Blanche Sweet (June 18, 1896 – September 6, 1986) was a
silent film actress who began her career in the earliest days of
the Hollywood motion picture film industry.
Sarah Blanche Sweet in Chicago,
Illinois into a
family of stock theater and vaudeville
performers, Blanche Sweet entered the entertainment industry at an
In 1909, she started work at Biograph Studios
under contract to director D.
. By 1910 she had become a rival to
, also having started for
Griffith the year before, which would result in Pickford leaving
the studio intermittently (and finally in 1913).
Rise to stardom
Sweet is renowned for her energetic, independent roles, at variance
with the 'ideal' Griffith type of vulnerable, often fragile,
femininity. After many starring roles, her first real landmark film
was the 1911 Griffith thriller The Lonedale Operator
1913 she starred in Griffith's first feature-length
movie, Judith of Bethulia
. In 1914 Sweet
was initially cast by Griffith in the part of Elsie Stoneman in his
epic The Birth of a
but the role was eventually given to rival actress
, who was Sweet's senior by
two years. That same year Sweet parted ways with Griffith and
Players-Lasky) for the much higher pay that studio was able to
Throughout the 1910s, Sweet continued her career appearing in a
number of highly prominent roles in films and remained a publicly
popular leading lady. She often starred in vehicles by Cecil B. DeMille
and Marshall Neilan
, and she was recognised by
leading film critics of the time to be one of the foremost
actresses of the entire silent era. It was during her time working
with Neilan that the two began a publicized affair, which brought
on his divorce from former actress Gertrude Bambrick
. Sweet and Neilan
married in 1922. The union ended in 1929 with Sweet charging that
Neilan was a persistent adulterer.
During the early 1920s Sweet's career continued to prosper, and she
starred in the first film version of Anna Christie
in 1923. The film is also
notable as being the first Eugene
play to be made into a motion picture. In successive
years, she starred in Tess
of the D'Urbervilles
and The Sporting Venus
, both directed by
Neilan. Sweet soon began a new career phase as one of the newly
formed MGM studio's biggest stars.
As the "Roaring Twenties
down, Sweet's career faltered with the advent of talkies
. Sweet made just three talking pictures,
including her critically lauded performance in 1930's Show Girl in Hollywood
retiring from the screen that same year and marrying stage actor
Raymond Hackett in 1935. The marriage lasted until Hackett's death
Sweet spent the remainder of her performing career in radio and in
secondary Broadway stage
roles. Eventually, her career in both of these
fields petered out, and she began working in a Los Angeles department store.
In the late 1960s, her
acting legacy was resurrected when film scholars invited her to
to receive recognition for her
in New York
City of a stroke, aged
- Social Security Death Index (Death Master File), Blanche Hackett,
18 June 1896 – September 1986.
- U.S. Census, April 15, 1910, State of California, County of
Alameda, City of Berkeley, enumeration district 47, page 8A, family
157, Sarah B. Sweet, age 13 years.
- U.S. Census, January 1, 1920, State of California, County of
Los Angeles, City of Los Angeles, enumeration district 63, page 6A,
family 159, Blanche Sweet, age 23 years.
- "Blanche Sweet Sues Neilan for Divorce", The New York
Times, Sept. 24, 1929, p. 28.
- "Decree to Blanche Sweet". The New York Times, Oct.
22, 1929, p. 60.
- "Blanche Sweet Rewed", The New York Times, Oct. 12,
1935, p. 13.