Actress. Dorothea Sally Eilers was born to Hilo Peter Eilers, Sr., an inventor, and his wife, Paula Schoenberger. When she was a child, the family relocated to California, where she received her education along with studying dance and drama. Like many of her classmates, she planned to be “discovered” by Hollywood upon graduation from high school. At the age of 18-years-old, she made her uncredited debut in director Fatty Arbuckle’s silent film “The Red Mill”. Standing 5’3”, she was a beautiful vivacious girl that was known for her high spirits and vivacity. To get that “Roaring 20’s” style, her long dark locks were soon cut to a short bob, colored blond with a large spit-curl gracing her forehead. Along with her high school friend, Carol Lombard, she had a couple of bit parts in director Mack Sennett’s silent film comedies as a bathing suit beauty. In 1928 she was voted as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars, a yearly list of young actresses nominated by exhibitors based on their box-office appeal. The same years she had the lead role while Carol Lombard had a supporting role in “Campus Vamp”. The 1929 film “Broadway Babies” was her first “talkie” movie. Nominated for three Academy Awards and receiving the one for Best Director, the 1931 film “Bad Girl” may have been her most noted film. She came to the profession in an era when silent films were declining, audio and Technicolor was being made available, and the Motion Picture Production Code was just beginning to be enforced. The Code was a moral guideline used by the motion picture industry starting about 1934. As with all pre-code movies, hers had some very risqué scenes. Most of her films were musicals, comedies or crime melodramas and included co-stars such as Spencer Tracy, George Raft, Mary Astor, Buster Keaton, Humphrey Bogart, Will Rogers, and Ethel Merman, to name a few. In the 1930 film “Clearing the Range”, she played opposite Hoot Gibson, an actor who was known as “the Champion of the West”. They were soon married but divorced after a couple of years. She had the female lead role in a 1931 Charlie Chan film “Black Camel” debuting Robert Young. Her first movie following the Code Enforcement was a 1935 film, “Carnival” co-starring Jimmy Durante, Lee Tracy and debuting Lucille Ball. In 1936 she made a British film “Talk of the Devil”. In 1937 “Lady Behave!” gave her the leading role in a successful film for Republic Productions. During World War II, she made a few low-budget films. “Coroner Creek” in 1948 gave her a supporting role in a Cinemacolor Western film starring Randolph Scott. By 1950 her popularity had waned but she did one more film, “Stage To Tucson”. In all, she made 58 films with 15 being during the silent era and some uncredited. She married three more times after Hoot Gibson: The second time was Harry Joe Brown, actor, director and owner of a production company. They had one son Harry Joe Brown, Jr., who was an actor, director and successful in real estate. During World War II, her third was a three-year-marriage to US Navy Aviator Second Lt. Howard Barney. The fourth husband was TV Director Hollingsworth Morse, whom she divorced in 1958. Some biographers claim that she and her family would become “Hollywood royalty”. Her brother was Hilo Peter Eilers, Jr or “Bud Eilers”, filmographer and actor. As she aged and her health declined, she was not seen in public but lived in her beautiful Beverly Hills mansion, which she built in the mid-1930’s. She died of heart failure and was cremated.
Bio by: Linda Davis