen Tells of Fight Against Enslavement by Narcotics". Vancouver Daily World. Canada, British Columbia, Vancouver. February 5, 1924. p. 5. Retrieved September 6, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ Baatz, Simon (January 16, 2018). The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316396677 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "Time". Time Incorporated. September 6, 1924 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ "Juanita Hansen". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on September 6, 2020. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
  • "Arrest Noted Film Actress As Hop User." Davenport Democrat and Leader. January 12, 1923, Page 19.
  • "Star of Silent Films Juanita Hansen Dies." Los Angeles Times. September 27, 1961, Page 2.
  • "Juanita Hansen, 66, Film-Serials Star." New York Times. September 28, 1961, Page 41.
  • Hansen, Juanita and Preston Langley Hickey. The Conspiracy of Silence. Educational Associates. 1938.

External linksEdit