Born Eleanor Luicime Compson March 19, 1897(1897-03-19) Beaver, Utah, United States
Died April 18, 1974 (aged 77) Glendale, California, United States Years active 1915–1948
Spouse(s) James Cruze (1925–1930) Irving Weinberg, Silvius Jack Gall.
On her death she was interred in San Fernando Mission Cemetery in San Fernando, California. She left no surviving relatives.
Compson made 25 films in 1916 alone, although most of them are shorts. She completed The Miracle Man (1919) for George Loane Tucker. Compson's rise as a star in motion pictures began with her portrayal of Rose in this production.
In 1920 she began to head her own company. She worked at the Hollywood Brunton studio and acquired three stories for films. Compson returned from New York City where she obtained financial backing for her motion picture productions.
Her first movie as producer was Prisoners of Love (1921). She played the role of Blanche Davis, a girl born to wealth and cursed by her inheritance of physical beauty. Compson selected Art Rosson to direct the feature. The story was chosen from a work by Catherine Henry.
Compson worked for the Christie Company as a newcomer in films, followed by Famous Players-Lasky. After completing The Woman With Four Faces (1923) she signed with a London, England motion picture company. There she starred in a series of four films directed by Graham Cutts, a well-known English filmmaker. The first of these was a movie version of an English play called Woman to Woman (1924), the screenplay for which was co-written by Cutts and Alfred Hitchcock.
In 1928 she appeared in The Barker, a silent movie which contained some talking scenes. Compson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for the performance.
One of her most revered films remains The Docks of New York (1928), noted for its dark visual ambience and superb performances. In 1930, she made a version of The Spoilers in which she played the role later portrayed by similar-looking Marlene Dietrich in the 1942 remake, while Gary Cooper played the part subsequently acted in the later film by John Wayne, perhaps the only time that Cooper and Wayne played precisely the same role.
Compson's last film was Here Comes Trouble (1948). She retired following that film and helped her husband run a business called "Ashtrays Unlimited".
Compson wed three times. From 1924 to 1930 she was married to film director James Cruze. Later she married and divorced agent-producer Irving Weinberg. Her third husband was Silvius Jack Gall. He died in 1962.
Betty Compson died in 1974, of a heart attack, at her home in Glendale, California. She was 77. On her passing she was interred in San Fernando Mission Cemetery in San Fernando, California. She left no surviving relatives.
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Compson, Eleanor Luicime
SHORT DESCRIPTION Actor
DATE OF BIRTH 1897-3-19 PLACE OF BIRTH Beaver, Utah, United States
DATE OF DEATH 1974-4-18 PLACE OF DEATH Glendale, California, United States
The single largest change in film history has been the dramatic transition from “silents” to “talkies;” Many went from leading roles in the silent film era to supportive and minor players of the “talkies” and are forgotten today for their efforts and contributions to the film medium. Actress Betty Compson is one such actress whom has exactly 208 credits attached to her name but has been unfortunately forgotten until now.
Betty Compson did not consider show business as a profession until her father died in her early teens and she had to provide for the family. Betty put her violinist skills to work and circulated the vaudevillian houses with the name "Vagabond Violinist." Soon after, Betty arrived in Hollywood and immediately got to work. Her first film was a "silent" titled, “Wanted: A Leading Lady” (1915). She starred opposite Lon Chaney in “The Miracle Man” (1919) and by 1920, Betty was amongst other pioneering women in film producing films for career benefits. Her production company was aptly named, “Betty Compson Productions.” She produced three films in all — “Prisoners of Love” (1921), “For Those We Love” (1921) and “Always The Woman” (1922). Betty was the star of all three films with Director Arthur Rossan at the helm. “The Barker” (1928) was a silent film that took advantage of the industry’s experiments with sound and featured a few talking sequences. As a result, Betty was nominated for an Oscar for her role as “Carrie.”
In “The Great Gabbo” (1929) Betty co-starred with legendary Austrian-born actor Erich Von Stroheim. Betty performed the songs, “I’m In Love With You” and “Web of Love” for the soundtrack. As silent film actors lost their careers to the “talkies,” Betty’s career narrowly escaped the same fate. By the 1940s, Betty was starring and co-starring in “cult” films such as, “Port of Missing Girls” (1938), “Escort Girl” (1941) and “Mad Youth” (1940) that dared to explore taboo subjects that went out of style twenty years before in Hollywood. Betty made an uncredited role in “Strange Cargo” (1940) with classic film icons, Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. Betty also made an appearance as “Gertie” in Director Alfred Hitchcock’s comedy, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (1941), sharing the screen with Carole Lombard.
After thirty-three years of working in films, Betty retired with her last film being “Here Comes Trouble” (1948). “There will never be a benefit performance for Betty Compson,” Betty commented when she reflected upon the curtain call of her career. With her third husband, they started their own business called “Ashtrays Unlimited.” At one point in her career, Betty had written
an autobiography but it has been extremely rare to find. In 1974, Betty Compson passed away at the age of seventy-seven. Fortunately today, a limited amount of her films are available for home entertainment.