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 Betty Compson

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Betty Compson

Actress. Versatile star of silent films and later a character performer in talkies. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for "The Barker" (1928). Born Eleanor Luisime Compson in Beaver, Utah, she made her vaudeville debut at 15, billed as "The Vagabond Violinist". She broke into films in 1915 and served her apprenticeship in slapstick comedies, westerns, and serials. The melodrama "The Miracle Man" (1919), in which she co-starred with Lon Chaney, established her as one of Hollywood's reigning leading ladies, a position she held throughout the 1920s. While filming "The Enemy Sex" at Paramount in 1923, Compson fell in love with her director, James Cruze; ignoring his reputation as a heavy drinker, she married him the following year. Compson's career peaked in 1928 with "The Docks of New York". In this, arguably director Josef von Sternberg's greatest film, she is achingly vulnerable and blazingly sexy as a waterfront prostitute rescued from suicide by a brutish sailor. She followed this with another strong performance in Tod Browning's "The Big City" (1928). "The Barker", for which she won her Oscar nod, was lost for many years and only recently rediscovered. In 1930, no longer able to cope with her husband's alcoholism, Compson divorced Cruze. Her slide from stardom also began around this time, though she adapted well to talkies and worked steadily as a supporting player through 1948. In her later years she ran a small business making and selling earthenware pottery. Compson's other movie credits include "A Bold Bad Night" (1917), "Prisoners of Love" (1921), "Hollywood" (1923), "The Pony Express" (1925), "Street Girl" (1929), "The Gay Diplomat" (1931), "Destination Unknown" (1933), "A Slight Case of Murder" (1938), "Strange Cargo" (1940), "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (1941), and "Here Comes Trouble" (1948).

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 30 Apr 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5277
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Betty Compson (19 Mar 1897–18 Apr 1974), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5277, citing San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .