It was upon the suggestion of Tom Mix that Horton’s mother decided to make an actor out of her daughter. Taking on the proposal, she sent young Horton to Biograph Studios. She first met the dynamic film director, D.W. Griffith here.
Griffith gave Horton her screen name that the world knows her as, Bessie Love. He even introduced her to the world of acting and cinema. Love made her debut with a small role in Griffith’s film, ‘Intolerance’ released in 1916.
Following her debut in films, Love dropped out of school to establish her career in films. After playing the role of a bride in ‘Intolerance’, Love played her first significant role as Hulda in ‘The Flying Torpedo’ in 1916.
Love’s inherent acting skills won her roles in several films that year, starting from ‘The Aryan’, ‘The Good Bad Man’, ‘Reggie Mixes In’, ‘The Mystery of the Leaping Fish’, ‘Acquitted’, ‘Stranded’, ‘A Sister of Six’, ‘The Heiress at Coffee Dan’s’ and so on. She played opposite leading actors including William S. Hart and Douglas Fairbanks.
Following a series of films throughout the end of the 1910s decade, Love’s popularity as an actor soared. She worked with Vitagraph, starring in a number of comedy dramas.
It was at the beginning of 1920s that Love matured as an actor. She played solid roles that gave her significant screen time. ‘Those Who Dance’ released in 1924 marked her first role as a mature actor. The following year, she starred in ‘The King on Main Street’.
In 1925, Love starred in the science-fiction adventure ‘The Lost World. The movie was an adaptation from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel of the same name. The following year, Love performed the Charleston dance in ‘The Song and Dance Man’. One of her best ever performances came in the 1927 released, ‘Dress Parade’.
She ended the era of silent films starring in three significant movies in 1928, namely ‘The Matinee Idol’, a romantic comedy directed by a young Frank Capra, ‘Sally of the Scandals’ a crime drama by FBO and ‘Anybody Here Seen Kelly?’by William Wyer.
Unlike other actors of her generation, Love’s transition from silent films to talkies was a smooth one. In 1929, she starred as Hank Mahoney in ‘The Broadway Melody’. The film was widely received and gained her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. The same year, she appeared in three other films including ‘The Idle Rich’, ‘The Hollywood Revue of 1929’ and ‘The Girl in the Show’.
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In 1930, Love appeared in a couple of movies, including ‘Chasing Rainbows’, ‘Good News’, and ‘They Learned About Women’. ‘Morals for Women’ was the last American film that she starred in.
In 1935, Love moved to England after she experienced a decline in her American film career. The following year, she starred in the British musical film ‘I Live Again’ by Arthur Maude. She starred alongside Noah Beery and John Garrick.
During World War II, there was a dearth of acting work. In 1943, she served as the ‘continuity girl’ on the film drama ‘San Demetrio London’. She also worked for the American Red Cross.
Post war, Love resumed her acting career, taking up roles both for films and stage. For most of her films, Love donned the character of an American tourist with perfection. Some of her stage appearances include ‘Love In Idleness’ and ‘Born Yesterday’.
Her film career in the 1950s decade saw her take up roles in ‘The Magic Box’, ‘The Weak and the Wicked’, ‘The Barefoot Contessa’, ‘Touch and Go’, ‘The Story of Esther Costello, ‘Next To No Time and ‘Nowhere to Go’. In 1958, Love wrote and performed in the semi-autobiographical play, ‘The Homecoming’, which was opened in Perth, Scotland.
She started the decade of 1960s with the film, ‘Too Young To Love’. Next she starred alongside Kenneth More in ‘The Greengage Summer’ as an American tourist. After a couple of insignificant roles, Love played the narrator for ‘I Think They Call Him John’. She also played a small role in the James Bond thriller ‘On Her Majesty's Secret Service’in 1969 and in ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ in 1971.
In 1972, Love appeared in the play ‘West of Suez’ as ‘Aunt Pittypat’. A John Osborne's play, it was a large scale musical version of ‘Gone With the Wind’. In 1978, she played Maud Cunard in the TV miniseries ‘Edward & Mrs. Simpson’.
Early 1980s marked the end of her film career. She starred in four movies including ‘Ragtime’, ‘Reds’ and ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, released in 1981 and her final film,‘The Hunger’ released in 1983.
Apart from acting, Love published an autobiography ‘From Hollywood with Love’ in 1977 in which she penned her experiences as an actor. In 1980, she was interviewed in the television documentary series ‘Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film’.