Gladys Brockwell

Active - 1914 - 1929  |   Born - Sep 26, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York City, NY  |   Died - Jul 2, 1929 in Los Angeles, CA  |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy

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An intelligent and versatile silent screen actress, Gladys Brockwell (née Lindeman) was the Brooklyn-born daughter of a struggling chorus girl. On-stage herself from the age of three, Brockwell played ingénues at 11 and dramatic leading ladies at 15, an early stardom that would help her ease gracefully into character roles in the 1920s. She made her screen debut for the Philadelphia-based Lubin company in 1913 and later appeared for D.W. Griffith. Not exactly the wistful type like Lillian Gish or Mae Marsh, Brockwell quickly left Griffith's Fine Arts in favor of Fox, where she would establish herself as one of America's busiest leading ladies, often playing long-suffering women. She was still a top star at the dawn of a new decade but was not above accepting smaller roles as long as they were interesting. In 1922, she played Nancy Sykes opposite Lon Chaney's Fagin in Oliver Twist and was the following year cast as Esmeralda's deranged mother in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, both films having survived and stood the test of time. By the late '20s, Brockwell had become one of Hollywood's most respected character women and would still earn the odd starring assignment. She made the transition to sound with ease, offering a harrowing performance as the gangster's moll in Lights of New York (1928), Hollywood's first 100-percent talking film. This still surviving museum piece was produced by Warner Bros., who awarded Brockwell a seven-year contract. Alas, time had run out for the now veteran star who was fatally injured in a car accident at Calabasas, CA, in late June of 1929, dying from peritonitis at Hollywood Hospital a few days later. Had she lived, Gladys Brockwell may very well have been awarded the kind of roles that instead went to the likes of Ruth Chatterton and Lenore Ulric. Happily, some of her finest silent films, including Oliver Twist and Hunchback, are readily available today.

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