Wednesday 28th December 1938
The silent-film star Florence Lawrence committed suicide in Beverly Hills at the age of 52. She is often referred to as “The First Movie Star”, and was the first film actor to be named publicly. At the height of her fame in the 1910s, she was known as “The Biograph Girl”, “The Imp Girl”, and “The Girl of a Thousand Faces”. She appeared in almost 300 films for various motion picture companies. Florence Lawrence was the first film player whose name was used to promote her films and the studio (Independent Moving Pictures Company [IMP]) for which she worked. Before her, actors and actresses worked anonymously, partly out of fear that stage managers would refuse to hire them if they were found to be working in films and partly because movie executives didn’t want to put much money into the production of these short, practically disposable films, and didn’t want their players to become well known and start demanding higher salaries. Lawrence was also an inventor: she designed the first ‘auto signalling arm’, a mechanical turn signal, along with the first mechanical brake signal. Unfortunately she did not patent these inventions and as a result received no credit for or profit from either one.