Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ina Claire

Born Ina Fagan on October 15 1893, in Washington, D.C., Ina began her career appearing in vaudeville. Her first appearance on Broadway was in the chorus of Our Miss Gibbs (1910). Her first long running (over one year) role was as Prudence in the 1911 musical, The Quaker Girl. Ina appeared in 25 Broadway productions and was met with critical favor throughout her stage career which lasted until 1954. She also took the time to appear in 11 films between 1915 and 1943.

Ina's intitial screen roles were in silents and included her 1915 film debut as the lead in The Wild Goose Chase and also the lead as Princess Alexia in The Puppet Crown. Two more silents followed, but Ina did not then return to the screen until the sound era, where she was given the female lead in 1929's The Awful Truth, a role she played on Broadway in 1922. Unfortunately this film, which co-starred Henry Daniell, is presumed lost A quote from the Time Magazine's September 30, 1929 review of the film says, "Actress Claire plays with a deftness perfected during the weeks when she was doing The Awful Truth on Broadway." Perhaps fittingly, her next appearance was in The Royal Family of Broadway (1930), opposite Fredric March. She then appeared in Rebound (1931), fighting for her man against Myrna Loy. This was followed by The Greeks Had A Word For Them (1932) - AKA Three Broadway Girls, the pre-code romp that has her teamed with Joan Blondell (as the sensible one!) and Madge Evans. Seven years passed until Ina was next seen as Grand Duchess Swana (left) in 1939's Garbo laughs vehicle, Ninotchka. Her last appearance was as Dorothy McGuire's mother in Claudia (1943). Broadway was really Ina's home, but she was married to screen idol John Gilbert from 1929-31. Ina, praised for her delivery and comedic flair, is an inductee in the American Theatre Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Ina Claire died February 21, 1985 in San Francisco, California.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Photoplay, November 1931 - Artist: Earl Christy

Two page spread in Photoplay, November 1931.
Though the film isn't mentioned, it's Three Broadway Girls.

Picture Play, September 1931
Images from Rebound.

The Picture Show 1933 - the British hardcover annual.

Frame captures from Rebound.

Frame captures from The Greeks Had a Word for Them.
The film was adapted from the Broadway play, "The Greeks Had a Word for It". Since it dealt with modern-day "courtesans", the title was on the Hays Office banned list. Therefore, the last word in the title was changed to "Them", and eventually the whole title was changed.

Publicity still from The Greeks Had a Word for Them.

Ina Claire - What do you think - Allure?


A said...

I think Ina Claire is fantastic! I've been blogging about her on my Twenties blog the past few days, and she seems like a swell gal full of fire. Pretty, too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I remember Claire from "Ninotchka," where she nearly steals the movie right out from under Garbo. And to think that she was married to Gilbert, who Garbo had famously left standing at the altar in 1927!

Unknown said...

Great post.
I agree
Ina Claire was great in Ninotchka.
Love Allure.
As always a great blog

Thea said...

Thanks for this website and good Kreative Blogger from kinetografo!

Allison M. said...

Wow, I've never heard of her. Thanks for bringing her to my attention.

diane said...

I have seen her in "Three Broadway
Girls" and she was fantastic in
it. I didn't know anything about
it when I saw it but it is the
original of "How to Marry a
Millionaire" and being a pre-
coder far more fun.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the costume spread for "Three Broadway Girls." I've read in film costume histories that Chanel created different versions of the same dress to be seen at best advantage-one dress for scenes where the actress was standing, another for scenes where she would be seated, etc. Apparently Chanel was into using her time in Hollywood to experiment with the way costumes appeared in the final film. Who knows if it's true, perhaps it's just press agentry, but it's an intriguing idea and not all that far fetched for a fashion innovator like Chanel.

Anonymous said...
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Rebe said...

Definite allure. (How I wish Ina Claire's 1929 version of "The Awful Truth" would resurface; all I've seen are production stills, and she seems born to star in a Phillip Barry play.) Despite that, it's possible that my favorite Ina Claire role is 'Sara' in the 1931 Pathé release, "Rebound", as it is truly a showcase for her, her wit, her timing, her warmth. Though her character chooses to remain with Robert Ames, her scenes with Robert Williams are particularly touching.