What on earth were the WAMPAS Baby Stars you might well ask? Well, if you lived in 1920s and 30s America you would have been very much aware of this campaign. It was run by the United States Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers (WAMPAS) who picked a lucky group of young actresses every year who they believed were going to be the next major movie stars.
The lucky young starlets were honored at a party called the ‘WAMPAS Frolic” (doesn’t that sound fabulous?) and splashed all over the news and newspapers in an effort to boost them to A-list status.
Major movie stars to come out of the WAMPAS Baby Stars initiative included Joan Blondell, Joan Crawford, Delores Del Rio, Ginger Rogers and Fay Wray to name just a few.
So, it got me thinking. Whatever happened to the class of 1924? (pictured below)
Clara Bow was the one bona fide superstar to come out of the 1924 lineup. You can read the full story of her exploits here.
Like many young Hollywood actresses Fair came from vaudeville. She starred in silent movies including the Cecil B. DeMille productions like Yankee Clipper and Let ‘er go Gallagher. When talkies were introduced she became sidelined and she retired from acting in 1934.
Ricksen began as a child model and actress when she was just 4 years old. She was a real rising star and had received both critical and public acclaim for some high-profile movie roles when she was named as a WAMPAS baby star. Sadly though she fell ill with tuberculosis and died in 1925 aged just 14.
Carmelita (pictured below) had some limited success in silent movies, including starring as Virginia Valli in Alfred Hitchcock’s first movie: The Pleasure Garden (1925). When talkies came around her career faltered and never recovered.
Grey made 33 silent movies in the 1920s but without really attaining movie-star status. She also starred in 5 Spanish language films in Argentina in the 1940s before her early death aged just 38. See her photo in the ‘Baby Stars of 1924’ picture above.
After being spotted at the annual Venice Beach bathing beauties parade in August 1923, Ruth Hiatt was part of the line up for the 1924 WAMPAS Baby Stars. She went on to play various lead roles in 1920s comedies, and continued working in Hollywood until 1941. See her photo in the ‘Baby Stars of 1924’ picture above.
Julanne Johnston (below) seems to have been most famous for the fact that she was on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht when film director Thomas Ince died. She starred in various movies throughout the 1920s including The Thief of Bagdad with Anna May Wong.
Keener was identified as the ‘prettiest girl in Hollywood’ in 1923 before she was chosen as a WAMPAS baby star. She worked in Hollywood until the mid 1950s and was best know for movies: The Freshman (1925), The Silent Partner (1927) and Parisian Love (1925). See her photo in the ‘Baby Stars of 1924’ picture above.
Mackaill (below) was a British actress who ran away to Paris and later New York where she joined the Ziegfeld Follies. Her acting career flourished and she became a genuine star througout the 1920s. She retired in 1937.
Blanche Mehaffey was another redhead from the 1934 lineup along with Clara Bow. She started out as a Ziegfeld Girl. Florenz Ziegfeld said she had “the most beautiful eyes in the entire world”. She starred in silent movies throughout the 1920s, mostly in comedies and continued into talkies in the 1930s. See her photo in the ‘Baby Stars of 1924’ picture above.
Margaret Morris starred in lots of silent movies during the 1920s (she recorded 28 movies just in 1929), but failed to make a successful transition into sound films. See her photo in the ‘Baby Stars of 1924’ picture above.
A chorus girl in vaudeville Nixon moved into silent movies in 1923. She had steady success during the mid and late 1920s appearing in movies like Riders of the Purple Sage (1925), Hands Up! (1926), and The Chinese Parrot (1927). She began making sound movies but gradually became sidelined and retired in 1936.
Vaughn appeared in some 130 movies between 1921 and 1932, many of which were westerns.
Here is the full list of WAMPAS Baby Stars from 1922 – 1934. How many of the names do you recognize?
- 1922: Marion Aye, Helen Ferguson, Lila Lee, Jacqueline Logan, Louise Lorraine, Bessie Love, Kathryn McGuire, Patsy Ruth Miller, Colleen Moore, Mary Philbin, Pauline Starke, Lois Wilson, Claire Windsor
- 1923: Eleanor Boardman, Evelyn Brent, Dorothy Devore, Virginia Brown Faire, Betty Francisco, Pauline Garon, Kathleen Key, Laura La Plante, Margaret Leahy, Helen Lynch, Derelys Perdue, Jobyna Ralston, Ethel Shannon
- 1924: Clara Bow, Elinor Fair, Carmelita Geraghty, Gloria Grey, Ruth Hiatt, Julanne Johnston, Hazel Keener, Dorothy Mackaill, Blanche Mehaffey, Margaret Morris, Marian Nixon, Lucille Ricksen, Alberta Vaughn
- 1925: Betty Arlen, Violet La Plante, Olive Borden, Anne Cornwall, Ena Gregory, Madeline Hurlock, Natalie Joyce, June Marlowe, Joan Meredith, Evelyn Peirce, Dorothy Revier, Duane Thompson, Lola Todd
- 1926: Mary Astor, Mary Brian, Joyce Compton, Dolores Costello, Joan Crawford, Marceline Day, Dolores del Río, Janet Gaynor, Sally Long, Edna Marion, Sally O’Neil, Vera Reynolds, Fay Wray
- 1927: Patricia Avery, Rita Carewe, Helene Costello, Barbara Kent, Natalie Kingston, Frances Lee, Mary McAllister, Gladys McConnell, Sally Phipps, Sally Rand, Martha Sleeper, Iris Stuart, Adamae Vaughn
- 1928: Lina Basquette, Flora Bramley, Sue Carol, Ann Christy, June Collyer, Alice Day, Sally Eilers, Audrey Ferris, Dorothy Gulliver, Gwen Lee, Molly O’Day, Ruth Taylor, Lupe Vélez
- 1929: Jean Arthur, Sally Blane, Betty Boyd, Ethlyne Clair, Doris Dawson, Josephine Dunn, Helen Foster, Doris Hill, Caryl Lincoln, Anita Page, Mona Rico, Helen Twelvetrees, Loretta Young
- 1930: (none)
- 1931: Joan Blondell, Constance Cummings, Frances Dade, Frances Dee, Sidney Fox, Rochelle Hudson, Anita Louise, Joan Marsh, Marian Marsh, Karen Morley, Marion Shilling, Barbara Weeks, Judith Wood,
- 1932: Lona Andre, Lilian Bond, Mary Carlisle, Patricia Ellis, Ruth Hall, Eleanor Holm, Evalyn Knapp, Dorothy Layton, Boots Mallory, Toshia Mori, Ginger Rogers, Marian Shockley, Gloria Stuart, Dorothy Wilson, June Clyde
- 1933: (none)
- 1934: Judith Arlen, Betty Bryson, Jean Carmen, Helen Cohan, Dorothy Drake, Jean Gale, Hazel Hayes, Ann Hovey, Neoma Judge, Lucille Lund, Lu Ann Meredith, Gigi Parrish, Jacqueline Wells, Katherine Williams.
Image source and copyright: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed.
Wow, most of them copied Clara Bow’s style! Thank you for this site. Here’s one you might not know: Nell Shipman. She very much deserves a page here.
Mary Wooding Zehring
Ruth Taylor WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1928, went on to star in the original silent film version of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” in 1928.
My great Aunt Helen Ferguson was in the 1922 group and had a double career moving from movies not long after her first husband silent star William Russell died in 1929 . She became one of the top Publicists in Hollywood looking after Fay Wray , Loretta Young , Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor , Ginger Rogers , Henry Fonda , Howard Keel & more Quite a Lady & a Star ⭐️