Sunday, December 9, 2012

Silent Film Star: Mary Alden.

Mary Alden (June 18, 1883 – July 2, 1946). Born in New York City, Alden began her career on Broadway before moving to Hollywood where she worked for the Biograph Company and Pathe Exchange.

Her most popular role in movies, Birth of a Nation(1915) directed by D.W. Griffith. Alden played the role of a mulatto girl in love with a northern politician. The film is about the relationship of two families in Civil War and Reconstruction-era America: the pro-Union Northern Stonemans and the pro-Confederacy Southern Camerons over several years.

The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, is also dramatized.

The film was a commercial success, but was highly controversial because its portrayal of African American men (played by white actors in blackface) and the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan (whose original founding is dramatized) .

There were widespread protests against The Birth of a Nation, and it was banned in several cities. The outcry of racism was so great that Griffith was inspired to produce the film, Intolerance the following year. The movie is also credited as one of the events that inspired the formation of the "second era" Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain, Georgia.

It was the first motion picture to be shown at the White House. President Woodrow Wilson supposedly said the film was "like writing history with lightning".

The following year she performed in Griffith's, Intolerance(1916) with Mae Marsh, Miriam Cooper, and Vera Lewis. Intolerance is a silent film directed by D. W. Griffith and is considered one of the great masterpieces of the Silent Era.

The three-and-a-half hour epic parallels four story lines each separated by several centuries: A contemporary melodrama of crime and redemption; a Judean story: Christ’s mission and death; a French story: the events surrounding the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572; and a Babylonian story: the fall of the Babylonian Empire to Persia in 539 BC.

Intolerance, please click here to view movie.

After making, Less Than The Dust(1917) with Mary Pickford, she took a temporary leave from film, to go back on Broadway.

Many believe that Alden's performance of the mother, Mrs. Anthon in,  The Old Nest (1921) and her performance of an old lady in, The Man With Two Mothers (1922). Were her best performances.

Other movies that she was well known for were: The Plastic Age (1925), The Joy Girl (1927), Ladies of the Mob (1928) and Port of Dreams (1929).

The final films she received screen credit for are: Hell's House, Rasputin and the Empress, and Strange Interlude, each from 1932.

Alden died at the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California in 1946. This had been her residence for the last four years of her life. She was 63 years of age.

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