Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Norma Shearer is best known as the first American film actress to make it chic and acceptable to be single and not a virgin on screen. In March 2008, two of her most famous pre-code films, The Divorcee and A Free Sole.
In 1920 her mother took Norma and her sister to New York to addtion for Ziegfeld. They worked as extras in several movies. Irving Thalberg had seen her when he joined Louis B. Mayer and gave her a five year contract. Although, he wanted her retire after their marriage.
Her first talkie was in The Trial of Mary Dugan(1929), four movies later, she won an Oscar in The Divorcee (1930). She cut down film exposure during the 1930s, relying on roles in Thalberg's projects: The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) and Romeo and Juliet (1936) (her fifth Oscar nomination). Thalberg died of a heart attack at age 37. Norma wanted to retire, but MGM forced her into a six-picture contract. David O. Selznick offered her the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), but because of her cross-eyed stare she did not get the part. She performed in The Women (1939), turned down the role in Mrs. Miniver (1942), and retired in 1942. Later, she was offered the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd. (1950), but she turned it down. Gloria Swanson, who went on to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance, was cast instead.