Sunday, January 13, 2013

Silent Film Star: Jean Arthur.

Jean Arthur (October 17, 1900 – June 19, 1991). Was discovered by Fox Film Studios while she was doing commercial modeling in New York City in the early 1920's, Arthur landed a one-year contract and debuted in the silent film, Cameo Kirby (1923), directed by John Ford. It was Ford's first film credited as John Ford instead of Jack Ford.

Following the small role in Cameo Kirby, she received her first female lead role in, The Temple of Venus (1923), a plot-less film about a group of dancing nymphs. Not thinking she was sexy enough, the film's director Henry Otto replaced Arthur with actress, Mary Philbin during the third day of shooting. Arthur, agreed with the director and was planning on leaving acting for good, but stayed due to her contract and performed in many comedy shorts.

After awhile, Arthur, began to really enjoy acting and was looking for her big break, registered herself as a photo player in the Los Angeles city directory, as well as appearing in a promotional film for the Encino nightclub.

Her luck began to turn around when she showed up at the lot of Action Pictures, which produced B westerns, and impressed Lester F. Scott Jr. He cast her in over twenty westerns in a two-year period. The films were shot on location, under harsh conditions.

She also performed in independent westerns: The Drug Store Cowboy (1925), and westerns for Poverty Row, as well as having an uncredited bit part in Buster Keaton's.. Seven Chances (1925). In 1927, Arthur attracted more attention when she performed with Mae Busch and Charles Delaney as a gold digging chorus girl in, Husband Hunters and the film, Horse Shoes (1927).

Director Richard Wallace ignored Fox's wishes to cast a more experienced actress by placing Arthur to the female lead in, The Poor Nut (1927), a college comedy. In which she received poor reviews.

She landed a small role in, Warming Up (1928), a film produced for a big studio, Famous Players-Lasky. The film received a lot of media attention, because it was the studio's first sound film, which resulted in Arthur receiving good reviews for her performance.

The success of Warming Up, resulted in Arthur being signed on a three-year contract with the studio, soon to be known as Paramount Pictures.

After realizing that sound films was not just a phase, she met with sound coach Roy Pomeroy. Her all-talking film debut was, The Canary Murder Case (1929), in which she co-starred with William Powell and Louise Brooks. A crime/mystery film directed by Malcolm St. Clair and Frank Tuttle. Based on novel, The Canary Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine.

Arthur is best-remembered for her well known performances in her three Frank Capra films: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can't Take It With You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).

Her last performance was the non–comedic—role as the rancher's wife in the western, Shane(1953).

Arthur was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1944 for her performance in, The More the Merrier (1943).

Video: Full movie. The Canary Murder Case (1929).


  1. Jean Arthur really is remarkable - to have a career in silent films, then in talking movies into the 50s! I loved the photos and clips you posted.

  2. silverscreenings, I was very surprised to learn that she performed in a few silent films... fun!

  3. I only relatively recently discovered Jean Arthur when I watched "You Can't Take It With You" and was an instant fan. I didn't know, however, that she had a silent career too. Thanks for this post!

  4. Wonderful post of Jean Arthur. Lovely unique photos of her ~ Thank you!

    I love Jean Arthur, and wish someone had footage of her playing Peter Pan on Broadway in the '50's!

    She is to me the quintessential Actress of the century. Especially since she wasn't happily married and supported for all her efforts. She stated that she was left alone a lot by her husband.

    Her name was chosen by her from Joan of Arc and King Arthur!

    What a Remarkable Woman!

    Thank you,

  5. Anyone new to Jean Arthur has to see the amazing films:

    1) The Devil & Miss Jones ~ she is so pretty and wonderful in this gem

    2) If Only You Could Cook

    3) I havent' seen this yet: netflix: Too Many Husbands

  6. Emily ann, Thank you for stopping by with your thoughts and list of your favorite Jean Arthur films.


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