|Barbara La Marr
Born: July 28, 1896 in Yakima, Washington, USA
Died: January 30, 1926 in Altadena, California, USA
|~The Los Angeles Times, 2007~
Silent-film actress and screenwriter Barbara La Marr once said, "I take lovers like roses . . . by the dozen."
And she was hardly exaggerating: By age 19 she had been married three times, divorced and widowed. In
her 20s, she married twice more. Still, she found time to become a world-famous actress, only to die at 29
a few months after collapsing on a movie set.
La Marr was one of those silent-film stars who disappeared from the world's consciousness almost as
swiftly as she entered it, dying the year before the first "talkie" appeared.
During her brief career, she danced with Hollywood's greatest romantic idols, including Rudolph
Valentino and Ramon Novarro, and starred with Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Even before she appeared in front
of the cameras, La Marr wrote film scenarios and screenplays, according to newspaper accounts of the
Once she appeared on screen, she sizzled as a sexy vamp. According to her son, Don Gallery, La Marr
lived with abandon, keeping a container of cocaine on her piano and binging on heroin and highballs.
Friends and family members said she became hooked on drugs after being given painkillers for an injury.
Official accounts of her death in 1926 at her Altadena home on Boston Street list the cause as tuberculosis
and nephritis — inflammation of the kidney.
She may have been the only screenwriter to persuade a dictator to appear in a film: Benito Mussolini
played himself in the now-vanished 1923 film "The Eternal City," which La Marr starred in and for which
she was reported to have done uncredited writing and producing.
— Cecilia Rasmussen in the Los Angeles Times Sept. 30, 2007
Barbara La Marr – Too Beautiful for Hollywood
Barbara La Marr was born to William Wright and Rose Watson on July 28, 1896 in Yakima Washington.
She was named Reatha Dale Watson. Reatha’s youth was spent in stock companies, dancing and as a
teenager frequenting night clubs. By the age 18 she had already been married and divorced and thrown
out of Hollywood for “too beautiful to be alone in Los Angeles,” as stated by a juvenile officer.
Returned to her parents, Raetha married again to Lawrence Converse and found that her husband was
mentally unstable and married to another woman. But ultimately the problem of two wives was
resolved when Converse suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died.
Now a widow and a divorcee, Raetha was working in a few movies in Hollywood. She was barred when
her name was in the papers, but soon found more work on film. Her name change to Barbara La Marr
came when another actress named Miss Marr fell off a horse. Raetha offered herself as a replacement
and was forever known as Barbara La Marr.
In 1915, Barbara started a dancing partnership with Robert Carville and two danced in supper clubs in
Northern California. But love always seemed to get in the way. She married Phil Ainsworth, and days
after their marriage, Ainsworth was arrested for stealing Carville’s car. Ainsworth filed for divorce.
Before her divorce was final, Barbara found herself in the arms of another suitor Nicholas Bernard
Deely, while the two toured in vaudeville. Barbara divorced Ainsworth in Chicago and married became
Mrs. Ben Deely in 1918.
Barbara and Ben ended up in Hollywood. Barbara was finding success writing for the Silent Screen and
Ben was working as an actor. In just 1920, Barbara wrote scripts for The Mother of His Children, Rose
of Nome, The Little Grey Mouse, The Land of Jazz, and Flame of Youth. But it was the attentive Mary
Pickford that told Barbara her beauty was made for the camera, not behind it.
In 1921, Barbara was given roles with Douglas Fairbanks in The Nut and The Three Musketeers and she
also acted in a John Ford western, Desperate Trails. During this year the Deely’s split. In 1922, Barbara
worked with John Gilbert in Arabian Love and the love carried out into normal life. But it was at Gilbert’s
home that Barbara met her next love, Paul Bern. Barbara and Paul were together much of 1921 and
1922, and remained friends after their affair ended.
Barbara’s career continued to find success from her roles with Ramon Novarro in The Prisoner of
Zenda and Trifling Women. It was in December of 1921 that Barbara discovered she was pregnant. In
the height of her career, Barbara quietly gave birth to a son, Marvin Carville La Marr. A fake adoption
was rigged so that Barbara could publically be the mother for Marvin.
Barbara’s career continued to soar as she starred with the best leading men in town including Lon
Chaney and David Butler. It was during the filming of Souls for Sale that Barbara sprained her ankle
during a dance scene. She was treated by the studio doctors that gave her cocaine and morphine for
pain. This led to addiction that would ultimately bring down this popular star.
Barbara La Marr played the part of Vamp both on screen and off screen. She starred in Strangers of the
Night, directed by Fred Niblo. La Marr rekindled a relationship with John Gilbert when Gilbert was
married to Leatrice Joy and then she moved on to Virgil “Jack” Daugherty, whom like most men caught in
the beauty of Barbara wanted to marry her. Barbara was still married to Deely and she finally able to
have a Chicago judge issue an annulment for the Barbara La Marr and Ben Deely.
Barbara La Marr and Jack Daugherty were married in Ventura, California in 1923. Leaving little Marvin
in California, the couple sailed to Europe and honeymooned in Paris. The two then left for Rome to La
Marr, Mussolini played a cameo spot in the production. The Eternal City was hit and Barbara was given
praise for her performance in the film.
Returning from Europe as a major star, Barbara made Thy Name is Woman with familiar friends Ramon
Novarro in front of the camera and Fred Niblo behind the camera as director. The two stars, beautiful
and at the height of their careers brought forth another great picture.
In 1924, Barbara La Marr left Metro for a new contract with First National. Her performance in The
Shooting of Dan McGrew continued to win her praise from critics as the most beautiful and
sophisticated vamp ever in filmdom. But the rest of 1924 did not go well for Barbara. Critics were not
pleased with her film The White Moth (based on a poem by La Marr) and an extortion case with Barbara
the lead witness brought troubled headlines for the actress. Years of alcohol, drug abuse and an eating
disorder started to show on the screen. It was very evident when Sandra came to theaters the very same
In 1925, Barbara found her marriage to Daugherty ending and she filmed two films in New York: The
Heart of a Siren and The White Monkey. Both films were criticized and continued Barbara’s spiraling
personal and professional life. When Barbara returned to Hollywood to make The Girl from
Montmartre, it was apparent the screen siren was very ill, her weight declined to one hundred pounds
and she became so ill she was unable to finish the film. Actress Lolita Lee (a Barbara La Marr look-a-like)
finished Barbara’s scenes.
As Barbara’s illness progressed she asked her dear friend ZaSu Pitts to care for Marvin if she were to die.
And Barbara finally succumbed to her illness in January 1926. ZaSu Pitts and her husband Tom Gallery
adopted Barbara’s son, renaming him Don Gallery. Mourners visited Barbara as she lay in state for four
days. Her fans were grief-stricken by her death at just the age of twenty-nine years old. She lived life fast
and died young.
By Kay Shackleton
|~Read More About Barbara La Marr~
Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels by Michael G. Ankerich is an excellent
biography of Barbara La Marr and thirteen other silent film starlets.
Click the image of the book to order your copy!
The Girl from Montmartre (1926) .... Emilia Faneaux
The White Monkey (1925) .... Fleur Forsyte
The Heart of a Siren (1925) .... Isabella Echevaria
... aka The Heart of a Temptress
Sandra (1924) .... Sandra Waring
Hello, 'Frisco (1924) ... Herself
The White Moth (1924) .... Mona Reid/The White Moth
The Shooting of Dan McGrew (1924) .... Lady Known as Lou
Thy Name Is Woman (1924) .... Guerita
The Eternal City (1923) .... Donna Roma
The Eternal Struggle (1923) .... Camille Lenoir
... aka Masters of Women (USA)
St. Elmo (1923/I) .... Agnes Hunt
Strangers of the Night (1923) .... Anna Valeska
... aka Ambrose Applejohn's Adventure (UK)
Souls for Sale (1923) .... Leva Lemaire
Poor Men's Wives (1923) .... Laura Bedford/Laura Maberne
The Brass Bottle (1923) .... The Queen
The Hero (1923) .... Hester Lane
Quincy Adams Sawyer (1922) .... Lindy Putnam
Trifling Women (1922) .... Jacqueline de Séverac/Zareda
The Prisoner of Zenda (1922) .... Antoinette de Mauban
Domestic Relations (1922) .... Mrs. Martin
Arabian Love (1922) .... Themar
Cinderella of the Hills (1921) (as Barbara La Marr Deely) .... Kate Gradley
The Three Musketeers (1921) .... Milady de Winter
Desperate Trails (1921) .... Lady Lou
The Nut (1921/I) .... Claudine Dupree
Flame of Youth (1920)
... aka The Flame of Youth (USA: review title)
Harriet and the Piper (1920) (as Barbara Deely) .... Tam O'Shanter Girl
... aka Paying the Piper (UK)
My Husband's Wives (1924) - story
The White Moth (1924) - uncredited
The Land of Jazz (1920) - story
Flame of Youth (1920) - story
The Little Grey Mouse (1920) - story
Rose of Nome (1920) - story
The Mother of His Children (1920) - story