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Blanche Sweet (Sarah Blanche Sweet)

Blanche Sweet was an American silent film actress who began her career in the earliest days of the Hollywood motion picture film industry.

Background

  • Sarah Blanche Sweet was born on 18 June 1986 in Chicago, Illinois, United States.

  • Education

    • Blanche Sweet was educated locally.

    Career

    • Miss Sweet, who became famous acting in D.W. Griffith films, portrayed strong, determined heroines and sometimes unsympathetic characters - unlike other Griffith stars, such as her friend, Lillian Gish, who played fragile types. Beginning at age 12, Miss Sweet made 124 movies, all but three of them silent.

      With the advent of talking motion pictures in the late 1920's, Miss Sweet encountered trouble getting roles, partly because new actors were becoming prominent and partly because she refused to sign a long-term contract with a studio.

      She told Kevin Lewis, a friend and writer who published two articles about her, that in 1927 the Fox Studio had offered her the lead in ''Seventh Heaven'' if she would sign a contract, but she refused. Janet Gaynor took the part and won the first Academy Award for an actress.

      ''She was never interested in being -quote - a star,'' Mr. Lewis said yesterday. ''She was interested in being an actress.'' Daughter of Entertainers

      She was born Sarah Blanche Sweet in Chicago. Her parents were entertainers, and she began her stage career as an actress in 1900, at the age of 4. She was also an accomplished dancer.

      Her first motion picture was ''The Man With Three Wives,'' produced at the Edison Studio in 1909. In the same year she played a bit part in Griffith's ''A Corner In Wheat,'' for Biograph Studios on East 14th Street in New York City.

      For Griffith, she starred in numerous one- and two-reel films. including ''The Lonedale Operator'' (1911), ''The Goddess of Sagebrush Gulch'' (1912) and ''The Painted Lady'' (1912).

      It was Griffith's ''Judith of Bethulia'' (1913), one of the first feature-length films made in America, that made her a top star. Her characterization of the Biblical heroine Judith was praised by the poet, Vachel Lindsay, as ''dignified and ensnaring.'' Anna Christie and Tess

      In 1923, Miss Sweet became the first on-screen Anna Christie in an adaptation of the play of the same name written by Eugene O'Neill. The playwright praised her performance. She also played the title role in ''Tess of the D'Urbervilles'' (1924), which she and the first of her two husbands, Marshall Neilan, produced.

      She married Mr. Neilan, in 1922. They were divorced in 1929. Miss Sweet's three talkies were ''Always Together'' (1929), ''The Woman Racket and ''The Silver Horde,'' (both 1930). She left Hollywood to pursue a Broadway career. In 1935, she starred in the Broadway success, ''The Petrified Forest,'' which also starred Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Howard.

      In the same year she married Raymond Hackett, a stage and film actor.

      Although she appeared in plays, she did not make another film until 1959, playing a bit part in ''The Five Pennies,'' starring Danny Kaye. In 1978 she appeared as herself in a documentary, ''Portrait of Blanche,'' and in 1982, ''Before the Nickelodeon,'' a documentary about the earliest days of motion pictures.

      After Mr. Hackett died in 1958, she dedicated herself to the preservation of films.

      Miss Sweet served on the Board of Directors of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures for several years and was a consultant to the Department of Film of the Museum of Modern Art.

      She is survived by her brother-in-law, Albert Hackett. The funeral will be private. Sweet died in New York City of a stroke, on September 6, 1986, just weeks after her 90th birthday. Her ashes were later scattered at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

    Personality

    Sweet was known for her energetic, independent roles, at variance with the 'ideal' Griffith type of vulnerable, often fragile, femininity.

    Connections

    Blanche Sweet
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    Died September 6, 1986
    (aged 90)
    Nationality
    • 1909 - 1960
      Actress, singer, theatre directo
      United States