Friday, May 17, 2013

Five Facts About: Wanda Hawley

[Photo courtesy]

1.  Most of the fan magazines list her maiden name as Pettit, but her birth name was actually Selma Wanda Pittach.  When entering movies in 1917, she took the name Pettit to accent her petite stature (she was only 5'3").  The moniker didn't last long, and she instead used her married name (she and Allen Burton Hawley would divorce in 1922):

Wanda Pettit is the latter no more.  That is, she has assumed her honest-to-goodness name which is Wanda Hawley...Allan Dwan, the director, didn't like the Pettit part -- said it wasn't euphonious, or something, so Wanda had it deleted without a murmur.  ["Plays and Players", Photoplay, June 1918]

Mr and Mrs Hawley.  
[Photoplay, January 1920, courtesy the MHDL]

2.  In addition to enjoying swimming and gold, Wanda was vocally trained and toured for awhile across the country singing opera.  She was also an accomplished pianist:

She was to be a grand opera prima donna...and her mother had her put through a strict course of training vocally, as well as at the piano.  The result is that she can sit down now and tick off a few Rachmaninoff preludes and Bach fugues without winking an eye.  ["Victuals and Voice", Photoplay, January 1920]

[Photoplay, January 1920, courtesy the MHDL]

3. She is said to have appeared in the 1925 version of The Wizard of Oz, though her role is uncredited and, as of yet, unverified.  This is a most unusual version of the story, directed by Larry Semon:

4.  At the height of her career, she was receiving the same amount of fan mail as Gloria Swanson, and starred with matinee idols like Rudolph Valentino and Wallace Reid.

Wanda and Rudy in The Young Rajah (1922). 
[Photo courtesy The Loudest Voice.]

5. Though well-regarded, her career faltered after sound came in (her IMDb lists only three credits, ending in 1932), and she is rumored to have become a call girl in San Francisco.  She died in 1963.

Interested?  Good!  For more about Wanda:

An interesting essay written by her great-niece: Sixth Street - House Arrest Girl

[Photo courtesy]


Classicfilmboy said...

Wow ... had not heard of her, so glad you shared some information about her.

Jessica P. said...

Interesting, I hadn't heard of her but I had seen her with Valentino before. Thank you for sharing! Very interesting that she had the same amount of fan mail as Gloria Swanson. But sounds like she had a sad end :(

Anonymous said...

In my mother's diary march 2,1923 she writes in Cairo Egypt that she got to be "a piece of the crowd" in a movie being filmed there called Times of Jake "and the heroine is Wanda Hawley. she is very cute and pretty but, she is a movie actor person. The hero, I know not his name is thrilling." I can't find anything about that movie. Not one of her famous ones I guess.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Anonymous, I did a search and the movie might actually be called "Fires of Fate". It's from 1923 and takes place in Egypt.

Here's a little blurb on it from "Pictures and the Picturegoer" --

Hope this helped! :)

Jon said...

One of her last films was Pueblo Terror (1930/31) with Buffalo Bill, Jr (Jay Wilsey). It's one of those films that someone actually found in an attic!

Miss Hawley, sad to say, looks the worse for wear in her close-ups, which are mercifully few. She has a very "hard" look. Her voice is fine. It's one of those instances where it would seem nice to see a star of her stature later on, but knowing the calibre of films in which she had made only ten years before this B-western, I almost wish that she hadn't made the film.

My film interests straddle both silents and early talkies, as well as westerns. I had no grand expectations, but it was rather disheartening.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

MSN Movies lists these films as "no-budget Westerns", so I can imagine what this was like to watch. Poor Wanda.

Thanks for stopping by! :)