Gladys George


Actor
Gladys George

About

Also Known As
Gladys Anna Clare
Birth Place
Patton, Maine, USA
Born
September 13, 1904
Died
December 08, 1954
Cause of Death
Cancer Of The Throat

Biography

Gladys George was one of the movies' greatest hard-luck dames, both on- and off-screen. Unlike other notorious party girls -- including Barbara Payton and Lila Leeds -- she consistently delivered solid performances over the course of a half-century career. George's consistency may be a result of her theatrical upbringing. She was born to a family of British actors touring in Maine in 19...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Arthur Erway
Husband
Actor.
Leonard Penn
Husband
Actor. Married September 16, 1935.
Eduard Fowler
Husband
Actor.
Kenneth Bradley
Husband
Actor.

Biography

Gladys George was one of the movies' greatest hard-luck dames, both on- and off-screen. Unlike other notorious party girls -- including Barbara Payton and Lila Leeds -- she consistently delivered solid performances over the course of a half-century career.

George's consistency may be a result of her theatrical upbringing. She was born to a family of British actors touring in Maine in 1900. By the time she was three, she was part of the act, touring vaudeville theatres with The Three Clare's (her parents' professional name). She never really stopped working, making her Broadway debut in an adaptation of Maurice Maeterlinck's The Betrothal in 1918, though not, as some sources suggest, opposite Isadora Duncan. Rather the cast included Augustin Duncan, Henry Travers and a very young Lillian Roth. George then had the good fortune to sign with actress Pauline Frederick's touring stock company. She refined her technique working with Frederick and also found her type -- as bubbly ingénues, particularly society girls.

In 1919, George made her first trip to Hollywood, where she made her screen debut as the romantic lead in Red Hot Dollars (1919), opposite Charles Ray. She was building a solid career in silent films, thanks largely to her youthful blonde beauty, when an accident that left her face severely burned brought an end to that phase of her career. Instead, she returned to the stage, where it was easier to cover up the scarring while she healed. She also married her first of four husbands, actor Ben Erway. They would divorce in 1930.

By the early '30s she had a rich husband, millionaire industrialist Edward H. Fowler, and had returned to Broadway, albeit briefly, in the flop Queer People. She also returned to Hollywood for a colorful supporting role as a gangster's moll in MGM's Straight Is the Way (1934), starring Franchot Tone, May Robson and Karen Morley. Then it was back to Broadway for her biggest stage hit, playing the temperamental, hard-living film star in Personal Appearance (Mae West would re-write the script and play George's role in 1936's Go West, Young Man). George lived up to the role off-screen when her husband caught her in an affair with co-star Leonard Penn, who would become her third husband. Fortunately, the play's success kept her away from Hollywood until the scandal blew over.

On George's return to Hollywood, she was still under contract to MGM, but they loaned her to Paramount for what would be one of her biggest personal hits, Valiant Is the Word for Carrie (1936). As a woman with a past who discovers her maternal side when she takes in two orphans, she was top-billed for the first time on screen and earned her only Oscar® nomination. MGM rewarded her with a leading role opposite Spencer Tracy in They Gave Him a Gun (1937) and the title role in the sixth screen adaptation of the classic weepie Madame X (1937). George's growing reputation for hard-partying made her a perfect choice for the story of a woman whose indiscretion costs her her only child. The two are reunited years later when, not knowing she?s his mother, he defends her for killing a blackmailer who had threatened to expose their family connection. The casting was a special thrill for George as her mentor, Frederick, had played the same role in a 1920 silent version. In her last top-billed role at MGM, George appropriately played a stage star in Love Is a Headache (1938). Dogged by gossip columnist Franchot Tone, she sets out to adopt orphaned siblings Mickey Rooney and Virginia Weidler, first for publicity and then out of love.

By that point, her hard-living was beginning to show in her face, and MGM decided to move her to supporting roles, starting with a strong turn as Madame du Barry in Marie Antoinette (1938), starring Norma Shearer and Tyrone Power. George then left MGM and found a string of strong supporting roles, starting with Panama Smith, the speakeasy proprietor in love with James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties (1939). That solid Warner Bros. production gave her a chance to utter one of the screen's greatest closing lines. Cradling a dying Cagney in her arms she tells a cop, "He used to be a big shot." Warner Bros' grittier approach to filmmaking was well-suited to George's evolving image as an aging party girl. She scored as a showgirl dealing with an unwanted pregnancy in A Child Is Born (1939), the studio's maternity-ward drama, and then landed the role of Iva Archer, the philandering widow of Humphrey Bogart's partner in The Maltese Falcon (1941). The studio also gave her a great role, as an aging, alcoholic Broadway star Ida Lupino pushes out of the way to foster sister Joan Leslie's career in The Hard Way (1943). Though it may have been hard to envision Leslie as a suitable replacement for the older, more magnetic George, the scenes in which Lupino preys on her insecurities are electric.

George's late '40s work was marked by several solid supporting roles, including Dana Andrews' sympathetic stepmother in William Wyler?s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), back at MGM in the Wallace Beery crime comedy Alias a Gentleman (1948), as the road-house owner who gives Joan Crawford a job in Flamingo Road (1949), as a madam running a "boarding house" with Lauren Bacall in Bright Leaf (1950) and as John Garfield's mother in his last film, He Ran All the Way (1951). As her roles shrank, her partying, if anything, increased. In 1946, she married a bellboy 20 years younger than she. The marriage only lasted four years.

There were two more solid supporting roles left for George. As Doris Day's mother in Lullaby of Broadway (1951), a former star reduced to singing in saloons, she got to sing two songs and share a memorable dramatic scene with her daughter. And although her screen time was brief, she showed her effectiveness in a straight dramatic role as the abortionist's nurse in Detective Story (1951), a reunion with Wyler. By the '50s, however, George's health was in decline. She was suffering from heart disease, cirrhosis and throat cancer. She made her last film appearance as one of the small-town eccentrics Loretta Young and John Forsythe have to deal with when they take over the local paper in It Happens Every Thursday (1953). By then she had started doing TV work. Her last performance was a 1954 episode of the crime series The Lineup. On December 8, 1954, she died of a stroke at the age of 54. Gossip suggested her doctor had covered up the real cause of death, an overdose of sleeping pills. Either way, it was a fitting ending to one of the screen's greatest hard-luck dames.

TCM's Summer Under the Stars pays tribute to Gladys George with 11 films -- Madame X (1937), Love Is a Headache (1938), The Roaring Twenties (1939), A Child Is Born (1939), The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Hard Way (1943), Alias a Gentleman (1948), Flamingo Road (1949), Bright Leaf (1950), He Ran All the Way (1951) and Lullaby of Broadway (1951). .

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

It Happens Every Thursday (1953)
Mrs. Holmes
Silver City (1951)
Mrs. Barber
Detective Story (1951)
Miss Hatch
Lullaby of Broadway (1951)
Jessica Howard
He Ran All the Way (1951)
Mrs. Robey
Bright Leaf (1950)
Rose
Undercover Girl (1950)
Liz
Flamingo Road (1949)
Lute-Mae Sanders
Alias a Gentleman (1948)
Madge Parkson
Millie's Daughter (1947)
Millie Maitland
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Hortense Derry
Steppin' in Society (1945)
Penelope Webster
Christmas Holiday (1944)
Valerie De Merode
Minstrel Man (1944)
May White
The Crystal Ball (1943)
Madame Zenobia
Nobody's Darling (1943)
Eve Hawthorne
The Hard Way (1943)
Lily Emery
Hit the Road (1941)
Molly Ryan
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Iva Archer
The Lady from Cheyenne (1941)
Elsie
The House Across the Bay (1940)
Mary [Bogale]
The Way of All Flesh (1940)
Anna [Kriza]
A Child Is Born (1940)
Florette [Laverne]
I'm from Missouri (1939)
Julie Bliss
Here I Am a Stranger (1939)
Clara [Paulding]
The Roaring Twenties (1939)
Panama Smith
Marie Antoinette (1938)
Madame du Barry
Love Is a Headache (1938)
Carlotta ["Charlie"] Lee
They Gave Him a Gun (1937)
Rose Duffy
Madame X (1937)
Jacqueline Fleuriot [also known as Madame X]
Valiant Is the Word for Carrie (1936)
Carrie Snyder
Straight Is the Way (1934)
Shirley
The Easy Road (1921)
Isabel Grace
Chickens (1921)
Julia Stoneman
The House That Jazz Built (1921)
Lila Drake
The Woman in the Suitcase (1920)
Ethel
Below the Surface (1920)
Alice
Homespun Folks (1920)
Beulah Rogers
Red Hot Dollars (1919)
Janet Muir

Life Events

Photo Collections

The Roaring Twenties - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Warner Bros' The Roaring Twenties (1939), starring James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, and Humphrey Bogart. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The House Across the Bay - Scene Stills
Here are some scene stills from Walter Wanger's The House Across the Bay (1940), starring George Raft, Joan Bennett, Lloyd Nolan, and Walter Pidgeon.

Videos

Movie Clip

Maltese Falcon, The (1941) - Keep Her Away From Me Spade (Humphrey Bogart) snaps at Effie (Lee Patrick) for letting his partner's widow Iva (Gladys George), with whom he has complex relations, into the office, in John Huston's The Maltese Falcon, 1941.
He Ran All The Way (1951) - I Got No Luck Today Opening scenes, ne'er-do-well Nick (John Garfield) with mother (Gladys George), then with buddy Al (Norman Lloyd) plotting a job, in soon-to-be-blacklisted director John Berry's He Ran All The Way, 1951.
Roaring Twenties, The (1939) - I Trust My Friends Partners Eddie (James Cagney), George (Humphrey Bogart) and Danny (Frank McHugh) catch Jean (Priscilla Lane) singing and Panama (Gladys George) working the crowd in a nightclub scene from Raoul Walsh's The Roaring Twenties, 1939.
Roaring Twenties, The (1939) - Paints And Varnishes Panama (Gladys George) feels indebted to Eddie (James Cagney) who took a fall for her, so she brings him to a New York speakeasy, in Raoul Walsh's The Roaring Twenties, 1939.
Roaring Twenties, The (1939) - Opening, April 1918 Opening credits, prologue from ex-newsman and author Mark Hellinger, and Eddie (James Cagney) meeting George (Humphrey Bogart) in a foxhole, opening Raoul Walsh's The Roaring Twenties, 1939.
Roaring Twenties, The (1939) - Volstead Act Crisp narration on the imposition of the Volstead Act, from of Mark Hellinger's original story, then cabbie Eddie (James Cagney) meets saloon-keeper Panama (Gladys George) in The Roaring Twenties, 1939.
Roaring Twenties, The (1939) - Long Pants Eddie (James Cagney) is packing the bar with help from Danny (Frank McHugh), feeding a cigar to Henderson (Ed Keane) and confiding with Panama (Gladys George) in Raoul Walsh's The Roaring Twenties, 1939.
Marie Antoinette (1938) - Roll In The Gutter At Versailles, two years into her so-far childless marriage (to Robert Morley, future Louis XVI), Norma Shearer (title character) confronts Louis XV (John Barrymore), then his catty consort Mme. DuBarry (Gladys George), in MGM's bigger-than-the-real-thing ballroom, in Marie Antoinette, 1938.
Madame X (1937) - Not So Sudden With Wives After a lurid opening introducing his wife, (Gladys George, title character), we meet Warren William as Parisian attorney Fleuriot, George Zucco the family doctor, treating their stricken son, in what was already the fourth movie version of Madame X, 1937, directed by Sam Wood.
Madame X (1937) - Our Next Port Is Glasgow Having fled Paris in shame, we discover that Gladys George (title character) is working as a governess on the Riviera, rebuffing advances of a friend of her employers (William Henry), then rightly realizing that her ex-husband is looking for her, in Madame X, 1937.
Madame X (1937) - Ever Been A Hostess? Now in New Orleans, selling her belongings to get by, shamed Parisian Jacqueline (Gladys George, title character) finds a new situation with Nora (Cora Witherspoon) and saloon owner Scipio (Luis Alberni), in Madame X, 1937, co-starring Warren William.
Lullaby Of Broadway (1951) - A Shanty In Old Shanty Town Doris Day wondering why her mother hasn't shown up at the New York mansion she supposedly owns, we see her (Gladys George) performing a tune by Jack Little, John Siras and Joe Young in a gin joint, her pal Lefty (Billy De Wolfe) plotting to keep up appearances, in Lullaby Of Broadway, 1951.

Trailer

Companions

Arthur Erway
Husband
Actor.
Leonard Penn
Husband
Actor. Married September 16, 1935.
Eduard Fowler
Husband
Actor.
Kenneth Bradley
Husband
Actor.

Bibliography