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Colleen Moore (August 19, 1900 – January 25, 1988) was an American film actress, and one of the most fashionable stars of the silent film era.

Early life

Born Kathleen Morrison on August 19, 1900 (some sources state 1902) in Port Huron, Michiganmarker, she was the oldest child of Charles R. Morrison and Agnes Morrison. For the first years of her life, the family remained in Port Huron, at first living with Moore’s grandmother Mary Kelly (often spelled Kelley) and with one or several of Moore's aunts.

By 1905 the family moved to Hillsdale, Michiganmarker and remained there for over two years. Following that the family had relocated to Atlanta, Georgiamarker; this was by 1908. They are listed at three different addresses during their stay (From the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library city directories): 301 Capitol Avenue -1908; 41 Linden Avenue – 1909; 240 N. Jackson Street - 1910. They lived briefly—probably less than a year—in Warren, Pennsylvaniamarker, and by 1911 they had settled down in Tampa, Floridamarker.

Two great passions of young Moore's were dolls and movies; both would play a great role in her life in later years. She and her brother began their own stock company, reputedly performing on a stage created from a piano packing crate. She admired the faces she saw on the silver screen and on the magazine covers. She had resolved at a young age that she would be a star, not just an actress. Her aunts, who doted on her, indulged her other great passion and often bought her miniature furniture on their many trips, with which she furnished the first of a succession of doll houses.

The family summered in Chicagomarker, where Moore enjoyed baseball and the company of her Aunt Lib (Elizabeth, who changed her name to "Liberty" Lib for short) and her uncle Walter Howey. Howey was an important newspaper editor in the publishing empire of William Randolph Hearst, and he was the inspiration for Walter Burns, the fictional Chicago newspaper editor in the play and the film The Front Page.

At the time, Chicago was the center of the motion picture industry in America. The Essanay Studiosmarker was within walking distance of Northwestern L, which ran right past the Howey residence (they lived at at least two addresses between 1910 and 1916: 4161 Sheridan and 4942 Sheridan). In interviews later in her silent film career, Moore claimed she had appeared in the background of several Essanay films, often just a single face in a crowd. One story has it she had gotten into the Essanay studios and waited in line to be an extra with Helen Ferguson: in an interview with Kevin Brownlow many years later Ferguson told a story that substantially confirmed many details of claim, though it is not certain if she was referring to Moore's stints as a background extra (if she really was one) or to her film test there prior to her departure for Hollywood in November 1917.

Either way, the story has it that Aunt Lib intervened on Moore's behalf, convincing Walter to wrangle a contract for young Moore from D.W. Griffith to perform at his Triangle-Fine Arts studio in Hollywood. The contract would only be good with the proviso that she pass a film test to see if her eyes (one brown, one blue) would photograph close enough in darkness as not to be a distraction. Her eyes passed the test, and so she left for Hollywood with her grandmother as chaperon and her mother along as well.


Moore made her first credited film appearance in 1917 in The Bad Boy for Triangle Fine Arts, and for the next few years appeared in small, supporting roles gradually attracting the attention of the public. There is a persistent rumor that she appeared in the 1916 film Prince of Graustark in the role of "the maid." Those who have seen the film say the actress in that part bears a striking resemblance to Colleen. However, the part is uncredited, and while Colleen spent her summers in Chicago where the film was made, there is no definite proof yet that it was her—or someone who resembled her— that actually played the part.

The Bad Boy was released on February 18, and featured Robert Harron, Richard Cummings, Josephine Crowell, and Mildred Harris (who would later become Charles Chaplin's first wife). Two months later it was followed by An Old Fashioned Young Man, again with Robert Harron. Colleen’s third film was Hands Up! filmed in part in the vicinity of the Seven Oaks (a popular location for productions that required dramatic vistas). This was her first true western. The film’s scenario was written by Wilfred Lucas from a story by Al Jennings, the famous outlaw who had been freed from jail by presidential pardon by Theodore Roosevelt in 1907. Monte Blue was in the cast and noticed Moore could not mount her horse, though horseback riding was required for the part (during casting for the part she neglected to mention she did not know how to ride.) Blue gave her a quick lesson essentially consisting of how to mount the horse and how to hold on for dear life. He also suggested she go out and get lessons. In a climactic scene she was locked in a closet and was able to scream her head off for the camera.

On May 3, 1917, the Chicago Daily Tribune said: "Colleen Moore contributes some remarkable bits of acting. She is very sweet as she goes trustingly to her bandit hero, and, O, so pitiful, when finally realizing the character of the man, she goes into an hysteria of terror, and, shrieking 'Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!' beats futilely on a bolted door, a panic stricken little human animal, who had not know before that there was aught but kindness in the world." About the time her first six month contract was extended an additional six months, she requested and received a five weeks release to do a film for Universal Bluebird, released under the name The Savage. This was her fourth film, and she was only needed for two weeks. Upon her return to the Fine Arts lot, she spent several weeks trying to get her pay for the three weeks she had been again been available for work for Triangle (finally getting her pay in December of that year).

Soon after, the Triangle Company went bust, and while her contract was honored, she found herself scrambling to find her next job. With a reel of her performance in Hands Up! under her arm. Colin Campbell arranged for her to get a contract for her with Selig Polyscope. She was very likely at work on A Hoosier Romance before The Savage was released in November. After A Hoosier Romance, she went to work on Little Orphant Annie [sic]. Both films were based upon poems by James Whitcomb Riley, and both proved to be very popular. It was her first real taste of popularity.

Little Orphant Annie was released in December. The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote of Moore, "She was a lovely and unspoiled child the last time I saw her. Let’s hope commendation hasn’t turned her head." Despite her good notices, her luck took a turn for the worse when Selig Polyscope went bust. Once again Moore found herself unemployed, but she had begun to make a name for herself by 1919. She had a series of films lined up: She went to Flagstaff, Arizonamarker for location work on The Wilderness Trail, another western, this time with Tom Mix. Her mother went along as chaperon. Moore wrote that while she had a crush on Mix, he only had eyes for her mother. The Wilderness Trail was a Fox film, and while it had started production earlier, it would not be released until after The Busher, which was released on May 18. The Busher was an H. Ince Productions-Famous Players Lasky-American production; it was a baseball film wherein the hero was played by Jack (later John) Gilbert. The Wilderness Trail followed on July 6, another Fox film. A few weeks later The Man in the Moonlight, a Universal Film Manufacturing Company film was released on July 28. The Egg Crate Wallop, a Famous Players-Lasky Corp.; Paramount Pictures was released September 28.

Colleen Moore in 1922

The next stage of her career was with the Christie Film Company, a move she made when she decided she needed comic training. This was in 1920, and it was a good move because it allowed her to work on her comic timing, and because the arrangement she had made with Al Christie allowed her to go out and look for other work while with the comic troupe. While with Christie Film Company she made Her Bridal Night-mare, A Roman Scandal, and So Long Letty. At the same time as she was working on these films, she worked on The Devil's Claim with Sessue Hayakawa, in which she played a Persian woman, When Dawn Came, and His Nibs with Chic Sales. All the while, Marshall Neilan had been attempting to get Moore released from her contract so she could work for him. He was successful and made Dinty with Moore, releasing near the end of 1920, followed by When Dawn Came.

For all his efforts to win Moore away from Christie, it seems he farmed her out most of the time. He loaned her out to King Vidor for The Sky Pilot, released in May, 1921, yet another Western. After working on The Sky Pilot on location in the snows of Truckeemarker, she was off to Catalina Island for work on The Lotus Eaters with John Barrymore. While it is popularly believed the work on this film was done in Floridamarker, it was in fact shot on location on Catalina Island. From there she was off to New York for more location work, then back to Californiamarker where Neilan put her to work in Slippy McGee. Work on Slippy McGee took her to Mississippimarker.

In October 1921, His Nibs was released, her only film to be released that year besides The Sky Pilot. In His Nibs, Moore actually appeared in a film within the film; the framing film was a comedy vehicle for Chic Sales. The film it framed was a spoof on films of the time. 1922 proved to be an eventful year for Moore as she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star during a "frolic" at the Ambassador Hotelmarker which became an annual event, in recognition of her growing popularity. In early 1922, Come On Over was released, made from a Rupert Hughes story and directed by Alfred E. Green. Hughes directed Colleen himself in The Wallflower, released that same year. In addition, Neilan introduced her to John McCormick, a publicity man who had had his eye on Moore ever since he had first seen her photograph. He had prodded Marshall into an introduction. The two hit it off, and before long they were engaged. By the end of that year three more of her films were released: Forsaking All Others, The Ninety and Nine, and Broken Chains.

Look Your Best and The Nth Commandment were released in early 1923, followed by two Cosmopolitan Productions, The Nth Commandment and Through the Dark. By this time she had publicly confirmed her engagement to McCormick, a fact that she had been coy about to the press previously. Before mid-year she had signed a contract with First National, and her first two films were slated to be The Huntress and Flaming Youth. Slippy McGee came out in June, followed by Broken Hearts of Broadway.

Moore and John McCormick married while Flaming Youth was still in production, and just before the release of The Savage. When it was finally released in 1923, Flaming Youth, in which she starred opposite actor Milton Sills was as a hit. Moore's vivacious flapper caused a sensation and made her one of the most talked about actresses of her day. Moore (and three years later Louise Brooks, who would become a public figure until near the end of the 1920s) were seen as the people who epitomized the young adult society of their day. With the success of "Flaming Youth," Colleen and John took a long-delayed honeymoon, which was really more a triumphial tour with stops at various cities and appearances at various First national theaters along the way. The tour ended in New York for the annual First National convention; the New York Motion Picture News reported “Seventy-five representatives of the press and members of the industry gathered around a festive luncheon board at the Ritz-Carlton on Tuesday, December 11, to meet and do honor to Colleen Moore, the dainty star of 'Flaming Youth.' It was a 'Flaming Youth Luncheon' from the start, when two bobbed-haired beauties, pajama clad a la Pat Frentiss in the picture, served monogrammed cigarettes, to the end of Miss Moore’s little speech to the gathering."Harry Reichenbach acted as toastmaster and Richard A Rowland, general manager of First National, Toasted the toastmaster. H. O. Schwalbe gave the theatre man’s opinion of Colleen Moore and stated that the screen would always be waiting for such pictures as 'Flaming Youth.' John McCormick, the husband of the star, and western representative of First National, told her how, as a publicity man, he was told to deliver the goods and he delivered—Miss Moore."Mr. and Mrs. McCormick left New York later in the week and will arrive in their new home in California in time for Christmas.”

"Through the Dark," originally shot under the name "Daughter of Mother McGinn" was released during the height of the "Flaming Youth" furror in January 1924. Three weeks later "Painted People was released. Her next film was to reunite the team that produced "Flaming Youth," though Milton Sills was ot available. Instead, Colleen starred with Syd Chaplin, Charlie's brother. Called "The Perfect Flapper," the film was released in May 1924. After that, she was to star in "Counterfeit." The film went through a number of title changes before being released as "Flirting with Love" in August. She followed "Flirting" with an adaptation of Edna Ferber's "So Big," a dramatic film and role that would see dainty little Colleen age through a stretch of decades. It was through spacing her comedic and flapper roles between dramas and other flavors of film that John McCormick (in his defacto role as her manager, though this rol was never defined in contract) managed to keep her image fresh. Over-saturation was the swiftest way to destroy a proven money-making personea.

In October First National purchased the rights to "Sally" for Colleen's next film. It would be a challenge, as "Sally" was a musical comedy. The comedy Colleen could handle, but how to adapt the musical aspects into a silent medium? Gags seemed to be the natural answer. About this time, Colleen was introduced to the man who would become one of her best friends and gag man through the run of her career: Mervyn LeRoy.

In December First National purchased the rights to "Desert Flower," and in so doing had mapped out Colleen's schedule for 1925: "Sally," would be filmed first, followed by "The Desert Flower." An overseas tour was planner to coincide with the releases of "So Big" in Europe, and Colleen saw the tour as her first real opportunity to spend time with her husband John. Both she and John were dedicated to their careers, and the hectic schedules they had kept them from spending any quality time together. Colleen wanted a family; it was one of her goals.

Her career grew over the next few years and she continued to play similar characters in successful films such as Flirting With Love and The Perfect Flapper. Moore's bobbed hairstyle was widely copied throughout the world. By the late 1920s. she had progressed to more important roles in films such as So Big and was also well received in light comedies such as Irene.


With the advent of talking pictures in 1929, Moore took a hiatus from acting. During this interim, Moore was briefly married to a prominent New York-based stockbroker, Albert Parker Scott, one of her four husbands. She and Scott lived at that time in a lavish home in Bel Airmarker, where they hosted parties for and were supporters of the U.S. Olympic team, especially the yachting team, during the 1932 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. In 1933, Moore, by then divorced, returned to work in Hollywood. She appeared in three films, none of which were successful, and Moore retired. She later married the widower Homer Hargrave and raised his children (she never had children of her own) from a previous marriage, with whom she maintained a life-long close relationship. Throughout her life she also maintained close friendships with other colleagues from the silent film era, such as King Vidor and Mary Pickford.

Colleen Moore Dollhouse

In 1928, inspired by her father and with help from her former set designer, Horace Jackson, Moore constructed an eight foot tall miniature "fairy castle" which toured the United States. The interior of The Colleen Moore Dollhouse, designed by Harold Grieve, features miniature bear skin rugs and detailed furniture and art. Moore's dollhouse has been a featured exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industrymarker in Chicago, Illinoismarker since the early 1950s, where, according to the museum it is seen by 1.5 million people each year. Moore continued working on it, and contributing artifacts to it, until her death.

This dollhouse was the fifth dollhouse she owned. The first dollhouse, she wrote in her autobiography "Silent Star" evolved from a cabinet that held her collection of miniature furniture. It was supposedly built from a cigar box. Kitty Lorgnette wrote in the Saturday August 13, 1938 edition of The Evening News (Tampa) that the first dollhouse was purchased by Oraleze O'Brien (Mrs. Frank J. Knight) in 1916 when Collee (then Kathleen) left Tampa. Oraleze was too big for dollhouses, however, and she sold it again after her cat had kittens in it, and from there she lost track of it. The third house was possibly given to the daughter of Colleen's good friend Adele Rogers St. Johns. The fourth survives and remains on display in the living room of a relative.

Later life and career

In the 1960s, she formed a television production company with King Vidor with whom she had worked in the 1920s. She also published two books in the late 1960s, her autobiography Silent Star: Colleen Moore Talks About Her Hollywood (1968) and How Women Can Make Money in the Stock Market (1969).

At the height of her fame, Moore was earning $12,500 per week. She was an astute investor, and through her investments remained wealthy for the rest of her life. In her later years she would frequently attend film festivals, and was a popular interview subject always willing to discuss her Hollywood career. She was a participant in the 1980 documentary film series Hollywood, providing her recollections of Hollywood's silent film era.

Moore died from cancer in Paso Robles, California, aged 87. Her contribution to the motion picture industry has been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 1551 Vine Street.


F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of her: "I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble."

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Other notes
1916 The Prince of Graustark Maid Uncredited
1917 Hands Up! (1917) Marjorie Houston
The Bad Boy Ruth
The Little American Undetermined Role Uncredited
1918 Little Orphant Annie Annie
A Hoosier Romance Patience Thompson
1919 The Wilderness Trail Jeanne Fitzpatrick
The Egg Crate Wallop Kitty Haskell
1920 So Long Letty Grace Miller
Dinty Doreen O'Sullivan
1921 The Sky Pilot Gwen
His Nibs The Girl
1922 Forsaking All Others Penelope Mason
The Ninety and Nine Ruth Blake
1923 April Showers Maggie Muldoon
Flaming Youth Patricia Fentriss
1924 The Perfect Flapper Tommie Lou Pember
So Big Selina Peake
1925 We Moderns Mary Sundale
Ben-Hur Crowd extra in chariot race Alternative title: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
1926 Ella Cinders Ella Cinders
Twinkletoes Twink "Twinkletoes" Minasi
1927 Orchids and Ermine "Pink" Watson
Her Wild Oat Mary Brown
1928 Lilac Time Jeannine Berthelot Alternative title: Love Never Dies
Oh Kay! Lady Kay Rutfield
1929 Smiling Irish Eyes Kathleen O'Connor
Footlights and Fools Betty Murphy/Fifi D'Auray
1933 The Power and the Glory Sally Garner Alternative title: Power and Glory
1934 Social Register Patsy Shaw
Success at Any Price Sarah Griswold
The Scarlett Letter Hester Prynne


  1. 1900 census for Port Huron, St. Clair County, MI., Fifth Ward, Sheet 9. Household occupants listed as: Mary Kelly, head of household; Kathleen (Colleen's aunt), daughter; Charles Morrison, son-in-law; Agnes Morrison, daughter; and Kathleen Morrison with birth-date given as August 1899. Also: Wolverine Directory Co.'s St. Clair County Directory, pg. 251: "Morrison, Chas R, collector Commercial Bank, res 817 Ontario"



  • Jeanine Basinger (1999), chapter on Moore in Silent Stars, (ISBN 0-8195-6451-6).
  • Colleen Moore, Silent Star: Colleen Moore Talks About Her Hollywood (1968)
  • John Kobal, People Will Talk (1985)
  • Glenn Mitchell, A-Z of Silent Film Comedy, An Illustrated Companion (1998)
  • Cedric Osmond Bermingham, Stars of the Screen, 1931: A Volume of Biographies of Contemporary Actors and Actresses Engaged in Photoplay Throughout the World (1931)

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