Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Who Is That?" #1: Louise Closser Hale

There's always that one face -- you know what I mean, that one person that seems to follow you through every movie you watch.  The one constant that pops up so often that you finally throw up your hands (dramatic, I know) and say "WHO IS THAT?"

First one out of the box is this regal lady:

(image courtesy Cinema Fantastic)

Louise Closser Hale's face is well-known to 1930s film nerds: No More Orchids, Faithless, Shanghai Express, Movie Crazy, and Dinner at Eight (among others) all feature her.  She had, however, already enjoyed a long, varied career by the time she played her delightfully acid roles onscreen.

Hale was born in Springfield, Massachusetts (some sources say Chicago, Illinois) in 1872, and studied acting at both the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City as well as Emerson College in Boston.  Although she had her first stage appearance in 1894, it wasn't until Candida on Broadway in 1903 that people took notice -- and not until the London production of Mrs Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch in 1907 that she became a theatrical household name. (Aside: what is it with Wiggs? Seems like every 20s/30s actor got their start in a production of that.  Must investigate.)

(image courtesy Moviesville)

Hale was also an author, penning such works as The Actress, Her Soul and Her Body (later made into a play), and a popular series of travel stories illustrated by her husband Walter Hale.  She was prolific; in
addition to her books, Cliff Aliperti at Immortal Ephemera states she wrote over 150 short stories.  Her signature even graces a former Greenwich Village bookshop door, now treasured as a veritable time capsule of 1920s bohemian literati.

Louise Closser Hale was well into her character-acting incarnation when she had a stroke, possibly brought on by heat exhaustion.  She was rushed to the hospital, where she suffered another stroke -- this one fatal -- the next day.  She was 60.


Artman2112 said...

haha just saw her in Platinum Blonde 2 nights ago, she was a riot! i def have had a few of those "WHO IS THAT!" moments!

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Ever since I saw her in "Dinner at Eight" I've noticed her EVERYWHERE. It was driving me crazy, since a lot of the time she wasn't even credited.

Believe me, there's more coming :D

Artman2112 said...

its funny with the old films, the stock players and where they show up. when i start watching a 1930's WB film i've never seen i always say ok whos it gonna be this time, Robert Barrat? Henry O'Neil? Grant Mitchell? Glenda Farrell? Ruth Donnelly? and more often than not at least one of them is there lol! but the all time champ familiar face has to be Charles Lane, over 300 mostly uncredited film appearances, 92 just in the 30's alone! i just saw him last night in "Grand Slam" (Glenda Farrell as well) lol...these are my friends!

Page said...

A very nice article on Cosser. I feel the same way you do about seeing certain actors everywhere. These days, it feels like Lewis Stone is in every film I see and if he's not in it, I wait for him to walk through a door in his tux and very distinguishable mustache. (Okay with that since I adore Stone.)

A fun piece but it's very sad that she had such serious medical issues. 60 is not old at all. I'm sure she had many roles left in her.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Paul, I think of them as my friends too :D

Page, a lot was cut short in her life; the wonderful travel novels with her husband ended with his premature death (in his fifties, IIRC) too. A real shame; this was a lady with lots more stories left to tell.

FlickChick said...

I have a list of well-known faces myself, and Louise is no that list. I look forward to see who else is up your sleeve!

partylike1912 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
partylike1912 said...

She was also a phenomenal writer! Anybody ever read "Her Soul and Her Body"?