"silent movies" "silent
film" "silent era"
Marie Prevost was born Marie Bickford Dunn November
8, 1898, in Sarnia, Canada. Her father died when she was young,
and her mother remarried a man named Frank Prevost, a miner and
surveyor. They originally lived in Denver, but moved around the
country finally settling in Los Angeles. She attended high school
in Los Angeles and later worked for a law firm that represented
the Keystone Film Corportion. While running an errand to the studio
one day, she was asked to play a bit part in a short entitled
"His Father's Footsteps" (1915). Sennett personally
signed her to a contract for $15 a week. In 1918, she married
socialite Henry Charles "Sonny" Gerke but separated
soon afterward keeping her marriage a secret. A lead role in the
Sennett feature "Yankee Doodle Dandy in Berlin" (1919)
brought attention to her and with the help of King Baggott, she
signed a contract with Universial in 1921 for $1,000 a week. She
later signed with Warner Brothers and was cast opposite Kenneth
Harlan in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Beautiful and the Damned"
(1922). A publicity stunt by the studio claimed that the two leads,
Harlan and Prevost were to be married. However, Prevost's first
husband came forward noting they were not divorced (which was
finalized in 1923). The studio was upset that Prevost had not
disclosed this information. However, it did not hurt her popularity,
and Ernst Lubitsch chose her for a major role in "The Marriage
Circle" (1924) opposite Adolphe Menjou. Prevost and Harlan
married in 1924. That same year, Warner Brothers did not renew
her contract. In 1926, her mother was killed in a car accident.
She soon began drinking heavily, and she and Harlan separated
in 1927. Their divorce was finalized in 1929. After Warner Brothers,
Prevost starred in a series of lightweight bedroom farce comedies
such as "Up in Mabel's Room" (1926), "Getting Gertie's
Garter" (1927) and "A Blonde for a Night." In 1928,
she got the female lead in Howard Hughes' "The Racket"
(1928) opposite Thomas Meighan which brought her excellent reviews.
She got another plum role in 1929 when Cecil B. DeMille chose
her to star along wtih Lina Basquette in "The Godless Girl,"
although it did not succeed at the box office. After this, she
was signed by MGM, but she was relegated to secondary roles, usually
a wise-cracking second banana to the female lead. Prevost's alcoholism
continued, and her weight gain certainly didn't make her suitable
for the sexy, seductive types she played in silents. Unfortunately,
by 1934, work was almost non-existent, her financial situation
was dire, and her health was not helped by the binge dieting she
had to do for her movie roles. Her last film appearance was in
"Ten Laps to Go" in 1936. She died January 21, 1937,
of acute alcoholism, however, her body was not found in her apartment
until two days later when neighbors complained of her dog's incessant
barking. Prevost's estate was valued at $300. Joan Crawford paid
for her funeral. Prevost has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Selected films of this star available for viewing:
Up In Mabel's Room (1926)
Getting Gertie's Garter (1927)
The Rush Hour (1927)
Blonde for a Night (1928)
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