Grace Cunard

Active - 1914 - 1946  |   Born - Apr 8, 1893   |   Died - Jan 1, 1967   |   Genres - Romance, Drama, Historical Film, Western, Action

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Biography by Hans J. Wollstein

Despite a publicity campaign that listed her birthplace as Paris, France, American silent screen heroine Grace Cunard was an Ohio girl, born and bred. A show-business veteran already as a teenager (her sister was actress Mina Seymour, aka Mina Cunard), Grace began her screen career with Lubin around 1911. By 1913, she was slaving away at Tom Ince's Inceville studio, which is where she met her future screen partner, Francis Ford. It was reportedly Cunard who convinced Ford to leave the too-controlling Ince. The two signed with Universal instead, where they went on to become that studio's top Western and serial team. Because of the worldwide success of the Pathé serial The Perils of Pauline, a Ford/Cunard two-reeler was enlarged into the 15-chapter serial Lucille Love, Girl of Mystery. A globetrotting adventure, the serial had Cunard matching wits with Ford, an international spy. The success was assured and the team went on to make three additional chapterplays, perhaps the highlights of both their careers. Like most of the silent action heroines, the buxom Cunard was attractive rather than beautiful and never afraid to get down and dirty. She was, however, visibly exhausted during the filming of The Purple Mask, the team's fourth and final serial together, and the strain continued in Elmo the Mighty (1919), in which she appeared opposite the screen's first Tarzan, Elmo Lincoln. She suffered a nervous breakdown and newcomer Louise Lorraine replaced her in Elmo the Fearless. Although she continued to star in action adventures, Grace Cunard's era was over. She left the screen in 1925 after marrying stunt man Jack Shannon (a prior marriage to actor Joe Moore had ended in divorce), but reappeared as the mysterious "Woman in White" in the 1927 serial Blake of Scotland Yard. She continued in films well into the sound era -- but in increasingly smaller roles -- retiring in 1945. Never quite as popular as Pearl White and Ruth Roland, Cunard nevertheless added some much needed acting prowess to the serial field, especially opposite Francis Ford. So compatible onscreen were they that moviegoers mistakenly assumed they were husband and wife offscreen as well.

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