My 2nd Annual Flash Fiction Blogfest post is here.
Thursdays in Blog Me MAYbe are themed “May I tell you something about someone else?” This week’s spotlight is on Florence LaBadie, a star of the silent era’s popular Thanhouser studio. I featured her on my old “Too Young, Too Soon” series on my old Angelfire site.
Florence LaBadie (née Russ), who lived from 27 April 1888 till 13 October 1917, was an incredibly popular actor from 1910 onwards. It appears as though she were the very first major female moviestar to die.
In her second year of stardom, 1911, she began acting with the Thanhouser company, becoming its most popular and prominent performer, male or female. In addition to playing the lead in scores of films, she also was the lead in her very own serial, The Million Dollar Mystery, which ran from 1914 to 1915. Back then film serials were very popular; other very popular ones included The Perils of Pauline, The Exploits of Elaine, and the series of films Herbert Yost starred in as the detective Octavius.
Florence, an only child, was born in New York, and was later adopted by Amanda and Joseph LaBadie. After completing her education, Florence became a model for the famous illustrator Penrhyn Stanlaws, who later became a film director. In 1908 Florence made her stage début, and a year later played some bit parts in films, though it wasn’t till 1910 that she became an established member of the Biograph Studio’s stock acting company.
Florence wasn’t quite sure of what her future might be there, so in 1911 she moved to Thanhouser. This was a very good move, as very soon after joining up with this new studio, she went from strength to strength and eventually became the studio’s most famous and prestigious player. Everybody loved and admired her, and saw Florence as the embodiment of beauty and charm.
Besides acting, Florence was also an accomplished singer and pianist, and also very much enjoyed dancing, painting, art, and sculpture. She also found time to be involved with social issues. Florence showed great compassion, care, concern, and sympathy for the men fighting in WWI, and when one of her many fans wrote her a letter from the front lines in 1915, along with 120 pictures showing the war in all of its graphic, grisly horror, she announced that, at her own expense no less, she would make these photos into stereopticon slides and use them to deliver lectures, starting off with one for the Peace Society.
The next year saw her as one of the most prominent fundraisers for the World’s Statue of Liberty Illumination Fund. In gratitude and reward for all of her services, the Thanhouser company gave her a special Pullman car, an automobile she used while she was raising money for the war effort. Florence was also engaged twice, though she never married.
When she was driving along with her second fiancé, Daniel Carson Goodman, her brakes failed, sending the couple plummeting down a hill at a terrifying speed and flipping them over at the bottom of the hill. Daniel only broke his leg and sustained some other minor injuries, but Florence was thrown and broke her pelvis in a compound fracture.
She survived, but her condition grew worse, coupled with the still relatively primitive medical care of the era. At the age of 29, two months after the accident, she passed away of a combination of her injuries and a septicemia infection.