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Also Known As: Anita Pomares Died: September 6, 2008
Born: August 4, 1910 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Flushing, New York Profession: actress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Known as "The Girl with the Most Beautiful Face in Hollywood," Anita Page’s career was over after only a decade, even though, at one point, she had attained a degree of popularity at MGM second only to studio queen Greta Garbo. A natural blonde with blue eyes, Page’s luminous screen presence made her fascinating to watch even in minor fare. Arriving on the scene when studios were making the switch from silent features to talkies, she was often cast as loose or otherwise amoral women. Page first found fame opposite an equally new and fresh-faced Joan Crawford in "Our Dancing Daughters" (1928) and reached her peak of notoriety following the release of MGM’s early musical hit "The Broadway Melody" (1929). She co-starred with several prominent MGM leading men, including Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Ramon Novarro, William Haines and Robert Montgomery, and graced a pair of Buster Keaton’s sound features. Most of Page’s films were competent efforts that years later were of interest only to film buffs, but a few stood the test of time, including the splendid Lon Chaney crime drama "While the City Sleeps" (1928) and the pre-Hays Code classics "Night Court" (1932) and "Skyscraper Souls" (1932). Almost completely...

Known as "The Girl with the Most Beautiful Face in Hollywood," Anita Page’s career was over after only a decade, even though, at one point, she had attained a degree of popularity at MGM second only to studio queen Greta Garbo. A natural blonde with blue eyes, Page’s luminous screen presence made her fascinating to watch even in minor fare. Arriving on the scene when studios were making the switch from silent features to talkies, she was often cast as loose or otherwise amoral women. Page first found fame opposite an equally new and fresh-faced Joan Crawford in "Our Dancing Daughters" (1928) and reached her peak of notoriety following the release of MGM’s early musical hit "The Broadway Melody" (1929). She co-starred with several prominent MGM leading men, including Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Ramon Novarro, William Haines and Robert Montgomery, and graced a pair of Buster Keaton’s sound features. Most of Page’s films were competent efforts that years later were of interest only to film buffs, but a few stood the test of time, including the splendid Lon Chaney crime drama "While the City Sleeps" (1928) and the pre-Hays Code classics "Night Court" (1932) and "Skyscraper Souls" (1932). Almost completely forgotten decades later, Page had one of the most unusual career arcs imaginable, going from regular employment at Hollywood’s premiere studio during the Golden Age of movies to small parts in grubby, shot-on-video horror movies seven decades later.

Anita Page was born Anita Evelyn Pomares in Flushing, NY on Aug. 4, 1910 and broke into the movies while still a teen. After undertaking some modelling assignments, her picture was spotted by an agent. This led to Page making some uncredited appearances – including 1926’s "Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em," co-starring Louise Brooks, and the comic short "Beach Nuts," which was lensed in Cuba – before being offered contracts by both Paramount and MGM. She signed a seven-year contract with the latter, which included a starting salary of $3,000 a week. The company paired her with established leading men like William "Billy" Haines in "Telling the World" (1928) and Lon Chaney in "While the City Sleeps" (1928) and those movies introduced Page to the public. However, when she was cast with Joan Crawford, another rising MGM starlet, Page became a popular attraction herself. "Our Dancing Daughters" (1928) was a box office smash and both actresses returned for a pair of follow-ups, "Our Modern Maidens" (1929) and "Our Blushing Brides" (1930). A fourth film, "Great Day," was started in 1930, but ultimately never finished. In spite of their shared success in the past, the two women allegedly grew to loathe each other and did not speak when off the set.

The arrival of the talkies derailed the careers of several silent era stars, but Page made the successful transition in MGM’s musical spectacular "The Broadway Melody" (1929). The film sold a multitude of tickets and was the first Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards. Among its highlights was a scene where Charles King sings "You Were Meant for Me" to Page. She quickly became identified with the song, so the studio had Conrad Nagel croon it to her a second time in "The Hollywood Revue of 1929" (1929), though it was actually King’s voice on the soundtrack. MGM kept their new star busy, with Page doing 11 movies in two years. Her popularity soared and at one point, she was receiving over 10,000 fan letters per week, including a number from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini proposing marriage. In spite of this adoration, Page never quite attained the A-list status of Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer or Joan Crawford. She remained an engaging presence, however, and appeared in "Gentlemen’s Fate" (1930), opposite John Gilbert, and with Buster Keaton in "Free and Easy" (1930) and "Sidewalks of New York" (1931). Two of her pictures from this stage, "Night Court" (1932) and "Skyscraper Souls" (1932) remain of particular interest to fans of pre-Code films for their soon-to-be-taboo adult themes, with Page cast as a prostitute in the latter.

By all accounts, Page enjoyed her celebrity and the privilege that came with it. She remained out of the headlines for the most part, but in addition to the feud with Crawford, she did have other unusual occurrences behind the scenes. At some point after they appeared together in "Telling the World," Page was allegedly proposed to by Haines. Openly gay at a time when this was hardly encouraged, particularly by conservative movie studio bosses like Louis B. Mayer, Haines’ refusal to hide his preferences caused his career to nosedive. Haines may have been trying to get back on track by using the actress – who was said to be unaware of his homosexuality – as a "beard," but ultimately his days as an actor were numbered. Another of Page’s co-stars, Ramon Novarro, was also gay and dated her for a time, reportedly with similar intent. During her time as a member of the Hollywood jet set, Page was a frequent guest of William Randolph Hearst and at one point, lived at his San Simeon castle for six months.

It was commonplace for actors under contract to be loaned to other studios, but this rarely happened to Page until 1933, when MGM began regularly farming her out to smaller studios for decidedly smaller pictures, like the Monogram potboiler "Jungle Bride" (1933) and the Clyde Beatty vehicle "The Big Cage" (1933). The actress claimed that her fall in favor at the studio was due in part to her rejecting the sexual advances of Mayer and MGM producer Irving Thalberg. The following year, Page married popular composer Nacio Herb Brown, who had scored "The Broadway Melody" and dedicated "You Were Meant for Me" to the actress, but their Tijuana union was annulled after less than a year. Her MGM contract was also now over and following a sixth billed appearance in the independently made drama "Hitch Hike to Heaven" (1936), Page decided to retire. She wed Navy Admiral Herschel House the following year and the couple remained together until his death in 1991.

It had long been assumed that there was a 60-year gap between "Hitch Hike to Heaven" and Page’s return to acting, but this proved untrue when "The Runaway" (1961) appeared on Turner Classic Movies in 2008. The family film, which featured Page in a supporting role as a nun, did not find a distributor after production finished and sat unseen for almost 50 years until it was dusted off for that TV showing. In the mid-1990s, Page made a second return, though the films at that time tended to be of a much lower quality level than the 1930s indies she had appeared in years before. Marginal releases even on video and DVD, "Sunset After Dark" (1996), "Witchcraft XI: Sisters in Blood" (2000), "The Crawling Brain" (2002), and "Bob’s Night Out" (2004) hardly made the best use of the elderly actress, though she did also share memories of her career and Golden Age Hollywood to various film historians. Page made her final appearance as Elizabeth Frankenstein in "Frankenstein Rising" (2010), which was shot in 2008, the year she died of natural causes at age 98. Page was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

By John Charles

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Witchcraft XI (2000) Sister Seraphina
2.
 The Runaway (1962)
3.
 Hitch Hike to Heaven (1936) Claudia Revelle
4.
 Jungle Bride (1933) Doris Evans
5.
 Soldiers of the Storm (1933) Natalie Adams
6.
 The Big Cage (1933) Lillian Langley
7.
 I Have Lived (1933) Jean St. Clair, later known as Esther Rivers
8.
 Are You Listening? (1932) Sally [O'Neil]
9.
 Night Court (1932) Mary Thomas
10.
 Under Eighteen (1932) Sophie
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1925:
Film debut as extra, "A Kiss for Cinderella"
1926:
Had a small role in "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em"
1927:
Signed with MGM Studios
1928:
First MGM film, "Telling the World"
1928:
First film with Joan Crawford, "Our Dancing Daughters"
1929:
Cast opposite Ramon Novarro in "The Flying Fleet"
1929:
First talkie, "Broadway Melody" (the first sound film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture)
1929:
Second collaboration with Crawford, "Our Modern Maidens"
1930:
Final film starring opposite Joan Crawford, "Our Blushing Brides"
1930:
First teamed with Buster Keaton in "Free and Easy"
1931:
Portrayed Clark Gable's first on screen love interest in "The Easiest Way"
1931:
Second collaboration with Keaton, "Sidewalks of New York"
1932:
Offered one of her finest roles was as the prostitute, Jenny LeGrand, in the pre-Code movie, "Skyscraper Souls"
1933:
Announced her retirement from acting at age 26
1936:
Made final film (in the UK), "Hitchhike to Heaven"
1995:
Returned to the screen after sixty years retirement with a cameo in the straight-to-video "Sunset After Dark"
2000:
Appeared in the horror feature, "Witchcraft XI: Sister's in Blood"
2004:
Played a socialite in "Bob's Night Out" (filmed in 1997)
2008:
Final film appearance, "Frankenstein Rising"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Washington Irving High School: New York , New York -

Notes

On filming early talkies: "It was very hot. They had to use a lot of things like cheesecloth on the set because of the sound. One day I was sitting down in this scene, and everytime we'd start, there would be this rat-tat-tat. We'd look all over the set wondering what on earth it was--and it was me filing my nails! Once we heard a rustle and they found it was my petticoat--I had to take it off. And of course, you couldn't have your mood music while you were working. I loved working with the music. There were a lot of things we had to worry about in talkies. If someone opened a door, it stopped the whole scene." --Anita Page, quoted in Classic Images, February 1993.

On the end of her career: "I was getting so much publicity, my agent did a very dreadful thing: he said, 'you've got to demand more money.' He didn't ask for better PARTS, darn it! ... We won our point, they paid the money, but we didn't get that I would get starring roles, and that was the most important thing ... They'd never loaned me out before, but now they gave me to Universal, put my name as number two, and people began to wonder. There was nothing I could do. They finally wound up giving me a part in a Chesterfield film. And I had been the belle of the ball for a year or more. I was getting the second highest fan mail on the lot, after Greta Garbo. The whole thing was my agent, who wanted the extra money. If only he'd left me alone. That's what happened to me." --Anita Page, quoted in Classic Images, February 1993.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Nacio Herb Brown. Composer. Married 1934; annulled.
husband:
Herschell House. US Navy Admiral. Married from 1937 until his death in 1992.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Linda House.
daughter:
Sandra House.

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