Yesterday, I posted a list of my favorite silent era character actors. Today, it's actresses.
10. Miriam Cooper—"The Friendless One" in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, she was a Method actress before the Method, once staring so intently into a Klieg light during a close-up, her eyesight was permanently damaged.
9. Clarine Seymour—Griffith cast her as the "bad" girl against Lillian Gish's "good" one in True-Heart Susie, but she proved so much more interesting than the heroine, she subverted the whole story. She died a year later on the cusp of stardom.
8. Gladys Brockwell—memorable as a hooker with a heart of stone in 7th Heaven and a homeless women with a pivotal secret in Lon Chaney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
7. Zasu Pitts—her quavering, sing-song voice turned her into comic relief during the sound era, but she was the avaricious shrew in von Stroheim's Greed, the love interest in The Wedding March, and Mary Pickford's only friend in The Little Princess.
6. Olga Baclanova—remembered now as the evil seductress in Freaks, she was at her best in Paul Leni's The Man Who Laughs and Josef von Sternberg's The Docks of New York.
5. Anita Page—a personal favorite, she was Joan Crawford's arch-nemesis, on-stage and off, in Our Dancing Daughters and Our Modern Maidens.
4. Edna Purviance—Chaplin's go-to girl in nearly forty shorts and features.
3. Louise Brooks—in Germany, she was a star, but in Hollywood, she was strictly supporting. And if you've seen A Girl in Every Port, The Show Off and It's the Old Army Game, you know she was one of the best.
2. Musidora—her iconic portrayal of spy master Irma Vep in Louis Feuillade's classic serial Les Vampires made crime so appealing, French police temporarily halted production.
1. "The Girl" (Bebe Daniels / Mildred Davis / Jobyna Ralston)—There was always a girl in Harold Lloyd's comedies, almost always named simply "The Girl," but she was, in fact, played by three very different actresses: the spunky Bebe Daniels (1915-1919), the demure Mildred Davis (1919-1923) and the soulful Jobyna Ralston (1923-1927). Daniels went on to bigger and better things with Cecil B. DeMille, Davis married Lloyd in real life and retired, and Ralston, well, she played second fiddle to Clara Bow and a squadron of airplanes in the first Oscar-winning picture Wings. But as "the Girl," they were all just wonderful. (Click here to read Annette D’Agostino Lloyd's essay on "the Girl." And no, she's no relation to Harold.)
Tomorrow: Silent Supporting Players Who Were Better In The Sound Era