Golden Facts About Anita Page, The Last Star Of The Silents

Kaddy Gibson

They called Anita Page “The Most Beautiful Face in Hollywood,” and the silver screen siren duked it out with the likes of Greta Garbo for the most frenzied fanbase. However, her glittering story proves there is always a price for fame, and the cost for Anita Page was heartbreakingly high.


1. She Was A Natural Star

Anita Page was born Anita Pomares on August 4, 1910—and her rise to fame in the Roaring Twenties was as fast and loose as they come. As a teenager, the naturally blonde, blue-eyed Anita was already stunning, and she quickly got herself a deal to move to Hollywood with an outfit called Kenilworth Productions. Little did she know, she was walking into a nightmare. 

2. She Made An Enormous Mistake Early On

Anita and her mother Maud Pomares boarded a train to California to work with Kenilworth Productions, no questions asked. But when the train stopped in Chicago, mother and daughter got a nasty surprise: An older, white-haired man got on and introduced himself as the company’s owner. Anita had no idea who he was, but her mother did, and her blood ran cold.

It was the infamously unhinged Harry Thaw, millionaire railroad heir and confirmed murderer. Thaw, who was once married to It Girl actress Evelyn Nesbit, had killed his wife’s lover in a fit of rage in 1906, then plead insanity. Justifiably terrified, Anita’s mother wriggled the girl out of her contract, and they had to start in Hollywood from scratch. It only got more dramatic from there.

3. She Nearly Screwed Up Her Screen Test

Despite this setback, Anita Page’s star power was undeniable, and soon the much more respectable and influential MGM studios was sniffing around her. Except this, too, was something of a disaster: Page got a nasty cold the day of her screen test, and executives forced her to perform for them anyway along their studio mainstay actor, William Haines.

Lucky for Anita, she still knocked it out of the park, and signed on with the studios. Unfortunately, this is right about when she got way more than she bargained for.

4. She Was An Instant Hit

Drawing loosely on her paternal grandfather’s Spanish heritage, MGM set about marketing Page as the “blue-eyed Latin” to distinguish her from their other starlets. It worked a treat: Page’s second film was supporting then-ingenue Joan Crawford in the smash hit Our Dancing Daughters, which examined the lives of beautiful flappers. Yet behind the scenes, things were far from pretty.

5. She Met A Hollywood Villain

Joan Crawford’s Hollywood career was littered with snipes and feuds, but her time with Anita Page in Our Dancing Daughters was where it all started. The film would be a breakthrough for both starlets, but Crawford already had her cutthroat, social-climbing ways locked and loaded by then. Her first act was jaw-dropping.

To secure the lead in the film, Crawford reportedly stripped for the producer—and when he informed her he wasn’t in charge of casting, she went and did it all again for the director, who was. With a lead-in like that, it’s no wonder it got messy between the two women, quick.

6. Her Co-Star Tried To Sabotage Her

Anita Page later complained that while working with Crawford, the actress did everything she could to mess up Page’s performance. At one point, Crawford reportedly warned Page not to hit one of the actors too hard in an argument scene, but when Page asked the man if she should hold back, he was patently unconcerned with her hurting him.

Page, convinced that Crawford had tried to make her look non-committal and unconvincing in the scene, sniped to her mother that “Her little ploy didn’t work”. Then again, as we’ll see, there’s a much more scandalous reason why Page disliked Crawford.

7. Clark Gable Never Forgot Her

Page was gorgeous, flirtatious, and very single, so it’s not surprising that men fell all over themselves for her. Still, one of her first suitors was a big catch: After playing Clark Gable‘s love interest in a film, she and the Hollywood heartthrob started a relationship. Though it was brief, Page certainly left a lasting impression. Gable later wrote: “She was a unique beauty. When I worked with Grace Kelly and looked into her eyes I remembered Anita Page”.

Somehow, though Page followed up Clark Gable with an even bigger catch. How much bigger? Think: Royalty.

8. A Prince Fell In Love With Her

By now, people around the world knew Anita Page’s name—people in very high places. None other than Prince Louis Ferdinand, a German royal, contacted MGM studio head Louis B Mayer when he was over in America and requested a date with Anita to the premiere of Show Boat in Los Angeles. But the prince had no idea what he was getting into.

9. Her Parents Were Controlling

Anita may have been a hit with men, but men weren’t a hit with her family. Her mother Maud as well as her father and brother had all stayed very much in the picture while she was on the rise, with Anita employing them in various positions to support her image. Strict Catholics, they also had scads of opinions about who she dated, with her mother in particularly being very protective and jealous about Anita stepping out with, well, anyone.

Knowing how possessive the clan was about their girl, Louis B Mayer actually wrote the prince back, begging, “Please, we can get you anyone else. Anyone but Anita Page”. Used to getting what he wanted, the prince insisted. He ended up regretting it.

10. She Lost Her Chance To Become Queen

After much cajoling from Mayer, Anita’s parents finally let her go out with the prince. Except they had one condition: He had to come over to their house to meet them beforehand, and they got to accompany the couple as chaperones at the premiere. It went about as well as you would expect. The prince’s infatuation quickly fizzled, and legendary gossip columnist Louella Parsons noted the next day about the stale date, “Anita will never be queen now”.

Then again, the men who did end up seriously courting Page had issues of their own.

11. Two Gay Men Wanted To Marry Her

Anita’s most serious suitors weren’t what you might think. In particular, Page’s co-star William Haines—the man she did her first MGM screen test with—asked for her hand in marriage, despite the fact he was one of the only openly gay men in Hollywood. Page turned him down. Incredibly, equally gay matinee idol Ramon Novarro did the same and received another rejection from the starlet.

Soon, though, her love life turned from bizarre to terrifying.

12. A Studio Executive Was Obsessed With Her

Now, William Haines and Ramon Novarro probably just liked Anita’s company and wanted to secure some protection in a rigorously hetero Hollywood. Her next suitor, however, was much more sinister. Irving Thalberg, the vice president of MGM, had a serious crush on Page despite being married to Hollywood heavy-hitter Norma Shearer. He also had the full support of Louis B Mayer in his lecherous intentions…and before long, Thalberg was letting his freak flag fly.

13. She Turned Down A Powerful Man

Anita Page was very aware that Thalberg wanted to seduce her. In a supremely creepy move, the executive even insisted that she call him “Daddy,” a request she submitted to with great reluctance. Eventually, Page sat Thalberg down and told him, “Admire me from afar, darling, and that will be just fine for the both of us”. Only, it wasn’t. Page’s rejection stung the powerful Thalberg, and he began plotting his revenge.

14. She Stopped Being Silent

At the end of the 1920s, life threw Page a big curveball. The rise of the talkies came, and suddenly Page was training her voice for the camera. She even admitted to disliking talkies; she liked the way music created emotion in silent movies and thought spoken lines intruded on this musical ambience. But she was about to get a big surprise.

15. She Had A Smash Talkie

Many silent stars notoriously couldn’t survive the transition into the talkies, whether it was because they had strong accents, displeasing voices, or had trouble remembering their lines. Not so with Anita Page. With a melodious voice and a sharp memory, the reluctant actress starred in the musical Broadway Melody in 1929, which went on to become the first talkie to win an Academy Award.

But what goes up must come down, and Anita was about to fall hard.

16. She Had A Big Rival

Following the release of Broadway Melody, almost no actress was as big as Anita Page…save one. Page was popular, but Greta Garbo was a household name. Indeed, Garbo was the only actress at this time who got more fan mail than Page, and she also beat her out of the top spot in a major popularity poll the same year Broadway Melody came out.

As it turned out, this would be Anita Page’s peak. Smelling blood in the water, an old enemy came for her.

17. She Didn’t Want A Sugar Daddy

In 1932, Irving Thalberg put pressure on Page to give into his advances once and for all, promising her the lead role in Red-Headed Woman if she would only sleep with him. As Page remembered, “He kept saying to me, ‘The film is yours but what are you going to do for Daddy?'” The answer? Absolutely nothing, you creep. Page turned him down for the last time—and Thalberg enacted his brutal payback. 

18. Her Boss Punished Her

Thalberg started out with small punishments. Although Page’s movies at MGM had been money-makers for the studio, they increasingly treated her like a second-rate star. In particular, they asked her to pose for risque photoshoots in revealing dresses. For a girl with protective parents, it was an anxiety-inducing prospect, and Page said no.

Page knew she had to push back even further on this treatment…but she would live to regret it.

19. She Asked For A Raise And Got A Brutal Reply

Fed up with Thalberg’s little vendetta against her and certain of her worth, Page went to Louis B Mayer and demanded a raise. It backfired on her badly. Mayer, a megalomaniac if there ever was one, denied her request and then launched into a sociopathic speech about how, if he wanted, he could “make Page shine in three pictures” as well as “break” her rival Greta Garbo in the same span.

It was the beginning of the end for Page, but she only realized this in a cruel way.

20. Her Studio Snubbed Her

After this harrowing experience, Page had now made bona fide enemies out of both Thalberg and Mayer. Never ones to show mercy, the men now began loaning Page out to other studios. This wasn’t an uncommon practice at the time, but the pictures they ordered her to act in were middling at best and muddied Page’s previously solid reputation for successful films. And they had more up their sleeves.

21. She Tried To Make A Comeback

Disheartened and downtrodden, Page eventually left MGM to try to make it with another studio. You know, one that wouldn’t shove her to the side when she didn’t perform bedroom favors. She was still just 22 years old, and Fox immediately began showing interest in snapping up MGM’s golden girl. They had her do a series of screen tests, and then it all came crashing down again.

22. MGM Blacklisted Her

While testing for Fox, the executives led Page to believe they were about to have her sign a contract. They even set a date for her to come in and look over the fine print…only, that day never arrived, and Fox ghosted her. Much later, she found out the awful truth: The very day she had an appointment with the studio, none other than Louis B Mayer took the Fox head out to lunch, and presumably convinced him not to hire Page. But that was far from all.

23. Her Frenemy Succeeded In Her Place

Perhaps the most bitter part about Page’s abrupt fall from grace with MGM is that she had to watch her contemporaries succeed all around her, likely through the exploitative means she had tried to avoid. One starlet, however, rankled above all others. As she once recalled (not a little problematically), “I’m sure where I feared to tread [with Irving Thalberg] Joan Crawford…didn’t give it a second thought”. Then, in a truly chilling revelation: “Joan called him [Thalberg] Papa”.

Stuck in the Hollywood wilderness, Page began displaying some sketchy decision-making.

24. She Had A Famous Boyfriend

After finishing up her contract with MGM, Page finally had some time to devote to serious dating, which she had never really attempted before. Her eye landed on Nacio Herb Brown, a composer who was most famous for penning the iconic score to  the musical Singin’ in the Rain. There was just one problem. Page was nowhere near in love with Brown. Not that this stopped him…

25. She Accepted A Shady Proposal

As with so many men in Page’s life, Brown wasn’t above getting very pushy with his desires. Namely, he would incessantly propose to her, with Page turning him down each time. Until, that is, one infamous night. While partying at the legendary Cocoanut Grove, Brown plied Page with drinks and asked her one more time. Her head spinning, she managed to say “I might”. Not a good answer, and not good consequences.

26. She Had A Tijuana Wedding

Taking this lukewarm reply as a yes, Brown spent the rest of the night convincing Page that they should wed as soon as possible. He wanted them to head down to Tijuana to tie the knot in a fuss-free ceremony. The Mexican city was, after all, the place where many Hollywood couples had quickie nuptials. It ended in disaster.

27. Her Mother Disapproved

Ever the good Catholic family girl, Page insisted that they pick up her parents before heading down to Mexico. And while her elders might have been over-protective, they also weren’t fools. Her father was proud and happy for his daughter, but as Page recalled, “mother wasn’t so happy”. She had every right to be upset, and not just because she could likely tell her daughter wasn’t in love with the groom. Shortly after the wedding, Page made an eye-popping discovery.

28. Her Husband’s Secret Came Out

Anita Page made it only nine months as “Mrs Brown” before realizing she simply couldn’t make it work with the composer. Which is right around when she realized the truth about her husband. Brown was already married. In his rush to the altar, he hadn’t finalized the divorce to his previous wife, a huge problem for a strict Catholic like Page.

When Page annulled the sham marriage, her rebound was legendary.

29. She Overstayed Her Welcome

They don’t make them like they used to, and Anita Page’s return to the single life was nothing short of dazzling. Soon after her split, her friend Marion Davies—who was the well-known mistress of eccentric millionaire William Randolph Hearst—contacted her and asked if she’d like to stay at Hearst’s castle, San Simeon, for a couple of days. Page stayed a whole five months.

But when she emerged from her staycation, she jumped right back into matrimony.

30. She Fell In Love At First Sight

In 1936, Cupid’s arrow struck Anita Page. She met Naval Lieutenant Herschel House while golfing and, according to her, they couldn’t take their eyes off each other—much to the chagrin of the friend Page came with, who had his own designs on the erstwhile starlet. Still, after years of avoiding falling head over heels, Page was finally undeniably in love. It all moved incredibly fast from there.

31. She Found Her Prince Charming

With his dashing good looks and their fiery mutual chemistry, Lieutenant House didn’t waste time when it came to romancing Page on the golfing green that day. As he later boasted to friends, he had proposed by the 10th hole. Page, apparently, said yes without any reservations this time, and they married the next year.

32. She Quit Hollywood

For a time, Anita Page finally had the fairy tale she had waited so long for. She learned to adapt away from the screen, acting as a Naval officer’s wife and accompanying House to various postings and events around the world. In between, the couple had two children together, and Page found a happiness beyond her wildest dreams.

Her silver screen days seemed very far behind her, but a series of tragedies would pull her back in.

33. She Was No Stranger To Tragedy

In 1991, Anita Page’s fairy tale came to an abrupt end. That year, the love of her life Herschel House passed from poor health after years of struggles, leaving Page truly alone for the first time in decades. She was now in her 80s, and had been living a quiet life in Colorado since her infamous exit from MGM. She might have continued this peaceful existence, but fate had a different ending in mind for her.

34. She Had A Terrifying Stroke

Soon after losing her husband, Page got a double dose of trauma. She suffered a horrific stroke that tested the limits of her strength and her hope. Even so, this was Anita Page, star of the silent screen and the talkies, and she didn’t got down without a fight. In fact, she won: She made a near-miraculous recovery…and she surprised everyone with what she did next.

35. She Never Lost Her Star Power

After her stroke, Page’s therapists made a novel recommendation. As a part of her physical therapy, they advised her to get in touch with earlier versions of herself and to dip her toe back into the Hollywood world again. Page took the advice to heart and soon moved to Los Angeles, kickstarting the Renaissance of her acting career. But this time, things were a lot different.

36. She Had A Strange Revival

At 86 years old, Anita Page was no longer a leading lady. Nonetheless, her vibrant personality still drew people to her, and she got work as a direct-to-video, campy horror queen. Sure, the old Anita might have turned up her nose at this, but the new Anita was out there living her best life and going to as many parties as she could. In fact, the details of her twilight years are eyebrow raising.

37. She Was A Dame Of Cinema

For the next decade-plus, Page turned herself from a forgotten Hollywood star to an icon. When writer Austin Mutti-Mewse met her in 1994 at a party, he described her as a cross between “Baby Jane Hudson and Barbara Cartland”. She also had a voice reminiscent of equally flashy broad Mae West and a penchant for moving every conversation toward the topic of her glory days in Hollywood. Which, you know, sounds like a heck of a lot of fun.

But that was just Page’s public image. Her home life was even more scandalous.

38. She Had Hangers-On

As the new millennium dawned, Page had no problem trading in her Hollywood image for influence among the younger set. She had multiple assistants, but perhaps her favorite was Randy Malone, a drag performer who met her when he was a teenager. And although Malone is very much gay, this time Page has proposed to him “dozens of times”. Believe it or not, it gets more bizarre.

39. She Had One Last Feud

One of Anita’s other assistants was the former child star Margaret O’Brien. O’Brien also had a crush on Malone and also proposed to him multiple times. In fact, Margaret and Anita were so competitive over Malone’s extremely platonic affections, he often had to keep them apart to keep any kind of peace within the Page household.

40. She Was A Real-Life Norma Desmond

In the final years of Page’s life, her daily routine would make even Paris Hilton want to get up and do something. The star of Golden Hollywood refused to rise before noon, and demanded her helpers dress her in nothing but old, moth-eaten clothing from her glory days, which she would then top off with jewelry her old suitors gifted her.

41. She Had A Colorful Personality

In case it wasn’t clear, Anita Page and her new posse made quite the mark around Tinseltown. One former MGM secretary recalled how Page, once hemmed in by her parents’ protectiveness, was now “out every night”. With the various people in her crew and their colorful personalities, he claimed the group appeared “like the Addams Family at Christmas and in full Technicolor”.

Only for all this harmless fun, Page was about to reveal her darkest secret. One she had kept for decades.

42. She Had A Dangerous Admirer

While talking to writer Austin Mutti-Mewse again, Page let one of her biggest hidden scandals slip. She casually mentioned to him, “I knew so many nice men,” then followed it up with, “I knew Mussolini. He used to write to me”. Mussolini, as in the Italian dictator. As far as anyone knew, Page had never mentioned him as an admirer before…but the story got a whole lot more disturbing than that.

43. She Got Spicy Fan Mail

Although Page employed her family in the golden years to open the scads of fan mail she got, she did still sometimes help out to read loving words direct from her admirers. One day in 1929, right around when Broadway Melody came out, she happened upon one written by Il Duce. When she saw it, her reaction probably wasn’t what you’d expect.

44. She Was Ignorant

When Page got the first letters from the notorious Italian, she was…happy, not scared. For one, the missive positively gushed with praise for her. As she put it, “I was so excited. I was so thrilled, to open this beautiful adoring letter”. Then again, the other problem was that Page only had a vague idea of who Mussolini even was, much less understood his crimes. And still, it was going to get a lot more cringe.

45. Her Fan Was Scary

As it turned out, Il Duce wasn’t just a casual admirer of Page’s work; he was a complete obsessive. She found eight letters from him in just a week, and one mail room employee estimated that he sent the starlet over 100 during this period. In them, he would write down practically every movement she made in the films he saw, as well as beg for her to return her autograph to him. He also included photographs of himself.

Soon, it caused Page a world of trouble.

46. Her Mother Betrayed Her

Page may not have understood the horrors of the man currently sending her love letters, but MGM sure did. Irving Thalberg—likely also driven by jealousy—was enraged at the missives, while Louis B Mayer ordered her not to respond to him in any way, shape, or form. Then the other shoe dropped. As it turned out, Page’s own mother, who was a diligent responder to fans, had already sent him back a photo of the star, complete with a forged autograph. It had devastating effects.

47. A Scandal Ended Her Career

Page was already on thin ice with MGM at this point, and this debacle may have been the final nail in the coffin. As the MGM secretary revealed, with Thalberg desperate to get rid of the crush who spurned him, Mayer had no problem axing Page after the incident. As he put it, “When Anita’s mother was sending that stuff to Mussolini, that was really the last straw for those two”.

For her part, while Page did reportedly spend a lot of her early 20s bragging about her admirer without fully realizing who he was, when she did find out, she changed her tune. She disowned his affections, saying, “I know I was real pleased with all the attention but really I think he was a bit of a pig”.

48. She Got An Indecent Proposal

Although Anita Page and Joan Crawford made two sequels to Our Dancing Daughters, by the end they weren’t even talking to each other between scenes. As Page admitted, “I ended up loathing Joan”. However, this may have been more for personal reasons than professional ones: Page confessed that Crawford, who earned a reputation for her strong libido, “tried to hit on me several times”.

Still, there was one final nail in Joan Crawford’s coffin, and it was a doozy.

49. She Knew Her Co-Star’s Secret

In the story of Anita and Joan’s feud with each other, there was one enormous secret. Later in life, Page claimed her mother had caught a glimpse of Crawford’s intimate toys and aids “in various shapes and colors that Joan kept in her medicine cabinet,” and demanded that Page never talk to Crawford again.

As we’ll see, it was far from the last scandalous confession that Page would make—and she had her own bedroom troubles coming her way.

50. She Was “The Last Star Of The Silents”

When Anita Page passed peacefully in her sleep at the age of 98 in 2008, she truly was the “Last Star of the Silents”. After all, she was the last living person to attend the first Academy Awards in 1929, and her career spanned decades, studio feuds, and one major image overhaul.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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