Saturday, December 15, 2007

Past Glam: Norma Shearer April 1933 Photoplay Cover

Norma Shearer was born in 1900 in Canada. After World War I her family fell into financial difficulties and her mother took Norma and her sister to New York City to audition for the Ziegfeld Follies. She did bit parts in movies until Irving Thalberg, Hollywood's boy genius (and later Vice President of MGM) took an interest in her. In 1923 Shearer was signed for a 5-year contract with MGM.

Throughout the 1920's, she played girl-next-door roles in silent films, until 1927 — the year of her marriage to Thalberg, and the release of the first "Talking Picture," The Jazz Singer. Shearer moved into the "Talkies" with ease, but it wasn't until she effected a transformation to "Glamour" with a set of portraits done by the now-famed Hollywood photographer George Hurrell, that she could secure a role in The Divorcee of 1930 and could claim solid leading lady status.*

After the production code of 1934 (which censored what could and could not be done and said in films), Shearer moved to period dramas. She starred in Romeo and Juliet (1936) and Marie Antoinette (1938) which, though popular with audiences, were financial losses to the studio due to high production costs.

In 1936, Irving Thalberg died of pneumonia (after all, penicillin wasn't around yet — the first successful use of penicillin was in 1942). Norma Shearer buried him in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn with the epitaph "My Sweetheart Forever."

Norma Shearer's last great role was in The Women of 1939, alongside her bitter rival Joan Crawford. After 1942 Shearer withdrew from the movies altogether. In her career, she had been nominated for an Oscar six times, winning it once, for The Divorcee (1930).

Shearer later remarried and led a quiet existence until her death from pneumonia in 1983. Although the marriage was a happy one, it is said that in her old age, suffering with Alzheimer's, she sometimes referred to her second husband as "Irving." She is buried at Forest Lawn in the same crypt with Irving Thalberg. Her star still rests on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6636 Hollywood Boulevard.

* I have a wonderful article on the move from "Charm" to "Glamour" I'll post one of these days.

Pictures from my own collection.


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