Belle Bennett

Active - 1916 - 1932  |   Born - Apr 22, 1891   |   Died - Nov 4, 1932   |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

Screen stardom came late to this distinguished stage actress, who essayed two highly divergent but equally effective mother roles during the late silent era: Jean Hersholt's cheated-on wife, contemplating suicide from the roof of her building in D.W. Griffith's The Battle of the Sexes (1928) (Bennett's contemplation is equally dizzying for the audience), and that of Stella Dallas (1925). The Minnesota-born actress (earlier publicity stated Dublin, Ireland) had begun her long show business career in her father's road show and later enjoyed popularity both on the legitimate stage and in vaudeville. She entered films in the mid-1910s and played either farcical roles or society women, notably Lady Julia in an early version of Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1916), but her early career proved rather undistinguished. Bennett's reemergence in the mid-'20s took everyone by surprise, as did her quite public battles with producer Samuel Goldwyn. But it was Goldwyn who cast her in the role for which she will be remembered, that of the star-crossed Stella Dallas, nobly sacrificing her own happiness for that of upwardly mobile daughter Lois Moran. Bennett's long-suffering wife in Battle of the Sexes was not nearly as liked at the time, but the restored DVD version of this unjustly forgotten Griffith comedy-drama may also reinstate Belle Bennett, who gives a heartfelt performance. She survived the transition to sound and her early death in 1932 may have cut short an important talkie career. Bennett's third and last husband was director Fred Windemere.

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