Moore, Colleen (1902–1988)

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Moore, Colleen (1902–1988)

American actress who was a popular star of the silentmovie era. Born Kathleen Morrison on August 19, 1902 (also seen as 1900), in Port Huron, Michigan; died in 1988; married John McCormick (production head of First National films), in 1923 (divorced 1930); married Albert P. Scott (a stockbroker), in 1932 (divorced 1934); married Homer P. Hargrave (a stockbroker), in 1937 (died 1966); married Paul Maginot (a building contractor), in 1982; children: one son.

Selected filmography:

The Bad Boy (1917); An Old Fashioned Young Man (1917); Hands Up! (1917); The Savage (1917); A Hoosier Romance (1918); Little Orphan Annie (1918); The Busher (1919); The Wilderness Trail (1919); The Man in the Moonlight (1919); The Egg Crate Wallop (1919); Common Property (1919); The Cyclone (1920); When Dawn Came (1920); The Devil's Claim (1920); So Long Letty (1920); Dinty (1920); The Sky Pilot (1921); The Lotus Eater (1921); His Nibs (1921); Come on Over (1922); The Wall Flower (1922); Affinities (1922); Forsaking All Others (1922); Broken Chains (1922); The Ninety and Nine (1922); Look Your Best (1923); The Nth Commandment (1923); Slippy McGee (1923); Broken Hearts of Broadway (1923); The Huntress (1923); April Showers (1923); Flaming Youth (1923); Through the Dark (1924); Painted People (1924); The Perfect Flapper (1924); Flirting With Love (1924); So Big (1925); Sally (1925); The Desert Flower (1925); We Moderns (1925); Irene (1926); Ella Cinders (1926); It Must Be Love (1926); Twinkletoes (1926); Orchids and Ermine (1927); Naughty but Nice (1927); Her Wild Oat (1928); Happiness Ahead (1928); Lilac Time (1928); Oh Kay! (1928); Synthetic Sin (1929); Why Be Good? (1929); Smiling Irish Eyes (1929); Footlights and Fools (1929); The Power and the Glory (1933); Social Register (1934); Success at Any Price (1934); The Scarlet Letter (1934).

A slim brunette with a trademark Dutch boy bob and one blue and one brown eye, Colleen Moore was the personification of the exuberant flapper and one of the most successful

actresses of the silent era. "I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth. Colleen Moore was the torch," said F. Scott Fitzgerald, explaining her influence. Despite her considerable talent, particularly in comic roles, Moore did not make a smooth transition into talkies, and retired from films in 1934 to pursue other interests.

Colleen Moore was born in Port Huron, Michigan, in 1902, but her father's respiratory ailments took the family south when she was still a child. She decided to become an actress after seeing Maude Adams in a production of Peter Pan, and from the age of 12 compiled scrapbooks of her favorite film personalities. In her autobiography, Silent Star (1968), Moore writes that she got her first break in the movies through her uncle, newspaper editor Walter Howey, who helped studio head D.W. Griffith get his films The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916) past the censors. As a return favor, Griffith gave Moore a contract. "I was a payoff," said Moore. (Some sources erroneously report that Moore had a role in Intolerance, but she did not sign with Griffith's company, Triangle-Fine Arts, until 1917.)

Sporting long dark curls à laMary Pickford , Moore played little girls in her early films. After she left Triangle in 1918, she was cast in her first leads in A Hoosier Romance and Little Orphan Annie, then made the rounds of studios until 1923, when she signed with First National. There, she made her breakthrough film Flaming Youth (1923), with Ben Lyon, who was her co-star again in Painted People (1924). By her third film with National, The Perfect Flapper (1924), Moore's short bob was the rage and her salary was an unprecedented $12,500 a week. "No longer did a girl have to be beautiful to be sought after. Any plain Jane could become a flapper," said Moore, explaining her sudden popularity. "No wonder they grabbed me to their hearts and made me their movie idol."

Having proven her ability in comic roles, Moore turned to drama in the first film version of Edna Ferber 's So Big (1925), in which she played a Midwestern farm woman, "a capital characterization helped by a simple and true-to-life make-up," reported The New York Times. Although Moore's reviews were good, the studio could make more money with comedies, and she was cast in lighter fare. Her next two films, Sally (1925) and Irene (1926), both adapted from Broadway musical hits, would be her best remembered, although the musical sequences were confined to a piano accompaniment. Moore's movies of the late 1920s include Orchids and Ermine (1927), in which Mickey Rooney played an adult midget, and Lilac Time (1928), with Gary Cooper. An expensive film for its day ($1 million), the movie boasted sound effects and a synchronized musical score.

With the advent of sound, National merged with Warner Bros., and the studio sent Moore to Constance Collier , in hopes of turning her little girl voice into something more acceptable. Smiling Irish Eyes (1929), her first talking picture, contained all the sound on discs, so there were no retakes and the film was cut as it went. Moore recalled it as "the longest, dullest film on record." Her subsequent talkies included Footlights and Fools (1929), with Fredric March, and The Power and the Glory (1933), with Spencer Tracy, which remained Moore's personal favorite. "It wasn't the longest part or anything like that, but it was every actress' delight to go from sixteen to sixty." Moore's last effort, The Scarlet Letter (1934), was a box-office failure, and she left films soon afterwards, claiming that she could no longer play the little girls the public demanded.

Colleen Moore was married four times; her last husband, building contractor Paul Maginot, whom she wed at age 83, survived her. She claimed that her first husband, John McCormick, who was head of production for National and oversaw her early career, was an alcoholic, and she divorced him in 1930 after seven years of marriage. Her second and third husbands were stockbrokers, which was probably a factor in her own financial savvy. In addition to an autobiography, Silent Star, she authored a book on investing, How Women Can Make Money in the Stock Market. She also published a book about her extraordinary collection of miniatures, Colleen Moore's Doll House. The priceless collection, housed in a doll house especially designed by studio set designer Horace Jackson, was displayed around the country for the benefit of children's charities and later became a prized exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Moore spent her final years at her sprawling house "El Ranchito," in Templeton, California, and died in 1988.


Drew, William M. Speaking of Silents: First Ladies of the Screen. Vestal, NY: Vestal Press, 1983.

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

Lamparski, Richard. Whatever Happened to …? 2nd Series. NY: Crown, 1967.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts