– May 13
was an American
best known for her career in the early silent film
Early life and career
Born Leatrice Joy Zeidler
in New Orleans, Louisiana
, Leatrice Joy began her acting career in stock theater companies and made her film debut for the little-known small New Orleans based Nola Film Company in 1915. By 1917 she relocated to the relatively young film colony in Hollywood, California
and was initially signed under contract with Samuel Goldwyn
Studios where her first role was in 1917s The Pride of the Clan
opposite silent screen star Mary Pickford
. By 1920, Joy's career quickly gained momentum and she became a highly popular actress with the film-going public and was given leading lady status opposite such famous performers as Wallace Beery
, Conrad Nagel
, Nita Naldi
and Irene Rich
Joy was often cast by directors in the role of the strong-willed and independent woman, and in the liberated atmosphere of the Jazz Age Roaring Twenties solidified her public popularity, especially with women film-goers. Her close-cropped hair and somewhat boyish persona (she was several times cast as a woman mistaken for a young man) became tremendously fashionable during the era. With her increasing popularity, Joy was sought out by Cecil B. DeMille and signed to contract to Paramount Pictures in 1922 and that same year was cast in the enormously successul high-society drama Saturday Night opposite matinee idol Conrad Nagel. Joy starred in a number of successful releases for Paramount and was heavily promoted as one of DeMille's most prominent protegés.
Leatrice Joy married the enormously successful film idol John Gilbert
in 1922. The union produced a daughter, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain, but the tempestuous marriage only lasted two years. The couple divorced in 1924 on the grounds of Gilbert being an alleged philanderer. Joy would later marry William S. Hook in 1931.
"Talkies" and Retirement
In 1925, against the advice of studio executives, Joy parted ways with Paramount and followed DeMille to his new film studio Producers Distributing Corporation and she made a few modestly successful films for the company, including Lois Weber
's last silent film The Angel of Broadway
in 1927. A professional dispute ended the partnership with DeMille and Joy in 1928 and Joy was signed with MGM
. Joy headlined MGM's second part-talkie effort, The Bellamy Trial
in 1928, opposite Betty Bronson
and Margaret Livingston
By the late 1920s however, Leatrice Joy's career began to falter with the advent of talkies. It has been alleged that her career decline rested in part with her heavy southern accent that was considered unfashionable in comparison with the refined east coast diction of the newer actresses. In 1929 Joy had become a freelance actress without a contract.
By the early 1930s, Joy was in semi-retirement from the motion picture industry; However, she did make several guest appearances in a few modestly successful films. One notable appearance was in the 1951 release Love Nest, which featured a young Marilyn Monroe.
In her later years Leatrice Joy retired to Greenwich, Connecticut.
In 1980, she appeared in the television documentary series 'Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film.' She spoke about her relationship with John Gilbert with deep and enduring affection.
She died in 1985 of acute anemia in Riverdale, Bronx, New York and was interred at the Saint Savior Episcopal Churchyard in Old Greenwich, Fairfield County, Connecticut, U.S..
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Leatrice Joy was awarded a star on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6517 Hollywood Blvd., in Hollywood, California, USA.