Filled Under: Anita Page
Anita Evelyn Pomares better known as Anita Page, was a Salvadoran-American film actress who reached stardom in the last years of the silent film era. She became a highly popular young star, reportedly at one point receiving the most fan mail of anyone on the MGM lot. When Page died in 2008 at age 98, she was the last surviving “famous” film star of the silent era except for child actresses such as Baby Peggy and Baby Marie. She was referred to as “a blond, blue-eyed Latin” and “the girl with the most beautiful face in Hollywood” in the 1920s.
Anita Page was born August 4, 1910 in Flushing, Queens to Helen and John Pomares. She had one brother, Marino, who later worked for her as a gym instructor while her mother worked as her secretary and her father as her chauffeur. Of Salvadoran and Spanish ancestry, Page’s grandfather was a consul from El Salvador. Page entered films with the help of friend, actress Betty Bronson. Page’s picture was spotted by a man who handled Bronson’s fan mail who was also interested in representing actors. With the encouragement of her mother, Page telephoned the man who arranged a meeting for her with a casting director at Paramount Studios. After screentesting for Paramount, Page also tested for MGM. After being offered a contract for both studios, she chose MGM. Page’s first film for MGM was the 1928 comedy-drama “Telling the World”, opposite William Haines. Her performances in her second MGM film, “Our Dancing Daughters” (1928) opposite Joan Crawford and “The Broadway Melody” (1929) opposite Bessie Love were her greatest successes of the period, and her popularity allowed her to make a smooth transition into talking pictures. During the early 1930s, she was one of Hollywood’s busiest actresses, starring with Robert Montgomery in “War Nurse” (1930), John Gilbert in “Gentlemen’s Fate” (1931), Lon Chaney Jr. in “While The City Sleeps” (1931), Buster Keaton in “Sidewalks of New York” (1931), and Clark Gable in “The Easiest Way” (1931), among others . At the height of her popularity, she was receiving more fan mail than any other female star, with the exception of Greta Garbo, and received multiple marriage proposals from Benito Mussolini in the mail. When her contract expired in 1933, she surprised Hollywood by announcing her retirement at the age of 23. She made one more movie, “Hitch Hike to Heaven”, in 1936, and then left the screen, virtually disappearing from Hollywood circles for sixty years.
In the 1990s the recently widowed star was rediscovered by the media, which enjoyed her light-humored journeys down memory lane about her career, MGM, the silent and early talkie eras and the stars she knew, earning the actress a devoted cult of young fans and a few brief appearances in ultra-low-budget films of the 1990s. She relished her status as “last star of the silents” and frequently gave interviews and appeared in documentaries about the era. Although ill health prevented her from making public appearances in her final years, her reputation for answering letters from fans never diminished.
She married composer Nacio Herb Brown in 1934, but the marriage was annulled a year later because Brown’s previous divorce had not been finalized at the time they were married. She then married Lieutenant Hershel A. House, a Navy pilot, in 1937 and they moved to Coronado, California and lived there until his death in 1991. They had two daughters together, Linda (now Linda Sterne) and Sandra .
Anita Page died on September 6, 2008 at her Los Angeles home, at the age of 98. She is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego. At the time of her death she was among the last to have acted as an adult in silent films to live into the 21st century. She was also the last living attendee of the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Anita Page has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6116 Hollywood Boulevard.
ALL TALKING ALL SINGING ALL DANCING
“The Broadway Melody” is a 1929 American musical film and the first sound film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. The film was the first musical released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and was Hollywood’s first all-talking musical. It starred Anita Page, Bessie Love, and Charles King. The film was written by Norman Houston and James Gleason from a story by Edmund Goulding, and directed by Harry Beaumont. Original music was written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, including the popular hit “You Were Meant For Me”. The George M. Cohan classic “Give My Regards To Broadway” is used under the opening establishing shots of New York City, its film debut. Bessie Love was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.
BROADWAY MELODY (1929) first clip
The story line is pretty simple as most musicals are. Harriet (Bessie Love) and Queenie Mahoney (Anita Page), a sister vaudeville act, come to Broadway, where their friend Eddie Kerns (Charles Kearn) needs them for his number in one of Francis Zanfield’s shows. Eddie was in love with Harriet, but when he meets Queenie, he begins to fall in love with her, but she is courted by Jock Warriner (Kenneth Thompson), a member of the New Yorker high society. As Queenie begins to recognize she is nothing more than a toy for Jock, Harriet begins to realize that Eddie is in love with Queenie. All this is set to backdrop of getting ready for the show.
Bessie Love and Anita Page shine in their roles and the movie is filled with great musical numbers, dancing, and entertainment. The success of “The Broadway Melody” set the stage for the great American Musical genre which lasted for over three decades.