Birthday: September 13, 1904
Died At Age: 50
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Gladys Clare Evans
Born in: Patten, Maine, U.S.
Famous as: Actress
Spouse/Ex-: Ben Erway (m. 1922-1930; divorced), Edward Fowler (m. 1933-1935; divorced), Kenneth Bradley (m. 1946-1950; divorced), Leonard Penn (m. 1935-1944; divorced)
father: Sir Arthur Evans Clare
mother: Lady Clare (Alice)
Died on: December 8, 1954
place of death: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
U.S. State: Maine
Gladys George was an American stage and screen actress who played leading roles in both the silent era and talkies. However she is best known for the remarkable performances she delivered in her relatively brief stint as character actress in Hollywood films during the 1930s and 1940s. Born in the family of actors, she made her debut in the profession as a toddler of three years with a family act ‘The Three Clares’. Her ‘Broadway’ debut happened with the play ‘The Betrothal’ while she was still in her teens. The most remarkable stage performance of George remains in the comedy ‘Personal Appearance’ by playwright and screenwriter Lawrence Riley, staged at the ‘Broadway. Her excellent comic timing attributed to the enormous success of the play that not only saw the play being staged 501 times but also launched the career of Riley as a playwright. Her other notable ‘Broadway’ plays included ‘Lady in waiting’ and ‘The Distant City’. Starting her film career with silent films she went on to do talkies. Her outstanding performance in the leading role of Carrie Snyder in the drama film ‘Valiant Is the Word for Carrie’ earned her the sole ‘Academy Award’ nomination for best actress. The other films that cast her in leading roles include ‘Madame X’ and ‘Love is a Headache’. However she is mostly remembered for her phenomenal characterisation of a widow Iva Archer in the film noir ‘The Maltese Falcon’ directed by John Huston. Her other notable films include ‘The Way of All Flesh’, ‘The Roaring Twenties’, ‘Marie Antoinette’, ‘Flamingo Road’ and ‘Detective Story’. After 1950s she moved towards television.
Childhood & Early Life
She was born Gladys Clare Evans to Sir Arthur Evans Clare and Lady Clare (Alice) on September 13, 1904, while her parents were in America performing with a troupe. Her father was a renowned Shakespearean actor who received knighthood for his services to the British army in India.
She was born in a small town called Patten in Maine, United States, however another source mentioned the place as Hatton in Maine while according to yet another it was in the state of Missouri.
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Her debut in stage acting happened when she performed in a family act ‘The Three Clares’ at three years of age. With time she developed a serious interest in stage acting and as a teenager she made her first Broadway debut in 1918 with the play ‘The Betrothal’.
She had the opportunity to work with renowned ‘Broadway’ star Pauline Frederick and later followed her into films. In 1919 George made her debut on the big-screen with Jerome Storm directed silent drama film ‘Red Hot Dollars’ in the leading role of Janet Muir.
Her successful debut helped her steadily perform in several other silent films in lead and second lead roles for the next couple of years. These included ‘The Woman in the Suitcase’ and ‘Below the Surface’ in 1920 and ‘The Easy Road’ and ‘Chickens’ in 1921.
However her career in films suffered a setback after she met with an accident that severely burned her. She made a comeback into films in 1934 following her marriage with a millionaire manufacturer Edward H Fowler who aided in furthering her career.
She soon signed a screen contract with ‘Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’ (‘MGM’) and was off with a spanking start as Shirley in the Paul Sloane directed drama film ‘Straight Is the Way’ (1934).
Meanwhile she performed in the ‘Broadway’ comedy ‘Personal Appearance’ by playwright and screenwriter Lawrence Riley, starring opposite actor Leonard Penn. Sterling comic timing of George led to the stupendous success of the play. It was staged for an amazing 501 times and also gave Riley a platform as a playwright. She also performed in plays like ‘Queer People’, ‘Lady in waiting’ and ‘’The Distant City’.
She enthralled all with her portrayal of Carrie Snyder, a prostitute, in the Wesley Ruggles directed 1936 drama film ‘Valiant Is the Word for Carrie’, which was an adaptation of a novel with the same title by Barry Benefield. Her brilliant performance earned her the sole nomination for an ‘Academy Award for Best Actress’.
Her next significant assignment was the title role in the 1937 drama film ‘Madame X’.
In 1938 she performed as Carlotta 'Charlie' Lee in an ‘MGM’ comedy film ‘Love Is a Headache’ directed by Richard Thorpe. Her next film ‘Marie Antoinette’ again with ‘MGM’ released in the same year saw her playing Madame du Barry, the mistress of King Louis XV enacted by John Barrymore. The film turned her on-screen career into a new direction following which she portrayed several character roles with great élan.
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Her most remarkable film as a character artist remains the 1941 released film noir, ‘The Maltese Falcon’, adapted from a novel by Dashiell Hammett of the same title and directed by John Huston. George performed exceptionally well as Iva Archer, widow of private investigator Miles Archer played by Jerome Cowan. The film received three ‘Academy Award’ nominations and was chosen to be included in the ‘National Film Registry’ of the ‘Library of Congress' in 1989.
Some such other notable films of George include ‘The Roaring Twenties’ (1939), ‘A Child Is Born’ (1939), ‘The Way of All Flesh’ (1940), ‘The Hard Way’ (1943), ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ (1946), ‘Flamingo Road’ (1949) and ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ (1951).
Personal Life & Legacy
Her first marriage was with actor Ben Erway. They eloped and were married by a judge on March 31, 1922, in Oakland California. On August 3, 1922, they remarried in San Luis Obispo. However the marriage culminated into divorce on October 1930.
Her second marriage was with Edward Fowler, a wealthy paper manufacturer, in 1933. In the very first year of their marriage Fowler discovered her in the arms of Leonard Penn, her co-star from ‘Broadway’ hit comedy ‘Personal Appearance’. The eventual result was divorce of the couple that materialised in 1935.
Following her divorce with Fowler she went on to marry actor Leonard Penn on September 19, 1935, at a probate court in New Haven, Connecticut. However her third marriage also met with same fate and the couple divorced in 1944.
She married for the fourth time in 1946, this time with a hotel bellboy, Kenneth Bradley, who was 20 years younger to her. They divorced in 1950.
She suffered from various health problems including heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver and throat cancer. On December 8, 1954, she succumbed to a reported cerebral haemorrhage in Los Angeles, California, U.S. although her physician suspected a suicide due to overdose of sleeping pills.
She was buried in the ‘Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery’ in North Hollywood, California.
The funeral services and burial of George was financed by the ‘Motion Picture Relief Fund’.