Aileen Pringle

Active - 1922 - 1944  |   Born - Jul 23, 1895   |   Died - Dec 16, 1989   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance, Mystery

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Born into wealth, American actress Aileen Pringle was educated in San Francisco (her home town), Paris, and London. Married to a titled Englishman before the age of twenty, Pringle defied the wishes of her husband and her family to take on a stage career in 1915. The actress worked on stage and in non-Hollywood films until 1922, when she was awarded a major-studio movie contract. She was personally selected by romance novelist Elinor Glyn (one of the great poseurs of the '20s) to star in the 1942 film adaptation of Glyn's steamy Ruritanian bodice-ripper Three Weeks (1924). An apocryphal story popped up during the making of this film, wherein Pringle, being carried into the boudoir by co-star Conrad Nagel, play-acted deep passion while actually whispering to Nagel, "If you drop me, you bastard, I'll break your neck." (Something like this did happen on the set of another film that starred neither Pringle or Nagel). Not well liked by coworkers due to her haughty attitude, Aileen nonetheless became Hollywood's unofficial "Darling of the Intelligentsia," and was regularly sent out by the studios to greet such literary wits as H.L. Mencken upon their arrival in Tinseltown. Indeed, Pringle's second husband was a celebrated writer, James M. Cain (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice), though hardly one of the intellectual elite. Behaving as contrarily as possible due to her disdain of filmmakers, Pringle sabotaged her chances at continuing her starring career in talking pictures; by 1942, she was played unbilled bits in such films as They Died with Their Boots On (1942). Comeback attempts in the '50s were thwarted because of Aileen Pringle's condescention and outspokenness; if the extremely wealthy actress truly wanted stardom, she sure didn't actively court it.

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