Today is the 118th birthday of silent film actress Bebe Daniels. Silent film stars had such expressive faces, they had to. She starred with some of the greats of silent films: Harold Lloyd and Rudolph Valentino. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.
NAME: Bebe Daniels
OCCUPATION: Actress, dancer, singer, producer, writer
BIRTH DATE: January 14, 1901
DEATH DATE: March 16, 1971
PLACE OF BIRTH: Dallas, TX
PLACE OF DEATH: London, England
RESTING PLACE: Hollywood Forever Cemetery
FULL NAME: Phyllis Virginia Daniels
BEST KNOWN FOR: American actress, singer, dancer, writer and producer. She began her career in Hollywood during the silent film era as a child actress, became a star in musicals such as 42nd Street, and later gained further fame on radio and television in Britain. In a long career, Bebe Daniels appeared in 230 films.
Daniels was born Phyllis Virginia Daniels (Bebe was a childhood nickname) in Dallas, Texas. Her father was a theater manager and her mother a stage actress. The family moved to Los Angeles, California in her childhood and she began her acting career at the age of four in the first version of The Squaw Man. That same year she also went on tour in a stage production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The following year she participated in productions by Oliver Morosco and David Belasco.
By the age of seven Daniels had her first starring role in film as the young heroine in A Common Enemy. At the age of nine she starred as Dorothy Gale in the 1910 short film The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. At the age of fourteen she starred opposite film comedian Harold Lloyd in a series of two-reel comedies starting with the 1915 film Giving Them Fits. The two eventually developed a publicized romantic relationship and were known in Hollywood as “The Boy” and “The Girl.”
In 1919, she decided to move to greater dramatic roles and accepted a contract offering from Cecil B. DeMille, who gave her secondary roles in such films as Male and Female (1919), Why Change Your Wife? (1920), and The Affairs of Anatol (1921).
In the 1920s, Daniels was under contract with Paramount Pictures. She made the transition from child star to adult in Hollywood by 1922 and by 1924 was playing opposite Rudolph Valentino in Monsieur Beaucaire. Following this she was cast in a number of light popular films, namely Miss Bluebeard, The Manicure Girl, and Wild Wild Susan. Paramount dropped her contract with the advent of talking pictures. Daniels was hired by Radio Pictures (later known as RKO) to star in one of their biggest productions of the year. She also starred in the 1929 talkie Rio Rita. It proved to be one of the most successful films of that year, and Bebe Daniels found herself a star and RCA Victor hired her to record several records for their catalog.
Radio Pictures starred her in a number of musicals including Dixiana (1930) and Love Comes Along (1930). Towards the end of 1930, Bebe Daniels appeared in the musical comedy Reaching for the Moon. However, by this time musicals had gone out of fashion so that most of the musical numbers from the film had to be removed before it could be released. Daniels had become associated with musicals and so Radio Pictures did not renew her contract. Warner Brothers realized what a box office draw she was and offered her a contract which she accepted. During her years at Warner Brothers she starred in such pictures as My Past (1931), Honor of the Family (1931) and the 1931 pre-code version of The Maltese Falcon, which was eventually eclipsed by John Huston’s legendary 1941 version with Humphrey Bogart. In 1932, she appeared in Silver Dollar (1932) and the successful Busby Berkeley choreographed musical comedy 42nd Street (1933) in which she sang once again. That same year she played opposite John Barrymore in Counsellor at Law. Her last film for the Warner Brothers was Registered Nurse (1934).
She retired from Hollywood in 1935. With her husband, film actor Ben Lyon, whom she married in 1930, she moved to London. A few years later, Daniels starred in the London production of Panama Hattie in the title role originated by Ethel Merman. The Lyons then did radio shows for the BBC. Most notably, they starred in the radio series Hi Gang!, continuing for decades and enjoying considerable popularity during World War II. Daniels wrote most of the dialogue for the Hi Gang radio show. The couple remained through the days of The Blitz.
Following the war, Daniels was awarded the Medal of Freedom by Harry S Truman for war service. In 1945 she returned to Hollywood for a short time to work as a film producer for Hal Roach and Eagle-Lion Films. She returned to the UK in 1948 and lived there for the remainder of her life. Daniels, her husband, her son Richard and her daughter Barbara all starred in the radio sitcom Life With The Lyons (1951 to 1961), which later made the transition to television.
Daniels suffered a severe stroke in 1963 and withdrew from public life. She suffered a second stroke in late 1970. On March 16, 1971, Daniels died of a cerebral hemorrhage in London at the age of 70. Her remains were cremated at London’s Golders Green Crematorium and the ashes returned to the United States; she was interred at the Chapel Columbarium at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Upon his death in 1979, Ben Lyon’s remains were interred next to Daniels’.
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