Lenore Ulric (née Ulrich) (21 July 1892–30 December 1970) was born in New Ulm, Minnesota. Her dad, U.S. Army hospital steward Franz Xavier Ulrich, reportedly named her after the tragic lost love in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”
As a teen, Lenore began acting with a Milwaukee stock company. She also acted with companies in Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Schenectady, NY. In 1911, she made a few films for Chicago’s Essanay Studios.
Lenore’s big break came when David Belasco, famed theatrical producer, director, playwright, and impresario, discovered her in The Bird of Paradise in 1913. He came to see the show after Lenore wrote him a letter.
Belasco frequently went on “fishing trips” to discover talented actors, and hadn’t had a “bite” for a long time. Though he didn’t find stars so often, he enjoyed the chance to “hook a big one.” And that he did on that night.
Belasco offered her the lead role in The Heart of Wetona, and became her manager. He saw true, raw, natural, born talent, which was all the more remarkable because Lenore wasn’t from an acting family or pursuing acting out of vanity, exhibitionism, or desire for money. Acting was her inborn calling.
Lenore quickly became one of America’s biggest theatre stars. On both stage and screen, she usually played Vamps (i.e., femme fatales). People went to her shows just to see her, and cared less about the actual plays.
Though she did most of her acting onstage, Lenore made seven more films from 1915–17, this time for Paramount. Her final silent, Tiger Rose (1923), was made for Warner Brothers.
Her first two talkies, 1929’s Frozen Justice and South Sea Rose (made for Fox), are lost. Lenore’s Fox contract paid her $650,000.
Lenore’s next foray into film was a supporting role in the 1936 version of Camille, starring Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor. She made four films during the Forties.
Lenore starred in two more Broadway shows in 1940 and 1947. Her swan song was a revival of Antony and Cleopatra.
Lenore died of heart failure at age 78, in Orangeburg, NY. Most of her surviving films are only available at the Library of Congress.