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
Gloria Swanson, Her Cardboard Lover, Herbert Marshall, Jeanne Eagels, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, Joseph M. Schenck, Joseph P. Kennedy, Louella Parsons, Man Woman and Sin, Rain, Raoul Walsh, Sadie Thompson, Silent Movies, United Artists, Will Hays
Gloria May Josephine Swanson was born in Chicago on March 27, 1899. Her father was in the US army, and the family moved frequently during her childhood. After an aunt took her to visit Essanay Studios in Chicago, she left school to work as an extra. She made an uncredited debut in The Song of Soul, and acted alongside Charlie Chaplin in His New Job (1915.) Continue reading
Lucille Fay LeSueur was born in San Antonio, Texas, on March 23, 1904. Her father, Thomas E. LeSueur, abandoned her mother, Anna Bell Johnson, and her two eldest children, while she was still pregnant. Anna began a new relationship with Henry J. Cassin, and the family lived with him in Lawton, Oklahoma, where he ran the Ramsey Opera House. After Cassin was accused of embezzling, the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1916. Continue reading
Samuel Henry Harris was born in New York City on February 3, 1872. His early jobs ranged from selling cough drops to keeping the Irish storyteller and vaudevillian, John W. Kelly, out of saloon bars during a troubled stint at Miner’s Bowery Theatre. He also worked as a boxing promoter, managing prize-fighter Terry McGovern. By the age of twenty-two, Harris owned six racehorses. Continue reading
A Gentleman's Mother, Bette Davis, Clifton Webb, Her Cardboard Lover, Jeanne Eagels, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, Leslie Howard, Martin Brown, Rain, Sadie Thompson, Tallulah Bankhead, The Exciters, W. Somerset Maugham
Tallulah Brockman Bankhead was born in Huntsville, Alabama on January 31, 1902. Her mother, Adelaide, died of blood poisoning three weeks after Tallulah’s birth. Her father William, a prominent Democrat, suffered bouts of alcoholism and depression, and Tallulah was largely raised by her grandmother. Continue reading
William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris on January 25, 1874, the fourth of six children. His father was a lawyer for the British Embassy. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was eight, and when his father passed away two years later, Maugham was sent to live with his uncle in England. Continue reading
Clemence Randolph, Dorothy Parker, H.L. Mencken, Jeanne Eagels, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, John Colton, John D. Willams, Man Woman and Sin, Rain, Sadie Thompson, Saint Wench, Sam H. Harris, The Exciters, The Sainted Wench, W. Somerset Maugham
John Colton was born in Minneapolis on December 31, 1887. He spent his first fourteen years in Japan, where his English father was a diplomat. This early experience of colonial life in the Far East would inspire his writing. Continue reading
Why did Jeanne Eagels – the original Sadie Thompson, and a Broadway legend – never bring Rain to the big screen? Author Laini Giles considers this lost opportunity, in a Classic Movie Blogathon post for Sepia Stories.
Meanwhile, Lars Nilsen has written a mini-biography of Jeanne for AFS Viewfinders, describing her as ‘an incandescent, proto-method actress.’ And over at Journeys in Classic Film, a perceptive review of Jeanne Eagels, the 1957 biopic starring Kim Novak, nails its many distortions.
All About Eve, Chloral Hydrate, Christian Science, Clifton Webb, Dr Edward Spencer Cowles, Dr Hyman Engelberg, Dr Ralph Greenson, Fredric March, George Arliss, George Cukor, Immortal Marilyn, Jeanne Eagels, Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, Jenny Lind, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Schenck, Joseph M. Schenck, Lee Strasberg, Marilyn Monroe, Missouri, Rain, Sadie Thompson, Ted Coy, W. Somerset Maugham
Earlier this month, I posted two extracts from The Mmm Girl, my Marilyn-inspired novel, which describe Marilyn’s attempt to remake Rain. It was not to be, but many thought she was the only actress who could match Jeanne’s performance as Sadie Thompson.
Marilyn also features as one of several ‘other Sadies’ in Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed (co-authored with Eric Woodard.) Here is a short excerpt from the introduction to our new biography.
There are surprising parallels between the life of Jeanne Eagels and Marilyn Monroe, another tragic star. Like Jeanne, Marilyn had known poverty and pursued her career with fierce determination. The hauntingly lovely Jeanne was initially typecast as an ingénue, while Marilyn fought to escape the image of a sexy, dumb blonde. Their lives were chronicled in microscopic detail by the press, and each came to rely on an evergrowing entourage of doctors and acting coaches. Eagels’ failed marriage to a famed football player mirrored Monroe’s to a retired baseball icon, and both frequently clashed with their bosses and co-stars. Marilyn once was even considering a remake of Rain.
But while thousands of books and scores of documentaries, films, and videos have been dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, Jeanne Eagels has been unjustly neglected. She was robbed of the chance to bring Sadie Thompson to the big screen, though those who saw her onstage said her greatest performance was never surpassed. In her lifetime, Eagels briefly enjoyed the critical acclaim Monroe craved, and would finally achieve posthumously. But in the years after Jeanne’s death, a steady trickle of malicious gossip clouded her glow, reducing her to that most spectral of beings—a legend without a face. In Jeanne Eagels: A Life Revealed, we explore the woman behind the enigma, a feisty yet fragile diva who became a genuine phenomenon. A phenomenon worth revealing … and rediscovering.