Friday, September 27, 2013

The Beautiful Eyes of Blanche Mehaffey

Imagine one of the most embarrassing things you’ve ever done.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

All set?  Cheeks burning with shame?  Okay.  Now imagine it being on television – your derpiest hour broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people.  You’d be horrified!  You’d be humiliated!  You’d be…

Blanche Mehaffey.

[Photoplay, November 1924]

Blanche was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but which year is anyone’s guess – 1906, 1907, 1908 have all been mentioned.  She made her way to New York, where she was a dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies.  Florence Ziegfeld himself said she had the most beautiful eyes in the world!  She was also lovely enough to be featured in the more risqué rooftop “Midnight Frolic”. 

Her screen debut was in a Hal Roach production, Fully Insured (1923).  She made somewhat of a name for herself with in Roach shorts, supporting such stars as Snub Pollard and Charley Chase.  Blanche was on the rise, and was about to get even more famous: she joined Lucille Ricksen, Alberta Vaughn, and fellow July birthday girl Clara Bow as a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1924!  (That's her on the bottom right, next to Bow.)

[image courtesy Immortal Ephemera]

So from here she went on to superstardom, becoming a household name into the Roaring Twenties and beyond, right?  Right?!

Sadly, you’ve read enough of these profiles to know where this is headed:  being a Baby Star turned out to be the pinnacle of her career.  She made a few more silent pictures, the most memorable being Westerns with Hoot Gibson, and by the 1930s her output mostly consisted of incredibly low-budget films produced by her husband, Ralph M Like.  She also had the lead in a 1931 serial (also low-budget) called MYSTERY TROOPER. 

Mehaffey changed her name to “Janet Morgan” in the mid-Thirties, in an attempt to reboot her fading career, but to no avail; disillusioned by her body of work, she retired from films by the end of the decade.

[image courtesy The Old Corral]

 Fast forward to 1948.  Television was in its infancy, and a great deal of early programming came from 1930s films – quite the lucrative way for studios to recycle old pictures.  Blanche was startled to find MYSTERY TROOPER on the tube one day, and sued to keep the rest of her less-than-stellar output off the screen.  The suit was dismissed, and she was forced to watch her former films become “golden turkeys”, laughable trifles still featured at "bad" film festivals today. 

Blanche Mehaffey died on March 31, 1968, of natural causes.  She was only 59.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Coming back soon...but first, let's help Flo

Hello Friends!  I've been away far too long, and plan to remedy that very soon.  In the meantime, check out the fundraising efforts to get a proper grave marker for our Thanhouser darling, Florence La Badie.

You might recall the piece I wrote on her.  This has caught fire in silent film circles, and even outside of them -- recently CBS New York aired a story about it as well.

If you can, contribute!  If you can't, spread the word!