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 Elsie Janis

Elsie Janis

Original Name Bierbower
Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, USA
Death 26 Feb 1956 (aged 66)
Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Great Mausoleum, Corridor of Mercy
Memorial ID 10334 · View Source
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Actress, Singer, Screenwriter, Composer. She is remembered for her efforts in supporting the United States Troops during World War I as an actress and singer. Financing many of her own shows, she performed in the trenches at the front lines. Born Elsie Jane Bierbower, she had an older brother Percy who also took the stage name “Janis”. Her parents divorced before 1900. “Baby Elsie”, as she was called, started performing in a church production at the age of two and half years old. By the age of eight, she was playing the role of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” on stage. As a gifted and talented child, she wrote songs as well as a number of books, magazine articles, and poems. As an eleven-year-old, she made her Broadway debut in the old Casino Theater Roof Garden. Her mother became her career manager and was known as one of the first domineering stage mothers. Janis became known for her clever impersonations of celebrities in Vaudeville from 1898 to 1903. She was invited to the White House to perform for President William McKinley. Early in her career, she performed in several Broadway musical comedies such as in 1905 “When We Were Twenty-one”, in 1906 "The Vanderbilt Cup", in 1907 "The Hoyden", in 1908 "The Fair Co-ed", in 1912 "The Slim Princess"and "The Lady of the Slipper,” and in 1915 “Miss Information”. At one point, she was earning $3,000 a week. Her singing voice was good but her ability to bring smiles to faces was amazing. Just as World War I started, she made her London debut in Spring 1914. She was the first American entertainer to perform in France for the Allied Expeditionary Forces of World War I. She led hundreds of United States Government War Bond rallies. The World War I Doughboys loved her. Her grave marker honors her deeds stating that she was the “Sweetheart of the A.E.F.” She became involved with World War I before the United States entered the war as her fiance, British actor Basil Hallam, was killed after falling to his death from a hydrogen balloon. She wrote and produced the musical “Elsie Janis and Her Gang” employing former soldiers in roles. From 1915 to 1919, she appeared in six silent films with credit given for the screenplay in all except one. She made her Paris debut in 1921. This followed with tours in the United States from 1923 to 1925. At times, she collaborated with Jerome Kern and Edmund Goulding composing a long list of at least 50 songs including: "Any Time's the Time to Fall in Love", "I'm True to the Navy Now", "Live and Love Today", "Molly-O-Mine", "From the Valley", "Your Eyes", "Some Sort of Somebody", "Oh, Give Me Time for Tenderness", and "A Little Love". She composed Paramount Studio's theme music, "Paramount on Parade". The University of Arizona has a collection of her original sheet music. On New Year's Eve of 1932 Janis made headlines by marrying a man 16 years her junior, Gilbert Wilson. She had a very serious auto accident in 1935, from which she had much difficulty recuperating physically and financially. The Great Depression had impacted her lifestyle causing her to sell her New York home with an auction of the contents. In January of 1939, she wrote and performed in a one-woman show, “Elsie Janis”. She made only one sound film, the 1940 “Women in the War”. During World War II, she frequently visited the bedsides of American GI's at the Veterans Hospitals in California, was very active with her church, and toured some with Bob Hope, who was the entertainer for the troops. Her husband Gilbert enlisted in the army in 1941, was deployed for five years during the war, and on returning home, the couple separated. After choosing to live in seclusion for the next decade, she died from natural causes in her Hollywood home with her long-time friend Mary Pickford at her side and a framed photo of her beloved Basil Hallam nearby. During the first half of the 20th century, Elsie Janis was a household name. Her estate, the El-Jan, is across the street from Ohio State University; she sold that in 1932 after her mother died. She loved Ohio and the State loved her. In celebration of the State of Ohio's bicentennial in 2003, an online exhibition of her works was created by the Ohio State University Library. She published various books including a collection of poems, a memoir of her time with the troops in 1919, and in 1932 an autobiography, “So Far, So Good”. Many of her rare books are collector's items. Her Hollywood Star is located o the south side of the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard.

Bio by: Linda Davis

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"Sweetheart of the A.E.F."
Place by the American Liberty
Chapter District of Columbia D.A.R




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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 4 Jul 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10334
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Elsie Janis (16 Mar 1889–26 Feb 1956), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10334, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Glendale, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .