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Vaagheid

Silent Era People

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I've long been fascinated by the huge stretch of time between Baby Peggy's peak of fame and the present day. Incredible that someone who was an irrelevant hasbeen by the time The Great Gatsby was published was still alive in 2020.

 

It must be disorientating for a once-huge star to quite possibly outlive their entire contemporary fanbase. It should be almost impossible for a celebrity to live beyond all first-hand memories of their stardom, but then most people her age are probably too young to remember her. She lived to see her fans become 100% second-hand – people taking a historical interest, far removed from Peggymania. When's the last time she'd have heard from anyone who was authentically nostalgic for her? I don't know of any other figure who was a living relic in quite the same way.

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I’ve always followed the living silent film actors closely, so this was pretty big!

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4 hours ago, machotrouts said:

I've long been fascinated by the huge stretch of time between Baby Peggy's peak of fame and the present day. Incredible that someone who was an irrelevant hasbeen by the time The Great Gatsby was published was still alive in 2020.

 

It must be disorientating for a once-huge star to quite possibly outlive their entire contemporary fanbase. It should be almost impossible for a celebrity to live beyond all first-hand memories of their stardom, but then most people her age are probably too young to remember her. She lived to see her fans become 100% second-hand – people taking a historical interest, far removed from Peggymania. When's the last time she'd have heard from anyone who was authentically nostalgic for her? I don't know of any other figure who was a living relic in quite the same way.

Arguably Dames Olivia de Havilland and Vera Lynn who have both lived around 80 years after their peak fame level. 

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There’s a remoteness about Baby Peggy’s stardom which the Dames can’t match, not for a long time to come. Silent movies were antiquated before most of us were born. Almost all of her films are long lost, and hardly anyone alive has ever seen any of them. And the whole idea of a four-year-old girl as a movie star in 2020....

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Vera Lynn still sells records, is part of British culture and shows up at stuff, and is taught in schools. Not the same level of remoteness by far.

 

Although for the record, we did WW2 in Primary 1. Vera Lynn was part of the topic as a historical figure. For her to be still alive 30 years on is really weird on a personal level...

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7 hours ago, Slackhurst Broadcasting said:

There’s a remoteness about Baby Peggy’s stardom which the Dames can’t match, not for a long time to come. Silent movies were antiquated before most of us were born. Almost all of her films are long lost, and hardly anyone alive has ever seen any of them. And the whole idea of a four-year-old girl as a movie star in 2020....

An utterly unique and special scenario/set of circumstances I agree and cannot really  be remotedly replicated.

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18 hours ago, machotrouts said:

I've long been fascinated by the huge stretch of time between Baby Peggy's peak of fame and the present day. Incredible that someone who was an irrelevant hasbeen by the time The Great Gatsby was published was still alive in 2020.

 

It must be disorientating for a once-huge star to quite possibly outlive their entire contemporary fanbase. It should be almost impossible for a celebrity to live beyond all first-hand memories of their stardom, but then most people her age are probably too young to remember her. She lived to see her fans become 100% second-hand – people taking a historical interest, far removed from Peggymania. When's the last time she'd have heard from anyone who was authentically nostalgic for her? I don't know of any other figure who was a living relic in quite the same way.

Fascinating post ! It has got me thinking .In a way Baby Peggy could be one of the most significant and unique deaths ever ! 

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On 19/12/2012 at 18:39, Predictor said:

A more updated list!
 

*snip*

Doreen Turner (1918)

*snip*


Not that any of us actually believed she was alive but I found Doreen Turner on Ancestry. Real name was Dorothy Turner and born in 1916, not 1918. She died in 1994. (definitely her - see the photos section)

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7 hours ago, Ulitzer95 said:


Not that any of us actually believed she was alive but I found Doreen Turner on Ancestry. Real name was Dorothy Turner and born in 1916, not 1918. She died in 1994. (definitely her - see the photos section)

So many of them end up having died years ago.Just found out Leon Holmes who was born in 1913 and  I thought was still alive drowned in an accident in the 1950s ! 

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28 minutes ago, CoffinLodger said:

So many of them end up having died years ago.Just found out Leon Holmes who was born in 1913 and  I thought was still alive drowned in an accident in the 1950s ! 


That one wasn’t true. IMDb eventually scrubbed that info. He was alive as late as 1969 but then he disappears from any records. Probably died in the early 1970s. At which point he would’ve been in his early 60s.

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37 minutes ago, Ulitzer95 said:


That one wasn’t true. IMDb eventually scrubbed that info. He was alive as late as 1969 but then he disappears from any records. Probably died in the early 1970s. At which point he would’ve been in his early 60s.

Oh right. I guess the probability of him still being alive at 106 or 107 is pretty low so we can safely assume he's dead and gone anyway ! 

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On 17/02/2018 at 18:29, drol said:

So the survivors are:

 

*Mary Carlisle (1914), very recognizable actress and famous on her own in the 30s. Think she might get decent coverage when she goes.

*Don Marion Davis (1917) believed to have died in 2012, resurrected for his 100th birthday. Career ended in 1925.

*Fay McKenzie (1918) Indeed had a decent adult career as a character actress. Might sneak an obit.

*Diana Serra Cary (1918) The one and only Baby Peggy. The last great star from silent movies.

*Dorothy Morrison (1919) Obscure.

*Silas Hathaway (1919) Played the Newborn Kid in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid.

*Louise Watson (1919) of Watson family fame.

*Jack C. Edwards (1920) Obscure, but was interviewed bu the Guardian three years ago. Worked with Norman Lloyd.

*Billy Watson (1923) of Watson family fame.

*Kathleen O'Malley (1924), adult character actress with small child roles.

*Donnie Smith (1924) of Our Gang.

*Mildred Kornman (1925) of Our Gang. Looks incredibly good despite her age.

*Garry Watson (1928) of Watson family fame.


Thought I'd resurrect this as there has been no focus on the silent era recently. 

Cary needs to be scrubbed off your list @drol. Also, Wiki users have agreed to remove Donnie "Beezer" Smith from the list. There doesn't seem to have been evidence of him being alive for years now. I think the last time something concrete appeared was 2004(?).

So that leaves just 5:
Don Marion Davis, 102
Silas Hathaway, 101 (though not confirmed alive since he was about 98?)
Mildred Kornman, 95
and the two remaining Watson siblings: Billy, 97 and Garry, 92.

Will 2021 be the year when the silent era loses the last of its screen cast?

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50 minutes ago, alt obits guy said:

John Podesta "Jack" Dixon, who appeared in silent movies as a child, the first of which was for Vitagraph studios, has died. He was 104. (Was unable to confirm any of it through other sources.)

 

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/latimes/obituary.aspx?n=john-podesta-dixon-jack&pid=197003694

 


Wow, great find. 

I can't seem to find anything on him either. It's been years since a new silent film actor was discovered living or recently deceased. Not at all surprising, given that many children had uncredited roles in silent-era movies. There may be some more out there yet that we don't know about.

I'm going to bring it up at the NitrateVille silent movie forum and see if anyone can make sense of it and verify it. Likely a genuine account, though there was a time when it was fashionable for fantasists and talltale tellers to use the "I used to be in the silent movies/Our Gang films/the Mickey Mouse Club" line.

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On 30/09/2020 at 19:45, Ulitzer95 said:


Thought I'd resurrect this as there has been no focus on the silent era recently. 

Cary needs to be scrubbed off your list @drol. Also, Wiki users have agreed to remove Donnie "Beezer" Smith from the list. There doesn't seem to have been evidence of him being alive for years now. I think the last time something concrete appeared was 2004(?).

So that leaves just 5:
Don Marion Davis, 102
Silas Hathaway, 101 (though not confirmed alive since he was about 98?)
Mildred Kornman, 95
and the two remaining Watson siblings: Billy, 97 and Garry, 92.

Will 2021 be the year when the silent era loses the last of its screen cast?


For completeness, crossposting.

 

Legacy obit for Don Marion.

 

3, possibly 4, left.

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On 09/10/2013 at 11:36, Predictor said:

Who do you think will be the last one to die? My guess is Mildred Kornman. Not only is she the youngest from the list, but she also looks to be in great shape. Here are some pictures to prove it.

 

88th birthday. Note, Mildred is the one in the middle.

2qizih1.jpg

 

Also 88th birthday, with her son

vl46w.jpg

 

Mildred in 1949, at age 24

2n0ocgj.jpg

 

Mildred in 1966, at age 40-41

21jdiro.jpg

Looks like I'm only 3 deaths away from being correct in my prediction. The youngest one don't ALWAYS become the last survivor, so don't me crap about it being an obvious guess. :)

 

Btw, for a supposed great acting dynasty, the two remaining Watsons sure are some of the most reclusive retired actors ever. How many interviews have they declined from film obsessives over the years? Not a single public appearance in ages, which indicates that they're either not interested in revisiting the insignificant (let's be real here) roles they played, or they are too senile to even know what a movie is. If it's the former, then it kinda sucks that we couldn't have had more interesting last silent film survivors.

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3 minutes ago, Predictor said:

Looks like I'm only 3 deaths away from being correct in my prediction. The youngest one don't ALWAYS become the last survivor, so don't me crap about it being an obvious guess. :)

 

Btw, for a supposed great acting dynasty, the two remaining Watsons sure are some of the most reclusive retired actors ever. How many interviews have they declined from film obsessives over the years? Not a single public appearance in ages, which indicates that they're either not interested in revisiting the insignificant roles  (let's be real here) they played, or they are too senile to even know what a movie is. If it's the former, then it kinda sucks that we couldn't have had more interesting last silent film survivors.


Not sure that’s the case. 2017 interviews with them here, published in The Express of all places! 
 

No more interviews probably owing to a lack of media interest is more likely. Both of them had uncredited roles, they’re barely notable.

 

You say “3 deaths away” from Kornman being the last, but nobody online seems wholly convinced that Silas Hathaway is alive. Firstly, someone posted news of his death on a Voy notice board 2 years ago but it was removed due to being unsourced. Secondly, when he was ~98, he was reportedly quite ill. So could very well just be the 2 Watsons + Kornman living.

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17 minutes ago, Ulitzer95 said:


Not sure that’s the case. 2017 interviews with them here, published in The Express of all places! 
 

No more interviews probably owing to a lack of media interest is more likely. Both of them had uncredited roles, they’re barely notable.

 

You say “3 deaths away” from Kornman being the last, but nobody online seems wholly convinced that Silas Hathaway is alive. Firstly, someone posted news of his death on a Voy notice board 2 years ago but it was removed due to being unsourced. Secondly, when he was ~98, he was reportedly quite ill. So could very well just be the 2 Watsons + Kornman living.

Wow, I stand corrected then. Thanks for the article.

 

Ok, so unless he was subject to a hoax, then he won't turn 102 next month. Dunno much about Voy, but had my grandpa been in a Chaplin flick, I would've arranged for a proper obituary...:unsure:

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As long suspected (and reported on noticeboards before without any evidence) Silas Hathaway IS dead.

He died in 2017 aged 97 or 98 so didn't make the centenary in 2019.

Someone explains it on this Voy page, with supporting evidence attached.

So there are just three silent era actors alive now – Kornman and the two Watson brothers.

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A name from @Vaagheid's original list – Jane La Verne.

She's been in limbo as a "possibly living" name mentioned on various sites where surviving silent film stars have been discussed.

Well, I'm pretty certain I've cracked this. Took me a good 30 mins on Ancestry but I've found her records.

IMDb says she was born as Mary Jane Kutzman in Redlands, California on 27th July 1922.

Almost. Firstly, when you search for this record, nothing appears but what does spring up are other suggestions – various residence, census and marriage/divorce records for a Mary J/Jane Kuntzman/Kuntzmann/Kuzman (lots of alternate spellings, but most of them seem to be the same person).

There is however a birth certificate for a Marion J. Kuntzman in San Bernardino County, California (where Redlands is located) for 27th July 1921 (one year off the DOB listed on IMDb).

Thereafter she always went by the name of Mary rather than Marion in every other record. 

Anyway, long story short is she died in Orange County, California in December 1993, aged 72. Here's her death record:
 

Name
Marion Jane Langendorfer Pohl
Mother
Taylor
Father
Kuntzman
Birth
California 27 Jul 1921
Death
17 Dec 1993 Orange
 

janelaverne.jpg.cd6dee50b08b65128cf4310f5d79a640.jpg

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Is Donnie "Beezer" Smith alive?

Lots of people on the internet mentioning that he is still alive (here in 2020/2021, 2018, 2007/2011) but nobody seems to have seen him or heard of him.

 

Could be alive as his brother Jay R. Smith lived to 87, until 2002 when he was murdered.

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55 minutes ago, arghton said:

Is Donnie "Beezer" Smith alive?

Lots of people on the internet mentioning that he is still alive (here in 2020/2021, 2018, 2007/2011) but nobody seems to have seen him or heard of him.

 

Could be alive as his brother Jay R. Smith lived to 87, until 2002 when he was murdered.


The last time Donnie "Beezer" Smith was confirmed to be alive was in 2004 when one of the silent film or Our Gang sites made contact with him.

Most likely he has died off radar since then.

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