Lawrence, Florence (1886–1938)

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Lawrence, Florence (1886–1938)

Canadian-born actress who was America's first movie star . Born Florence Annie Bridgewood in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on January 2 (some sources cite September 22), 1886; committed suicide in West Hollywood, California, on December 28, 1938; interred in an unmarked grave in Hollywood Memorial Cemetery; third child and only daughter of George Bridgewood (a British actor and impresario) and Charlotte Amelia (Dunn) Bridgewood, an American actress known professionally as Lotta Lawrence; married Harry L. Solter (a director), in September 1908 (died 1920); married Charles Bryne Woodridge (a Denver business broker), on May 21, 1921 (separated 1929, divorced 1931); married Henry Bolton, in November 1931 (divorced 1932); no children.

Selected films:

Daniel Boone (1907); Macbeth (1908); (as Juliet) Romeo and Juliette (1908); (title role) Salome (1908); The Heart of O. Yama (1908); A Smoked Husband (1908); The Barbarian Ingomar (1908); Romance of a Jewess (1908); The Call of the Wild (1908); The Devil (1908); The Zulu's Heart (1908); The Planter's Wife (1908); (as Cleopatra) Antony and Cleopatra (1908); The Song of the Shirt (1908); (as Katherine) The Taming of the Shrew (1908); The Ingrate (1908); After Many Years (1908); The Viking's Daughter (1908); Richard III (1908); The Valet's Wife (1908); The Test of Friendship (1908); An Awful Moment (1908); Mrs. Jones Entertains (1910); The Sacrifice (1910); The Salvation Army Lass (1910); The Lure of the Gown (1910); Deception (1910); The Drunkard's Reformation (1910); The Cardinal's Conspiracy (1910); Mrs. Jones' Lover (1910); Love's Stratagem (1910); The Joneses Have Amateur Theatricals (1910); At the Altar (1910); Confidence (1910); Resurrection (1910); The Right to Love (1910); Jane and the Stranger (1910); Mother Love (1910); The Broken Oath (1910); The Eternal Triangle (1910); The Call of the Circus (1910); Irony of Fate (1910); All the World's a Stage (1910); The Test (1911); Vanity and Its Cure (1911); The Burglar (1911); The Actress and the Singer (1911); Her Artistic Temperament (1911); The Wife's Awakening (1911); The Little Rebel (1911); The Gypsy (1911); The Slavey's Affinity (1911); The Maniac (1911); A Blind Deception (1911); The Players (1912); All for Love (1912); Flo's Discipline (1912); The Advent of Jane (1912); The Angel of the Studio (1912); The Closed Door (1913); The Spender (1913); A Girl and Her Money (1913); The Romance of a Photograph (1914); The False Bride (1914); The Honeymooners (1914); Pawns of Destiny (1914); Disenchantment (1914); A Singular Cynic (1914); Elusive Isabel (1916); The Way of a Man (1919); The Mended Lute (1919); The Slave (1919); The Unfoldment (1922); The Satin Girl (1923); Gambling Wives (1924); The Johnstown Flood (1926); The Greater Glory (1926); (extra) Secrets (1933).

Born Florence Annie Bridgewood in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1886, film star Florence Lawrence was the daughter of George Bridgewood, a British actor, and Lotta Lawrence , an American actress. From the age of three, Florence appeared in her parents' tent show billed as "Baby Florence, the Child Wonder." Except for a brief interval when she lived with relatives in Buffalo, New York, Lawrence toured with the show until it folded in 1906. She and her mother then went to work for the fledgling Edison Vitascope film company, where Florence began to build her reputation with a role in Daniel Boone (1907). In 1908, Lawrence joined the Biograph company, a new enterprise started by D.W. Griffith, and was promoted simply as "The Biograph Girl." The company feared that if they used her real name, she might demand more than the $25 per week salary they were willing to pay. Lawrence appeared in a string of successful pictures at Biograph, including many directed by Griffith. In 1910, however, she was lured away from the studio by Carl Laemmle who was starting up his own company, Independent Motion Picture Company of America (IMP). He first starred Lawrence in Love's Stratagem (1910), a film directed by Lawrence's husband Harry L. Solter, whom Laemmle had also hired away from Biograph. At the time he hired Lawrence, Laemmle also set in motion an elaborate scheme that launched the film industry's star system. He first planted a newspaper story in which he reported that "The Biograph Girl" (Lawrence) had been killed in a streetcar accident. The next day, he ran an advertisement denouncing the malicious rumor his enemies had started concerning the death of Lawrence, who was now "The Imp Girl," very much alive and working for him. From then on, Lawrence used her own name, becoming the country's first named movie star. Laemmle would later lure Mary Pickford away from Biograph, then proclaim, "Little Mary is an Imp now."

Fame proved to be fleeting for Lawrence. She left Laemmle in 1911 and for several years worked for producer Sigmund Lubin. Subsequently, she and her husband were briefly with the Victor Motion Picture Company. In 1915, Lawrence was seriously hurt while performing a scene in a burning building. Trapped, she could have jumped to safety but instead aided co-star Matt Moore. Lawrence injured her back and suffered facial burns which left scars. The following year, while attempting to return to film, she collapsed on the set and was completely paralyzed for the next four months. She then endured partial paralyzation for four more years. Lawrence was forced, for the most part, into retirement. She ended her career at MGM, drawing a small salary as an occasional extra. Continued

illness, the death of her husband in 1920, and the failure of a second and third marriage left her despondent, and, in December 1938, she committed suicide by ingesting ant poison.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Lawrence, Florence (1886–1938)

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