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Florence La Badie
Born Florence Russ
April 27, 1888(1888-04-27)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died October 13, 1917 (aged 29)
Ossining, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1909–1917

Florence La Badie (April 27, 1888 – October 13, 1917) was an American actress in the early days of Hollywood, during the silent film era. Though little known today, she was a major star between 1911 and 1917, her career was at its height and climbing when she died unexpectedly due to injuries sustained during an automobile accident.

Contents

Early life

While her film career is well documented, her early life is somewhat clouded in mystery, from who her real parents were to what her birth name actually was. She was said to be the daughter of Joseph E. La Badie and his wife Amanda from Montreal, Quebec. However, it has also been said that she was born in Austin, Texas and adopted by the La Badie family. Yet another source, The Internet Movie Database, lists her as having been born in New York City, with the birth name of Florence Russ. The latter is typically upheld as being the most likely.

While there is much evidence of her having been raised in Montreal, in an alleged sworn deposition on October 8, 1917, a New York woman named Marie C. Russ did claim to be Florence's biological mother and referred to a Russ family burial plot in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, with lot number 17187 being reserved for Florence Russ, aka Florence La Badie. This supposed legal deposition was dated five days before Florence's death. There was evidence to support that she was the granddaughter of a Louisa Russ, who had purchased the family plot in Green-Wood. There were also indications that she was legally adopted by Joseph La Badie as a child, and her name changed. However, although it is likely that she was adopted, it might be noted that at the time of her deposition, Marie C. Russ was residing in the "Home for Incurables" mental institution, in New York City. Although indications are somewhat overwhelming that La Badie probably in fact was adopted, Marie C. Russ stated herself in the deposition that the adoption was "legal".

Career success

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Having completed her studies, Florence La Badie was offered work as a fashion model in New York City. Once there, in early 1908 she obtained a small part in a stage play. Following this, she signed to tour with one of the road companies and for the next two years appeared on stage in various places in the eastern part of the United States. During this period she met a fellow Canadian, the young actress Mary Pickford, who in 1909 invited Florence to watch the making of a motion picture at the Biograph studio in Manhattan. Given an impromptu bit part, Florence was invited back to Biograph’s studios to participate in another film later that year. She would go on to make several films under the renowned D. W. Griffith, with her first credited film being in the 1909 film The Politician's Love Story, starring Mack Sennett and Kathlyn Williams.

In 1911, her career took a leap when Edwin Thanhouser of the Thanhouser Film Corporation hired her. With her sophistication and beauty, Florence La Badie soon became Thanhouser Film’s most prominent actress, appearing in dozens of films over the next two years. Her most remembered films of that period were The Tempest (1911), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912), a film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Her most well known work was in the 1914 - 1915 serial, The Million Dollar Mystery. Athletic and daring, in these films she performed all her own stunts. In 1915, she was featured in the magazine Reel Life, which described her as "the Beautiful and talented Florence La Badie, of the Thanhouser Studios, conceded one of the foremost of American screen players". Over a course of six years La Badie's career had taken her to top-billing as a film actress.

World War I

When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, Canada immediately joined the war and as a result, several of Florence La Badie’s young male friends and relatives back home in Montreal were immediately shipped overseas. She had many movie fans in Canada and according to one New York newspaper, in 1915 a young soldier fighting in the trenches at the Front in Northern France wrote to her, sending dozens of photographs that graphically depicted the horrors of the war. Deeply affected, Florence La Badie became a vigorous advocate for peace, traveling the United States with a stereopticon slide show of the soldier’s photographs, warning about the terrible dangers of going to war.

Death

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In August 1917, La Badie was at the height of her motion picture success. She had appeared in an astonishing 185 films since 1909, just 32 shy of Mary Pickford's 217 by that same time period. Her film The Woman in White[1] had just been released in July 1917. Her latest two films, The Man Without a Country, a film adaptation of Edward Everett Hale's The Man Without a Country, and War and the Woman, would also soon be released, both on September 9, 1917. Although the Thanhouser Corporation had been struggling since the 1914 automobile accident death of Charles J. Hite, La Badie's career was thriving and had been their saving grace. Less than a month earlier, she had announced that she was leaving Thanhouser, and she had several other film corporations willing to pick her up on contract immediately.

On August 28, 1917, while driving near Ossining, New York in the company of her co-worker and fiance, screenwriter Daniel Carson Goodman, the brakes on La Badie’s car failed and the vehicle plunged down a hill overturning at the bottom. While Goodman escaped with only a broken leg, La Badie was thrown from the vehicle and suffered serious injuries, including a compound fracture of the pelvis. Hospitalized, she clung to life for more than six weeks and seemed to be improving, but suddenly died on October 13, from what was described as an infection, more specifically septicemia.

With her passing, Florence La Badie became the first major female film star to die while her career was at its peak, and the movie-going public mourned her passing. After a large funeral, she was interred in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, the same cemetery included by Marie C. Russ in her legal proceedings days before La Badie's death, with Marie Russ claiming to have been her actual birth mother in sworn deposition. Obituary notices stated that she was survived by her mother, Amanda La Badie, with no mention of her having been adopted. This omission would have been customary at the time.

Because of her death, it is unknown as to what her prolonged impact on the film industry would have been and, though she is little known today, at the time she was a top billed star. Under New York laws the property of her estate was divided between her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph La Badie.

Selected filmography

See also

References

  1. ^ The Woman in White at the Internet Movie Database
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Bibliography

  • Charles Foster, Stardust and Shadows, 2000, Toronto: Dundern Press
  • Lima, Ohio Daily News, Local Playhouses, January 29, 1918, Page 8.

External links


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