15 Beautiful But Forgotten Silent Movie Stars

Silent Movie actress

When we think of silent movie stars we inevitably think of Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino as well as perhaps Lillian Gish (not forgetting the quintessential flappers Clara Bow and Louise Brooks).  But for every movie icon there were hundreds of actresses who appeared in silent movies whose names haven’t stood the test of time in the same way, either because of tragic early death, as in the case of Florence La Badie, or because they were eclipsed by brighter stars.

Here are some beautiful publicity photos of the silent movie stars of the 1910s and 20s who aren’t so well-known. Aren’t the photos gorgeous? I particularly love the photo of La Badie, whose life was tragically cut short aged just 29. It sounds like she could have been a true movie icon had she survived.

Above: Viola Dana started her career as a child actress and continued making silent movies throughout the 1920s.

Silent Movie actress Maude Fealy

Maude Fealy was a well-known movie-actress between 1911 and 1917 and appeared in nearly all Cecili B. DeMille’s films.

Silent Movie actress Betty Ross Clarke Motio

Silent Movie actress Betty Ross Clarke who made 33 movies between 1920 and 1940

Silent Movie actress Dorothy Janis

Dorothy Janis was scouted in 1927 and appeared in 4 silent movies and 1 talkie.

Silent Movie actress Eleanor Boardman

Eleanor Boardman started as a stage actress but moved into silent movies after losing her voice. She made around 40 movies in the 1920s but failed to make the transition into talkies.

Silent Movie actress Florence LaBadie

Florence La Badie was a major movie star between 1911 and 1917, but her career was tragically cut short when she died in a car accident aged just 29. She was thrown from the car and died after being hospitalized for 6 weeks.

Silent Movie actress Florence Lee

Silent Movie actress Florence Lee who appeared in 99 films between 1911 and 1931

Silent Movie actress Grace Larue, 1913

Grace Larue, a stage and screen actress, photographed in 1913

Silent Movie actress Malvina Longfellow

Silent Movie actress Malvina Longfellow

Silent Movie actress Mildred Davis

Mildred Davis who appeared in many of Harold Lloyd’s movies photographed in 1918

Silent Movie actress Norma Talmadge

Norma Talmadge was one of the most popular movie stars of the early 1920s

Silent Movie actress Roberta Arnold

Silent Movie actress Roberta Arnold

Silent Movie actress Sigrid Holmquist

Silent Movie actress Sigrid Holmquist, a Swedish actress who appeared in silent movies in Sweden and Hollywood.

Silent Movie actress Vivian Martin

Vivian Martin played similar roles to Lillian Gish and made over 40 movies throughout the 1920s.

Silent Movie actress Nona Thomas

Nona Thomas starred in 3 silent movies in 1915 and 1916.

Which is your favourite from the photos above, and have you seen any movies starring any of these actresses?

Source 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13 and copyright:This media file is in the public domain in the United States. 3, 12, There are no known restrictions on the use of these items. 6, 15, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. 7, This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice. 14, This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

24 thoughts on “15 Beautiful But Forgotten Silent Movie Stars

    • Kia Julian

      Exactly! I’m Googling every one of them! I know Eleanor Boardman was married to King Vidor— so she was SET! LOL….The others– not so much….

  1. George Crabtree

    My Grandfather said his 2nd wife was a movie star in the 20’s her name is Ruth Roberts and he also had a picture of her.

    • mark

      Hello I just picked up a photo that says in white best wishes Mary Scott Polano, Ruth Roberts
      . In photo Roberts is blond light complexion, short curl, hair,wearing Vneck dress. Back of this framed photo has sticker, majestic picture framing 1151-6th ave N Y C

  2. Dixie

    Personally, I would never have put Norma Talmadge in a list of “forgotten silent movie stars”! I knew of her from the time of my youth in the 1950s and 1960s. I grew up knowing of her, and her slightly lesser-known sister Constance Talmadge. Their younger sister Natalie was married to Buster Keaton and they had 2 sons together. Granted, I have been something of a classic cinema film buff, but the other 14 actresses I have never heard of. Perhaps she has become unknown over the last several decades to many people who are much younger than I.

    • Kia

      Yes! The Talmadge sisters were indeed known!! As a longtime l movie buff, I was surprised when I hadn’t heard of many of the stars listed!! Florence La Bagie? Maude Fealy? Clairemont Seymour??!! So riveting and TOO interesting!! I’ll look them all up! Contact me

  3. Laurel

    I believe but do not know for sure that I have a James Abbe photo of Eleanor Boardman. She is dressed in a harem-like jumpsuit. Her hat is exquisite with striped feathers attached that bow and arc out to her waist, with one arm extended holding the tip of one of the feathers. it is signed For Dad Lots of Love Eleanor. Bottom right hand corner is embossed Abbe 15 West 67 St. New York. What do you think? Do I have a gem here?

  4. Jacqueline maguire

    I love this era they were all so beautifull i just wish they could all live forever i grew up watching them on screen there beauty there talents live on forever

  5. Richard Tieken

    Who was the silent film actress from New York who played the part of a Sailor in China? I met her in Omaha, Nebraska about 1965-66 when she was invited to Omaha to appear at a showing of this film by a silent film lover. She spoke to the audience after the showing. I cannot remember her name.

  6. Cathi

    Any photos of Lila Lee? My aunt was in a few movies in the early 30’s and was married to a famous movie producer. I have many albums with pics of stars of that era — some signed and others not. However, I am looking to have help identifying many of them so they can be placed where they will preserve the history of that great time in Hollywood. Thanks for any direction you may offer.

  7. Chuck

    Aside from Brigitte Bardot, in my opinion Dorothy Janis is the most lovely women to ever appear on screen. I happened to notice her one day on a silent film website. Unfortunately, the only movie I have seen her in is The Pagan. I haven’t been able to find any of her other movies online. She had a very short career before retiring, getting married and raising children. She was one of those women who was naturally beautiful without having to alter herself in any way. She seemed like the sort of woman you could “take home to mother” as well. I just wish we could have seen more of her acting work.

  8. Laura Patty

    Do you have any information on silent film actress Olga Royal? I recently stayed at her home one room is left exactly how she left it. We don’t have any information on her. She used to let the Boy Scouts come to her home ofter and she won awards for her helping the Boy Scouts. She owned a hot spring.please help.

  9. fuzz

    Hi, could someone please get back to me, this might be lame. But there was a scandal about a silent comedian and actress, they were having an affair. They both died around the 40-50s. And they both had drug problems. The actress couldn’t find work after the scandal. I think the comedian couldn’t either. His wife left him and he lived the rest of his life with his dad. I need to know their names I completely forgot!!!

  10. jacqueline a.

    Funny how beauty styles change over the decades. Specifically, I have often noticed that actresses of the late 19th and early 20th century tended to minimize the size of their lips. Many ladies created the illusion of very thin lips by drawing lip lines well inside the natural contours of their lips and painting two slits of red. The contrast between the lips of yesteryear and today is interesting, given Hollywood’s obsession with achieving fuller lips at any cost, including silicone injections. Tastes might change but today’s artificially puffy lips are a more extreme (and usually tragic) fashion choice!


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