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Boardman, Eleanor (1898–1991)

Boardman, Eleanor (1898–1991)

American actress. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 19, 1898; died in Santa Barbara, California, in 1991; attended Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; married film director King Vidor, in 1926 (divorced); married film director Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast; children: (first marriage) two daughters.

Films include:

The Stranger's Banquet (1922); Gimme (1923); Souls for Sale (1923); Vanity Fair (1923); Three Wise Fools (1923); The Day of Faith (1923); Wine of Youth (1924); Sinners in Silk (1924); The Turmoil (1924); The Silent Accuser (1924); So This Is Marriage (1924); The Wife of the Centaur (1924); The Way of a Girl (1925); Proud Flesh (1925); Exchange of Wives (1925); The Only Thing (1925); The Circle (1925); Memory Lane (1926); The Auction Block (1926); Bardelys the Magnificent (1926); Tell It to the Marines (1926); The Crowd (1928); Diamond Handcuffs (1928); She Goes to War (1929); Mamba (1930); Redemption (1930); The Great Meadow (1931); The Flood (1931); Women Love Once (1931); The Squaw Man (1931); The Phantom President (1932); The Big Chance (1933).

Clad in black-and-white stripes against a field of daisies, 16-year-old Eleanor Boardman gained national attention as the Kodak girl on publicity posters for Eastman Kodak. A few years later, she left her home in Philadelphia for New York, thinking more of a career as a costume or set designer than as an actress. Her elegant beauty, however, did not escape several producers who suggested a screen test. In 1922, against the wishes of her strict, religious family, she signed a contract with the Goldwyn Company, soon to become Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Although she made films for other studios, she remained under contract with MGM until 1932, playing in comedies as well as romantic dramas.

Praised for her naturalness in front of the camera, Boardman is best remembered for her leading role in The Crowd (1928), a realistic study of life in an American city, directed by King Vidor, to whom she was married. The film was revolutionary at the time because of its realistic presentation and its down-to-earth story of a young married couple trying to raise their status without breeding or education. Boardman's portrayal, praised by The New York Times critic Mordaunt Hall as "a wonderful combination of charm and sympathy," captivated audiences a second time in 1981 when the movie was revived for a London Film Festival.

Despite her screen success, Boardman's association with Louis B. Mayer was difficult, as was her marriage to Vidor, which ended in divorce and a bitter custody battle over their two daughters. Disillusioned, Boardman left for Europe in 1933, where she made her last screen appearance in The Three-Cornered Hat. After a second marriage to director Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast, Boardman divided her time between Europe and the United States. For a few years in the 1950s, she wrote a column on Paris for the Hearst International News Service. Following the death of d'Arrast in 1968, Boardman reunited with Vidor, who was a frequent visitor to her house during her last years in Montecito, California.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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