Year 1925

Notable Debuts

Myrna Loy as ‘Vamp’ in What Price Beauty?

Myrna’s breakthrough in movies arrived with the role of Nora Charles in The Thin Man, 1934. In The Thin Man, Myrna played opposite William Powell. The banter between them was the highlight of this and subsequent Thin Man movies. William Powell credited Myrna with that banter and her ability to listen, a gift not all actors are blessed with.

Myrna’s ‘screen test’ for The Thin Man was somewhat unusual – at a Hollywood party director W.S. Van Dyke pushed her into a swimming pool to test her reaction, a situation she handled with great aplomb. Van Dyke reckoned that Nora Charles would behave in that manner, so Myrna landed the part.

Away from acting, Myrna was active in social issues, especially regarding housing and race discrimination. During the Second World War she focused much of her time and energy working for the Red Cross. She was so fiercely outspoken against Adolf Hitler that he placed her on a blacklist and banned her films in Germany.

Joan Crawford in Lady of the Night

(She played Norma Shearer’s body double)

Joan Crawford started her career as a dancer. In 1925 she signed a contract with MGM. Frustrated with the size and quality of her parts, she launched a publicity campaign and built an image as a flapper.

By the 1930s, Joan Crawford’s fame rivaled MGM’s Norma Shearer. She specialised in playing hardworking young women who found romance and financial success. These “rags-to-riches” stories were well received by Depression-era audiences. 

As MGM screenwriter Frederica Sagor Mass said, “No one decided to make Joan Crawford a star. Joan Crawford became a star because Joan Crawford decided to become a star.”

Gilbert Roland in The Plastic Age

Born Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso in Mexico, Gilbert Roland’s career spanned seven decades from the 1920s until the 1980s. In 1952 and 1964 he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Roland originally intended to become a bullfighter, like his father and his paternal grandfather. However, when Pancho Villa gained control of their town, Roland and his family fled to the United States. They lived in Texas and from there, aged fourteen, Roland boarded a freight train and travelled to Hollywood. 

Gilbert Roland married actress Constance Bennett on April 20, 1941 in Yuma, Arizona. Their marriage lasted five years and he fathered two daughters. Bennett won custody of their daughters. His second marriage to Guillermina Cantú in 1954 lasted until his death 40 years later. In the late 1920s Roland was engaged to Clara Bow for a short period, during her ‘engagement phase’.

The Plastic Age starred Clara Bow. Alongside Gilbert Roland the movie also featured Clark Gable, Janet Gaynor and Carole Lombard in uncredited roles.

Quote: “Gilbert Roland was a wonderful husband. In one room of the house.” – ex-wife, Constance Bennett. 

Dolores del Río in Joanna 

Dolores del Río, born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete in Mexico in 1904, enjoyed an acting career that spanned fifty years. She began in Mexico, moved to Hollywood in the 1920s, transitioned into the talkies, then returned to Mexico in the 1940s, at a time when the country was experiencing a cinematic Golden Age.

In Hollywood, Dolores del Río was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars of 1926. Other notable Baby Stars that year included Mary Astor, Joan Crawford, Janet Gaynor and Fay Wray. 

After a successful period in Hollywood, in 1942 Dolores said, “I wanted to go the way of the art. Stop being a star and become an actress, and that I could only do in Mexico. I wish to choose my own stories, my own director, and cameraman. I can accomplish this better in Mexico. I wanted to return to Mexico, a country that was mine and I did not know. I felt the need to return to my country.”

Highest Grossing Movies of 1925

#3 The Freshman 

Another year and another Harold Lloyd movie in the top three. Co-starring Lloyd’s regular movie companion, Jobyna Ralston, The Freshman is regarded as one of his most successful and enduring films.

🖼 Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston in The Freshman 

#2 Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ

Ben-Hur was a silent epic drama that starred Ramon Novarro as the title character. Production costs rose to $3,900,000 ($60,260,000 today) compared to MGM’s average for the season of $158,000 ($2,440,000 today), which made Ben-Hur the most expensive film of the silent era. The movie earned $10.7 million at the box office.

Ben-Hur became notorious for its egregious animal abuse: a reported one hundred horses were tripped and killed merely to produce the set piece footage of the major chariot race. A ‘running W’ device was used on the set to trip the galloping horses. Ten years later such devices were frowned upon in Hollywood.

The extras at the chariot race read like a who’s who of Hollywood at the time. They included: John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Douglas Fairbanks, Lillian Gish, Samuel Goldwyn, Harold Lloyd, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy and Mary Pickford.

#1 The Big Parade

The Big Parade was a silent war drama directed by King Vidor. It starred John Gilbert and Renée Adorée. Written by World War One veteran Laurence Stallings, the movie has been praised for its realistic depiction of warfare. Furthermore, it heavily influenced a great many subsequent war films, especially All Quiet on the Western Front.

Regarded as one of the great World War One movies, The Big Parade told the story of an idle rich boy who joined the US Army’s Rainbow Division. Sent to France to fight in the war, he befriends two working class men, experiences the horrors of trench warfare, and finds love with a French girl, played by Renée Adorée.

1920s – 1960s