Florence Lawrence

Florence Lawrence neé Florence Annie Bridgewood, actor (b at Hamilton, Ont 2 Jan 1886; d at Beverley Hills, Ca 28 Dec 1938). Florence Lawrence, on stage and touring with her mother since the age of 3, joined the Vitagraph Company at 21 years old when the touring company disbanded in 1907. For Vitagraph she appeared in 38 films, including an early screen version of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, but it was with D.W. Griffith and the legendary Biograph studios that she made her lasting mark, and her rise was meteoric. Her first film for the master was Betrayed by a Handprint in July 1908. Griffith liked her so much that she appeared in over 90 of his films before she left Biograph at the end of 1909 for Carl Laemmle's Independent Motion Picture Company of America.

Since it was Biograph's policy not to promote actors lest they demand more money, Florence Lawrence was simply known as "The Biograph Girl," the world's first movie star. At the Independent Motion Picture Company she became known as "the IMP Girl," and thanks to one of Laemmle's outrageous publicity stunts-- to gain media attention he claimed she was killed in a traffic accident, then placed her photo in newspaper ads, declaring she was alive and well and making The Broken Oath, a new movie for his company-- she became the first star to be known to the public by her real name. However, due to a horrific accident on set in which she was badly burnt over much of her body, Lawrence's career was effectively over by 1914. In the 1930s she was put on the MGM payroll as an act of charity, drawing a small salary and being used occasionally as an extra. She appeared in nearly 300 films between 1906 and 1936. Tragically, she committed suicide by eating ant paste on Christmas day 1938. She died 3 days later, alone and forgotten.