Happy 118th Birthday Leila Hyams

Today is the 118th birthday of the silent film actress, model, and vaudevillian Leila Hyams. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Leila Hyams
DATE OF BIRTH: 1-May-1905
DATE OF DEATH: 4-Dec-1977
CAUSE OF DEATH: unspecified
REMAINS: Cremated (ashes scattered)
Father: John Hyams (actor, b. 6asJulas1869, d. 9asDecas1940)
Mother: Leila McIntyre (actress, b. 20asDecas1882, d. 9asJanas1953)
Husband: Phil Berg (m. 1927, until her death)

She was born in New York City to vaudeville comedy performers John Hyams and Leila. Both parents appeared in films and mother Leila Senior was also a noted stage performer; her parents can later be seen together in several Hollywood films such as in 1939’s The Housekeeper’s Daughter. Hyams appeared on stage with her parents while still a child, working in their vaudeville act for five years.

As a teenager, she worked as a model and became well known across the United States after appearing in a successful series of newspaper advertisements. This success led her to Hollywood.

She made her first film in 1924, and with her blonde hair, green eyes, delicate features, and good-natured demeanor, was cast in a string of supporting roles, where she was required to do very little but smile and look pretty. She proved herself capable of handling the small roles she was assigned, and over a period of time, she came to be taken seriously as an actress. By 1928, she was playing starring roles, achieving success in MGM’s first talkie release, Alias Jimmy Valentine (1928) opposite William Haines, Lionel Barrymore, and Karl Dane. The following year, she appeared in the popular murder mystery The Thirteenth Chair, a role that offered her the chance to display her dramatic abilities as a murder suspect. At Fox that same year, she appeared in director Allan Dwan’s now lost romantic adventure The Far Call opposite Charles Morton. The quality of her parts continued to improve as the decade turned, including a role as Robert Montgomery’s sister in the prison drama The Big House (1930) with Chester Morris and Wallace Beery, for which Hyams once again received positive reviews. She then appeared in Surrender (1931) in which Warner Baxter and Ralph Bellamy desperately competed for her attention.

Although she succeeded in films that required her to play pretty ingenues, and developed into a capable dramatic actress in 1930s crime melodramas, she is perhaps best remembered for two early 1930s horror movies, as the wise-cracking but kind-hearted circus performer in Freaks (1932) and as the heroine in the Bela Lugosi film Island of Lost Souls (1932). Hyams was the original choice to play Jane in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), but turned it down. The role was played by Maureen O’Sullivan. She also appeared in the once controversial Jean Harlow film Red-Headed Woman (1932), the musical comedy The Big Broadcast (1932) with Bing Crosby, George Burns, and Gracie Allen, and was praised for her comedic performance in Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). In 1935 she made 1,000 Dollars a Minute for Republic and retired soon after.

Hyams married her agent Phil Berg in 1927. In 1936, after a 12-year acting career and performing in 50 films, she retired from the motion-picture industry; nevertheless, she remained active in the Hollywood community for the rest of her life. In 1977, after a “brief illness”, Hyams died at age 72 at her home in Bel-Air in Los Angeles. She was survived by her husband Phil.

Sandra (1924) as Mait Stanley
Dancing Mothers (1926) as Birdie Courtney
The KickasOff (1926) as Marilyn Spencer
Summer Bachelors (1926) as Willowdean French
The Brute (1927) as Jennifer Duan
White Pants Willie (1927) as Helen Charters
The Bush Leaguer (1927) as Alice Hobbs
OneasRound Hogan (1927) as Helen Davis
The Wizard (1927) as Anne Webster
The Branded Sombrero (1928) as Connie Marsh
A Girl in Every Port (1928) as Widow in San Pedro, Belize
The Crimson City (1928) as Nadine Howells
Honor Bound (1928) as Selma Ritchie
Land of the Silver Fox (1928) as Marie du Fronque
Alias Jimmy Valentine (1928) as Rose
Spite Marriage (1929) as Ethyl Norcrosse
The Far Call (1929) as Hilda Larsen
The Idle Rich (1929) as Joan Thayer aka Joan Van Luyn
Wonder of Women (1929) as Karen
Masquerade (1929) as Sylvia Graeme
Hurricane (1929) as Mary Stevens
The Thirteenth Chair (1929) as Helen O’Neill
The Bishop Murder Case (1930) as Belle Dillard
The Girl Said No (1930) as Mary Howe
The Flirting Widow (1930) as Evelyn
The Big House (1930) as Anne Marlowe
Sweethearts and Wives (1930) as Angela Worthington
The Sins of the Children (1930) as Alma Wagenkampf
Way Out West (1930) as Molly Rankin
Way for a Sailor (1930) as Joan
Part Time Wife (1930) as Mrs. Murdock
Gentleman’s Fate (1931) as Marjorie Channing
Men Call It Love (1931) as Connie
Stepping Out (1931) as Eve Martin
The Phantom of Paris (1931) as Cecile Bourrelier
New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford (1931) as Dorothy
Surrender (1931) as Axelle von Meirbach
The Christmas Party (1931, Short) as Herself (uncredited)
Freaks (1932) as Venus
RedasHeaded Woman (1932) as Irene Legendre
The Big Broadcast (1932) as Anita Rogers
Island of Lost Souls (1932) as Ruth Thomas
The Constant Woman (1933) as Lou
Horse Play (1933) as Angelica Wayne
Sing Sinner Sing (1933) as Lela Larson
Saturday’s Millions (1933) as Joan Chandler
The Poor Rich (1934) as Grace Hunter
Affairs of a Gentleman (1934) as Gladys Durland
No Ransom (1934) as Barbara Winfield
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) as Nell Kenner
People Will Talk (1935) as Peggy Trask
1,000 Dollars a Minute (1935) as Dorothy Summers
Yellow Dust (1936) as Nellie Bryan
First Aid (1943, short) as Red Cross Worker

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