The February 10 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this article about a movie being shelved because its star had passed away:
Barbara La Marr (1896-1926) was both an actress and screenwriter, starring in 27 films. She was dubbed “The Girl That Is Too Beautiful”. Perhaps she was too beautiful: she enjoyed the nightlife so much that she apparently only slept two hours a night. Not surprisingly, this put a strain on her health, and she died of tuberculosis and nephritis. Over 3000 fans attended her funeral.
Unless there is a last film that Wikipedia doesn’t know about, her last film, The Girl From Montmartre, was in fact distributed the day after she died. It was a critical success. The actress Hedy Lamarr was named after her (Louis B. Mayer’s wife apparently admired La Marr, causing Mayer to suggest this as a stage name).
Other silent film stars mentioned in this article:
- John Bunny (1863-1915) was a stage and vaudeville actor who moved into movies in 1910. He was widely praised for his acting skills. He passed away from what was then known as Bright’s disease.
- Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Drew were an American stage and comedy team. There were actually two Mrs. Drews – the first died in 1914, and Mr. Drew married and continued the act with his second wife. His son died in action in World War I, and apparently he never recovered from the loss. He died suddenly in 1919.
- Wallace Reid (1891-1923) was called “the screen’s most perfect lover”. He was prescribed morphine to keep on filming after being injured in a train wreck, and became hopelessly addicted. He died in a sanitarium while trying to recover.
- Harold Lockwood (1887-1918) was a vaudeville actor who moved into silent films. He died during the 1918 influenza epidemic.
- Olive Thomas (1894-1920) had the most horrible death of them all: she died after accidentally consuming a bottle of mercury bichloride, thinking it was water or sleeping pills. She was married to Mary Pickford’s brother, Jack.
Nowadays, I don’t think anybody would suggest that premature death would be box-office poison – it would be exactly the opposite.