Carol Dempster (December 9,
1901 - February 1, 1991) was a American film actress of the silent film era.
got her start in films as a protégé of legendary film director
alongside other Griffith actresses of
the mid-1910s Lillian
and Dorothy Gish
. Griffith gave Dempster her first role at age 15 in his
colossal 1916 all-star cast Intolerance
playing one of the
Babylonian harem girls alongside another teenaged newcomer,
. Dempster would
eventually become one of Griffiths "favorites" and cast her in
nearly every one of his films throughout the 1920s, allegedly to
the jealous irritation of Mae Marsh and Lillian Gish. Dempster
became romantically involved with the much older Griffith during
the early 1920s while Griffith was estranged from his wife,
Dempster's first feature role came in 1919 in the Griffith directed
The Girl Who Stayed at Home
opposite Robert "Bobby" Harron
. Dempster followed this
with Griffith's The Love Flower
(1920), Dream Street
(1921), One Exciting Night
Isn't Life Wonderful
(1924), the latter being generally considered one of Griffith's
greatest films and featuring Dempster's finest performance.
Carol Dempster had a notable career in films throughout the 1920s
and appear opposite such notable actors as John Barrymore
, Richard Barthelmess
, William Powell
, and W.C. Fields
. Other memorable films of the period are
Sally of the Sawdust
(1925), also directed by Griffith.
In 1926 Dempster acted in her final film, another Griffith vehicle
entitled The Sorrows of
co-starring with Adolphe
, Ricardo Cortez
, and the
Hungarian vamp Lya De Putti
then retired from the screen to marry wealthy banker Edward S.
Larson in 1929.
Her critical stock was never very high, as she became Griffith's
leading lady after the more popular Lillian Gish had moved on. Her
somewhat 'ordinary' appearance and animated acting style were quite
frequently criticized. Also, with a few exceptions, the films she
appeared in weren't among Griffith's more popular works. In recent
years, however, viewers and critics alike have slowly begun to
appreciate her performances.
Dempster died in La Jolla, California on February 1, 1991 at the age of 89 from heart failure and was laid to rest at the
Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Glendale, California.
- The First Female
Stars: Women of the Silent Era by David W. Menefee.
Connecticut: Praeger, 2004.
- The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me. By Lillian Gish. New
York: Prentice-Hall, 1969.
- Focus on D .W. Griffith. By Harry M. Geduld.
New York: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
- Adventures with D. W. Griffith. By
Karl Brown. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973.