Mary Garden

Active - 1939 - 1939  |   Born - Feb 20, 1874   |   Died - Jan 3, 1967   |  

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Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

Following in the footsteps of her colleague, and very public rival Geraldine Farrar, Mary Garden, the leading soprano of the Manhattan Opera House, signed a 10,000-dollar-a-week contract with Farrar's former producer Samuel Goldwyn. The year was 1917 and opera stars in silent films were all the rage, as contradictory as that statement may seem today. Goldwyn cast Garden as Thaïs, the role that had brought the Scottish-born diva to America in the first place. But although Garden had been hailed as the greatest singing actress of the world -- much to the dismay of Farrar, incidentally -- Frank H. Crane and Hugo Ballin's joint direction (in addition to Goldwyn's scribes tinkering with the plot) left the audience cold. Goldwyn followed up with the more plebeian The Splendid Sinner (1918), about a married woman desperately in love with a German soldier, but this lurid wartime melodrama was even less successful and Garden returned to the world of Grand Opera with the pithy remark that "film actors deserve every penny they receive."