Bebe Daniels (January 14, 1901 – March 16, 1971) was an American actress, singer, dancer, writer and producer. Daniels began her career in Hollywood during the silent movie era as a child actress, became a star in musicals like “42nd Street” (1933), and later gained further fame on radio and television in Britain. In her long career, Bebe Daniels made over 230 appearances in films and on television.
Bebe Daniels was born Phyllis Virginia Daniels on Jan. 14, 1901 in Dallas, Texas. Her father was a theater manager and her mother a stage actress. The family moved to Los Angeles, California in her childhood and she began her acting career at the age of four in the first version of “The Squaw Man”. That same year she also went on tour in a stage production of Shakespeare’s “Richard III”. By the age of seven Daniels had her first starring role in film as the young heroine in “A Common Enemy” (1908). At the age of nine she starred as Dorothy Gale in the 1910 short film “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. At the age of fourteen she starred opposite film comedian Harold Lloyd in a series of Lonesome Luke two-reel comedies starting with the 1915 film “Giving Them Fits”. The two eventually developed a publicized romantic relationship and were known in Hollywood as “The Boy” and “The Girl.” In 1919, moved on to greater dramatic roles and accepted a contract offering from Cecil B. DeMille, who gave her secondary roles in such films as “Male and Female” (1919), “Why Change Your Wife?” (1920), and “The Affairs of Anatol” (1921).
In the 1920s, Daniels was under contract with Paramount Pictures. She became an adult star by 1922 and by 1924 was playing opposite Rudolph Valentino in “Monsieur Beaucaire”. Following this she was cast in a number of light popular films such as “The Manicure Girl” (1925) and “Wild Wild Susan” (1925). Unlike many actors, the arrival of sound posed no problem for Daniels. She had a beautiful singing voice and became a major musical star, with such hits like “Rio Rita” (1929), “Dixiana” (1930), and “42nd Street” (1933). Daniels also had great success in non musicals such as “Honor of the Family” (1931), “Silver Dollar” (1932), and the extremely successful 1931 pre-code version of “The Maltese Falcon”, which opened to rave reviews.
She retired from Hollywood in 1935. With her husband, film actor Ben Lyon, whom she married in 1930, she moved to London. A few years later, Daniels starred in the London production of “Panama Hattie” in the title role originated by Ethel Merman. The Lyons’ then did radio shows for the BBC. Most notably, they starred in the series “Hi Gang”, continuing for decades and enjoying considerable popularity during World War II. Daniels wrote most of the dialogue for the Hi Gang radio show. The couple remained through the days of the The Blitz.
Following the war, Daniels was awarded the Medal of Freedom by Harry S. Truman for war service. In 1945 she returned to Hollywood for a short time to work as a film producer for Hal Roach and Eagle Lion. She returned to the UK in 1948 and lived there for the remainder of her life. Daniels, her husband, her son Richard and her daughter Barbara all starred in the radio sitcom “Life With The Lyons” (1951 to 1961), which later made the transition to television.
Bebe Daniels and her husband actor Ben Lyon were married in 1930 and remnained married until Bebe’s death in 1971. They had two children together, Richard and Barbara.
Bebe Daniels died on March 16, 1971, of a cerebral hemorrhage in London at the age of 70. Her remains were cremated at London’s Golders Green Crematorium and the ashes brought home where she was interred in the Chapel columbarium at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.