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Reid, Dorothy Davenport (1895–1977)

Reid, Dorothy Davenport (1895–1977)

American actress, producer, director, and screenwriter. Name variations: Dorothy Davenport; Mrs. Wallace Reid. Born in 1895 in Boston, Massachusetts; died in 1977; daughter of Harry Davenport (an actor) and Alice Davenport (a silent-screen comedian); married Wallace Reid (an actor), in 1913 (died 1923); no children.

Selected filmography: (as actress) Her Indian Hero (1909), The Best Man Wins (1911), Almost a Suicide (1912), His Only Son (1912), Our Lady of the Pearls (1913), The Lightning Bolt (1913), The Cracksman's Reformation (1913), A Hopi Legend (1913), The Fires of Fate (1913), Retribution (1913), The Intruder (1914), The Countess Betty's Mine (1914), The Accomplished Mrs. Thompson (1914), The Way of a Woman (1914), The Voice of the Viola (1914), A Gypsy Romance (1914), The Siren (1914), Fruit of Evil (1915), The Unknown (1915), The Adventurer (1915), The Explorer (1915), The Way of the World (1916), The Unattainable (1916), Black Friday (1916), The Girl and the Crisis (1917), Treason (1917), The Squaw Man's Son (1917), The Fighting Chance (1920), Every Woman's Problem (1921), The Test (1922), The Masked Avenger (1922), The Satin Woman (1927), Hellship Bronson (1928), Man Hunt (1933); (as producer) Human Wreckage (also act., 1923), Broken Laws (also act., 1924), The Red Kimono (also act., 1926), The Earth Woman (1926), The Dude Wrangler (1930), Honeymoon Limited (1935), Women Must Dress (also co-sc., 1935), Paradise Isle (1937), A Bride for Henry (1937), Rose of the Rio Grande (1938), Terror in the City (1966); (as director) Linda (also exec. prod., 1929), Sucker Money (1933), Road to Ruin (also co-sc., 1934), Woman Condemned (also co-sc., 1934); (as screenwriter) Prison Break (1938), The Haunted House (1940), Redhead (1941), Curley (1947), Who Killed Doc Robbin? (1948), Impact (1949), Rhubarb (1951), Footsteps in the Fog (1953).

The daughter of character actor Harry Davenport and silent-screen star Alice Davenport , Dorothy Reid began her own acting career at Biograph in 1909 and became one of their most bankable talents. She starred in numerous silent films, often with her husband, superstar Wallace Reid, whom she married in 1913. As the result of treatment from injuries he suffered in a train accident, Wallace became dependent on morphine and alcohol and died from his addiction in 1923, at the age of 32. Following his death, Reid produced and starred in Human Wreckage (1923), a biographical and agonizing account of Wallace's demise which also served as a warning about the dangers of drugs. Reid traveled around the country promoting the film, drawing crowds that were probably as eager to see the movie star as they were to hear the message. Her reception in St. Louis, described by Gerald Perry, was fairly typical:

Five hundred banners announced her appearance. The health department contributed ambulances and wagons for Mrs. Reid's parade. The Mayor proclaimed Anti-Narcotics week and greeted her at the train station with two brass bands. The parade included twenty-five carloads of disabled veterans from the American Legion Hospital and eighty taxicabs with signs on their spare tires advertising the moviehouse showing of Human Wreckage.

After 1923, Reid turned her attention to producing, directing, and screenwriting, forming her own production company in 1925 to produce The Red Kimono (1926), which also employed two women writers: Adela Rogers St. Johns, who wrote the original story, and Dorothy Arzner, who created the screenplay. Although Reid also directed many of her own movies, she did not take screen credit until Linda (1929). In 1934, she directed two feature films, The Road to Ruin for True Life Photo-plays and The Woman Condemned for Marcy Pictures, both moralistic in theme. The Road to Ruin "is a frank presentation of the pitfalls of youth," said Film Daily, "and it whitewashes none of the characters. The results of their folly, ignorance, and carelessness are pointed graphically for the moral."

Although for years Reid seemed to negotiate quite well through the male-dominated movie business, she appears to have suffered a crisis of confidence in the late 1940s, when she pretty much gave up producing and directing for writing. (She did return to produce Terror in the City in 1966.) "Men resent women in top executive positions in films as in any field of endeavor," she said in 1952.

In addition to her work in films, Reid established the Wallace Reid Foundation Sanitarium, a drug-addiction center "for the care of unfortunate addicts." Her love for her husband endured long after his death, and she never remarried. All of her energy was channeled into her work, much of it paving the way for a new wave of women filmmakers.

sources:

Acker, Ally. Reel Women. NY: Continuum, 1991.

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

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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