by Rick Levinson

Copyright 2003, all rights recerved.

Hollywood ca. 1919: Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton are playing a prank on producer Adolph Zukor: Keaton pretends to be a waiter at a dinner party thrown by Arbuckle in Zukor's honour. After causing a ruckus in the kitchen with pots and pans, knives and forks, Keaton emerges from the kitchen with the damp stain of what looks consommé on his shirt. Arbuckle flies into a rage at Keaton, but Zukor, mortified, tells Roscoe that he doesn't like soup anyhow. Shortly afterwards, Buster reappears, as he tells it, "carrying ice water in a silver pitcher. As I moved around the table I filled each guests' glass. That is until I came to Bebe Daniels, who was sitting next to Roscoe. I passed her by, and as I was about to pour Roscoe's ice water, Bebe held up her glass, and asked, 'Won't you give me some, please?' Seemingly bewitched by her beauty, I stared down into her great brown eyes as I poured. I missed her glass but splashed the ice water into Roscoe's face."

Orange County, California, 1921: Jack Dempsey, heavyweight boxing champion of the world, dates Bebe Daniels and kids her about her accumulation of speeding tickets. One day in Orange County the starlet's at the wheel topping 72 miles per hour when a siren starts wailing behind her. Two motorcycle police officers flag her down. Judge Cox jails her for driving over 50 miles an hour. She phones 'Uncle Jack' Dempsey from the courthouse and asks him, half-teasing, if he can get her out of this jam. She spends ten days in a Santa Ana jail. One day Abe Lyman and his Coconut Grove Orchestra serenade her outside her cell with the 'Rose Room Tango', a specialty number she danced with Rudy Valentino. After her jail stint, her studio capitalizes on the incident by making Speed Girl.

Chicago, Sunset Café, 1927: One night the black bandleader, Carroll Dickerson, appears to be flirting a little too much with patron Bebe Daniels. Sunset manager Joe Glaser fires Dickerson and names Louis Armstrong to lead the band and Earl 'Fatha' Hines to act as musical director.

Less than a decade later in Chicago, Daniels would be the victim of jewelry theft. Al Capone puts out the word that whoever stole the lady's jewels would do himself a world of good if the stolen items were returned. They are.

France, 1927: Artist and writer Luis Bunuel writes a review of Buster Keaton's College (1927): "Asepsia. Disinfection. Liberated from tradition, our outlook is rejuvenated in the youthful and temperate world of Buster, the great specialist against all sentimental infection." Bunuel closes the review by citing two schools of film: the European school, "sentimentalism, prejudices of art, literature, tradition etc." Opposed to this school is the American School: "vitality, photogeny, no culture and new tradition." Among the film stars representing the American school: Keaton, Monte Blue, Tom Moore, Laura La Plante, Harry Langdon, and Bebe Daniels.

First name may have been Phyllis, may have been Virginia - no one knows for sure; born January 1, 1901, Dallas, TX; to Melville Daniels, a theatrical manager, and Phyllis, his actress wife; grandfather on father's side was American consul in Buenos Aires, grandmother was Argentine beauty; makes stage and film appearances by the age of seven; first official screen credit: Courtship of Miles Standish (1910) with Hobart Bosworth, Tom Santschi; attends Sacred Heart Convent in Los Angeles while mother looks for film work; while still in her teens approaches Hal Roach and Harold Lloyd for job as the latter's leading lady in short-reelers; co-stars with Lloyd in scores of Lonesome Luke and 'glasses' character shorts; in 1919 is offered a picture contract by Adolph Zukor and appears in Cecil B. Demille films starring Gloria Swanson; co-stars with Valentino, Richard Arlen, Wallace Beery, Wallace Reid, Conrad Nagel, Nita Naldi, Warner Baxter, Mary Astor, William Powell; makes popular films for Paramount until 1928; marries actor Ben Lyon in 1930; continues to have success in talkies with Rio Rita (1929), the first screen adaptation of Maltese Falcon (1931), and -- her most famous role -- as fading Broadway star Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street (1933); after a kidnapping threat involving their daughter, Lyon and Daniels move to London in 1936; they refuse to leave London during WWII; they became beloved radio stars in the UK with the Hi Gang and on tv with Life with the Lyons; Daniels suffers a stroke and dies in London on March 16, 1971, eight days after the death of her former co-star Harold Lloyd.

Headlines from the Motion Picture World, 1915-1927: "Rolin Film Co. Plans Announced" "BD Recovers" "BD Signs Again With Rolin" "BD Drives Four Nails" (ill.) "Harold Lloyd Is Making Distinctive Comedies" "BD, Ingenue, Engaged by Cecil DeMille" "Realart Signs Its Fifth Star, A Woman: Will Disclose Her Identity Next Week" "Realart's New Star is BD, Now Named 'The Good Little Bad Girl'" "BD Begins Her Realart Career with 'You Never Can Tell' For Vehicle" " 'One Desire Is to Please the Public', Says BD" "Dedicate Song to BD ('A Good Little, Bad Little Girl')" "BD Auctions Baseball Autographed by Babe Ruth" "BD's First Realart Picture Has Fine Display of Advance Fashions" "BD in Texas" "BD Ends Vacation" "BD Laying Cornerstone in Dallas by Pressing Electric Key in Los Angeles" "Sentenced for Speeding" "BD Honored ('Most Beautiful Girl in California')" "BD Under Knife" "Frank Tuttle Back" "BD to Head Own Unit for Production of Big Comedies" "BD Crashes" "BD Hurt; Thrown by Horse" "Famous Players Signs BD Until 1931" "BD Better"

Pauline Kael wrote that Herman Mankiewicz, Orson Welles' collaborator on the screenplay for Citizen Kane, started out in Hollywood crafting programmers for studios like Paramount in the late '20s. Hollywood at the time was engendering what Kael called 'the brothel period of American letters': writers like Mankiewicz and Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman and Ben Hecht and a hundred others were doctoring screenplays. Kael learned about this later, but these smart, negligible Hollywood films were her first filmgoing guilty pleasure and Bebe Daniels, chic as a Palm Beach heiress or college girl, seducing Dick Arlen in a gender reversal of Valentino, was Kael's favourite movie star.

Motion picture set tricked out like a passenger ship. Rough sea: props tossed back and forth. Two steamer trunks collide; Harold pops out of one and Bebe pops out of another; they kiss; the trunk lids pop down and the steamers glide off.

Dame Anna Neagle:

"The Hi Gang shows were broadcast from the Paris Cinema in Lower Regent Street and I recall the alert went in the middle of the performance. We all hurried from the stage to the stairs and sat waiting for the All Clear. The noise of enemy planes and gunfire was so heavy -- and close -- that Ben looked up and there, right above us, was the sky -- someone had forgotten to close the roof! We all dashed down to the packed basement and how we laughed -- none louder than Bebe."

"When you look into her big, soulful, luminous, Spanish, brown eyes, you feel you are gazing backward into the romances of centuries.
"I wrote that sentence down, and she looked over my shoulder."
"'Bunk!" she observed with a shrug of disdain."

- Grace Kingsley, "Her First Love Affair", Picture Play, September 1920

Sources and available films:

The source citations will take slightly longer than the piece.

Thanks to Tim Lussier, Bob King at Classic Images, Bruce Calvert and Tina aka

Arbuckle/Keaton prank on Zukor: Buster Keaton with Charles Samuels, MY WONDERFUL WORLD OF SLAPSTICK. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1960, pp. 114-115.

Jail and Al Capone: Jill Allgood, BEBE & BEN. London: Robert Hale & Co., 1975, pp. 51-57 [jail], page 116 [Capone]; and thanks to Tina re: the Capone story.

Louis Armstrong story: Frank Driggs and Harris Lewine, BLACK BEAUTY, WHITE HEAT: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF CLASSIC JAZZ 1920-1950. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1982, page 65.

Bunuel's review of College is reproduced in J. Francisco Aranda, Luis Bunuel: biografica critica, translated by David Robinson. London: Martin Secker and Warburg Ltd., 1975, pp. 272-273.

Pauline Kael, The Citizen Kane Book: Raising Kane/the Shooting Script. New York: Random House, 1988. I don't remember the page number but it's in there somewhere ­ I don't have a copy handy and I couldn't find one in the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library.

Eve Golden's "The Speed Girl: The Many Lives of Bebe Daniels", Classic Images, December 1992, No. 210, was invaluable.

Dame Anna Neagle quote: "Bebe", Silent Picture, Summer-Autumn, 1971.

The steamer trunk sequence was told to me by Annette Lloyd née D'Agostino.

The Motion Picture World headlines: Annette D'Agostino, Filmmakers in the Moving Picture World: An Index of Articles, 1907-1927. North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 1997.

All cites from film magazines are copied verbatim. Thanks again for copies of the articles, Tim and Bruce.

The following films with BD are available:

Bebe's comic ingénue period:

UNKNOWN VIDEO - - has the excellent video compilation The Rise of Harold Lloyd (1919-21).

Bebe's De Mille period:

Male and Female (1919), Image Entertainment, video and DVD

The Affairs of Anatol (1921), Image Entertainment, video and DVD.

Unfortunately only one of Bebe's Paramounts from '26 to '28 is available on the home entertainment market - "Feel My Pulse" (1928)


42nd Street (1933), video and DVD.

Counselor At Law (1933), starring John Barrymore and BD; Kino, video and DVD.

Reaching for the Moon (1931), starring Douglas Fairbanks and BD; Celebrity Duplication, video; may be available second-hand or on eBay.

Dixiana (1930), Roan Group, video, DVD.

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