As noted in the Playbill Vault, Jeanne Eagels began her legendary Broadway run as Sadie Thompson, “a prostitute at odds with a jungle missionary in Rain, primarily based on a W. Somerset Maugham quick story,” on this day, November 7, in 1922. We’re now just three years away from its centenary. Continue reading
'The Best Way to Forget Until You Find Something You Want to Remember', Amy Winehouse, Bette Davis, Christine Keeler, Cob Gallery, If You Don't Want My Peaches (You Better Stop Shaking the Tree), Jean Harlow, Jeanne Eagels, Kim Novak, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Nina Mae Fowler, Rita Hayworth, The Letter
Nina Mae Fowler is a British artist who trained at the University of Brighton, and lives in Norfolk. Her latest solo exhibition, If You Don’t Want My Peaches (You’d Better Stop Shaking the Tree), on display at London’s Cob Gallery until September 28, borrows its title from an Irving Berlin song, and draws heavily on the iconography of Hollywood’s golden age. I was delighted to find Jeanne Eagels among the subjects, as she is often neglected. This portrait shows Jeanne in her penultimate movie (and only surviving talkie), The Letter (1929.) Continue reading
Whenever I mention Jeanne Eagels, movie fans invariably ask if I’ve seen Kim Novak playing her onscreen. And my answer is usually this: “love Kim, hate the film.” Over at her Self-Styled Siren blog today, Farran Smith Nehme takes a closer look at the ‘Highly Fictionalised Biopics’ that were all the rage in 1957. (Jeanne’s friend, singer Helen Morgan, was another victim that year.) Continue reading
I’m glad to tell you all that Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed (Revised and Updated) is now available in hardcover and paperback. A full 90 pages longer than the first edition, and with new photos, it will be our last word on Jeanne’s remarkable life and career. So if you’re looking for a meaty biography to read this Christmas, make sure to buy this new edition as the older version will soon be unavailable. I’ve updated all the links to order from Amazon and other stores here.
As autumn leaves began to fall in the New York of 1929, Jeanne Eagels was recovering at home after eye surgery and seeking treatment from her physician at his Park Avenue hospital for a ‘nervous disorder’. After seeing him on October 3, she decided that an evening out might lift her spirits. She slipped into an evening gown complemented by several strands of pearls, and finally put on a fur coat to warm herself in the chilly night air.
However, her condition quickly worsened. A little before 7 pm, she left with her maid, and was driven some 60 blocks to Park Avenue, where her doctor was called from his downstairs residence, and she was escorted into a 5th floor examination room by a nurse. Jeanne removed her coat and was sitting on the bed when she suddenly went into convulsions. The nurse ran into the hall calling for the doctor’s assistant, but by the time they returned, it was too late.
Jeanne Eagels was dead at thirty-nine.
Exactly 89 years later, I am proud to announce that a revised and updated edition of Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, the 2015 biography co-authored by myself and Eric M. Woodard, will shortly be published by Bearmanor Media. We retrace the life and career of the woman who rose from the streets of Kansas City to become a Broadway sensation, and lit up the silver screen: with new material on her loving, if troubled family background; her acting triumphs, including Rain and The Letter; her ill-starred marriage to athlete Ted Coy, and much more.
“Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed offers a startling look at the actress and her times … packed with detail and drama, and does bring Jeanne Eagels into 21st century focus as an ambitious, driven woman who often fought the system, but could not defeat her own demons.” – Liz Smith, New York Social Diary
“Their research, to this reader, sparkles and shines . . . the kind of meat one likes with this rich meal of a book.” – Stephen Michael Shearer, author of Gloria Swanson: The Ultimate Star
“What you are about to read is nothing short of remarkable.” – Michelle Morgan, author of The Ice Cream Blonde and Carole Lombard: Twentieth Century Star
Daniel Eagan, Dave Kehr, David Stenn, Film Journal, Jeanne Eagels, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, Louise Brooks, MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Now We're In The Air, Outcast, Silent Movies, Thanhouser, The World and the Woman, To Save and Project
The World and the Woman, the 1916 silent film starring Jeanne Eagels, will be screened today – preceded by a fragment from an early Louise Brooks comedy – at 4:30 pm in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) as part of their ‘To Save and Project‘ series, curated by Dave Kehr and now in its fifteenth season, as Daniel Eagan reports for Film Journal. (And thanks to the Thanhouser Studio restoration project, you can also watch it here.) Continue reading
Mick LaSalle, film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and a champion of Pre-Code cinema, has often praised the few surviving film performances of Jeanne Eagels, who made her name in the theatre. Perhaps the best-known is her first ‘talkie’, The Letter, later remade with Bette Davis. Many viewers today are impressed by the raw power of Jeanne’s acting. In his regular ‘Dear Mick’ column, LaSalle answers an Oakland reader’s question: ‘Do you think that it’s possible to compare the quality of acting between generations?‘
Great acting has a truth, on its own terms, that may inevitably be influenced by its period in history, but which is grounded within the actor — it’s the actor’s truth … A perfect example of this is Jeanne Eagels in The Letter (1929). It’s a wild, mannered, crazy-over-the-top performance, with echoes of an earlier stage tradition. But you can’t take your eyes off her, because she is putting it all on the line and holding nothing back. You finish that movie, and it’s like Jeanne Eagels has just hit you in the face.
You can read more about her remarkable talent in Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed.
As I write, the hardcover edition of Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed is currently available for just £10.13 on Amazon UK – which is less than half the original price, and over £6 cheaper than the paperback. For readers abroad, it’s now £13.81 from the Book Depository (with free shipping to most countries.) I don’t know how long this bargain offer will last, so if you haven’t bought a copy yet, get it while you can!
It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed was published. I feel immensely proud to have been part of bringing her unjustly neglected legacy back to the spotlight, and will be eternally grateful to my writing partner, Eric M. Woodard, for giving me that opportunity. Continue reading
Thanks to my readers for your continued support and have a very happy holiday, whether you’re at home, at work or far away. (And if all you want for Christmas is to settle down with a good book, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed is now available on Kindle.)