Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sally Eilers

Sally was born Dorothea Sally Eilers in New York City on December 11, 1908. She studied dance in NYC before moving to Hollywood in her teens, where she attended Fairfax High School. After auditioning for a time she found work in several Mack Sennett comedy shorts. Exposure in those early films attracted notice and in 1928 she was voted a WAMPAS Baby Star.

A very popular actress, Sally was in 29 films from 1930 to 1935. These include Quick Millions (1931) opposite Spencer Tracy, A Holy Terror (1931), Bad Girl (1931), Disorderly Conduct (1932), also opposite Spencer Tracy, Made on Broadway (1933) with Robert Montgomery, and Alias Mary Dow (1935) with Ray Milland. Sally remained busy through the 1930s, and moved into character roles in the 1940s, the most intriguing of which was her characterization of Jimmy Lydon's mother in Strange Illusion (1945). Sally retired from moviemaking in 1951 after 68 films and (for all trivia fans) four husbands, all whose first names started with H; Hoot, Harry, Howard, and Hollingsworth.

During her final years, Eilers suffered poor health, and died from a heart attack in Woodland Hills, California on January 5, 1978, at the age of 69.

Click in images for a larger view.

Stars of the Photoplay - 1930 edition

Motion Picture Magazine - March 1930

Ross postcard - circa 1931

John Player & Sons cigarette card - from the Film Stars series

Bad Girl Poster - Version 1

Bad Girl Poster - Version 2

This is the book on which the movie is based. The dust jacket is kind of cheesy, but I love the typeface on the cover itself. It is a decent read, considering when it was written, but definitely of the time. Here is the text from the inside of the dust jacket.

Dot lived in the Bronx and Eddie in Harlem. He worked in a radio shop and she was a typist. They met on a Sunday night excursion on the Hudson, and immediately fell in love.

The story of Dot and Eddie is told with such amazing candor and vitality that it becomes the story of any two young people who live in one of our great cities - a world in which movies, Chinese restaurants and bare hallways provide the background for love and seduction and the impulse to marriage.

Here is a novel that presents a true American scene, caught with a fresh and undeceived eye by youth and for youth.

Publicity still for Quick Millions

Photoplay - February 1932

Publicity Still

Publicity Still

Screen captures from three films where Sally is the female lead.
The Black Camel (1931) - Central Airport (1933) - Pursuit (1935)

Sally Eilers - What do you think - Allure?


Alana said...

I just seen the post on Twitter about this blog article. Fell in love with your blog, this article and will be glad to add yours to my blog roll. Very nice job, love this article and the images.


Operator_99 said...


Thanks for the comments and glad you like the blog. Just curious, you say you saw a post on Twitter and I didn't tweet this - where did you see it exactly?

JackR said...

Do you have the Enoch Bolles version of Bad Girl? I really think it's the best of them. But of course I'm biased.
Thanks for sharing these.

Brad W said...

I watched the new DVD of Bad Girl this week. Sally Eilers does a pretty good job, especially with the witty brushoff lines in the beginning of the film. She also earns a fair amount of empathy as the story proceeds, but I just didn't warm to her as much as Borzage's great muse Janet Gaynor, though I'm sure that's an unfair comparison. The revelation of the movie for me was James Dunn who had enormous charm as the everyman hero. It seems like he could have been a bigger star, but checking his resume on IMDb he at least had a career that stretched over decades. Anyway, thanks for another great post!

Operator_99 said...

Brad, thanks for the comments - you should check out James Dunn in Walking Down Broadway, though the movie was botched (see my post on Boots Mallory), I thought James did a fine job.

{Tara} said...

She is such a doll -- love her hair in the first photo! I had never heard of the WAMPAS Baby stars before...

The Horny Time Traveler said...

Barely knew anything about her, but you've got me intrigued. I love that book jacket copy for Bad Girl... the "bare hallways" line. And Sally's Photoplay pic was particularly beautiful. Have to catch up with her work, probably on TCM...

I too discovered your blog via Twitter, a tweet where you were congratulated on 75,000 visitors.

J. W. said...

I just did a post recently on a dancer from the early 1900's so it's great to come across info and photo's about other vintage stars, I love this genera and will be sure to follow your future posts.

jeffbarney said...

sally was my dads first wife and i have lots of pics how do i share them.jeff barney

Operator_99 said...

Jeff, if you are interested in sharing pictures,please e-mail me directly. Perhaps I can do a special post with pictures and any info you may have.

Unknown said...

My father-in-law was Howard Barney. He is the Howard listed as one of her husbands. I would be interested in any information anyone may have regarding this marriage as I am compiling family history. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Sally Eilers was very good in William Wellman's "Central Airport" (1933). She looks beautiful in the film, too.