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Lina Basquette

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Lina Basquette (April 19, 1907 – September 30, 1994) was an American actress noted as much for her more than 75 years in entertainment beginning in the silent film era, as her tumultuous personal life and nine marriages.

Early years

She was born Lena Copeland Baskette to shop owner Frank Baskette and Gladys Rosenberg in San Mateo, California. After the death of her father and subsequent marriage of her mother to dance director Ernest Belcher, she and half-sister Marge Champion got an early start in dance and entertaining. She danced in the Ziegfeld Follies in New York City, and secured her first film contract at the age of nine in 1916 with Universal Studios for the silent film series, Lena Baskette Featurettes.

Career

Early success

In 1923, Ziegfeld Follies producers officially dubbed her "America's Prima Ballerina." Basquette was named one of thirteen WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1928 and the following year made The Younger Generation with Frank Capra.

In 1929, she also made The Godless Girl with Cecil B. DeMille, arguably the role for which she was best remembered, for she named her 1990 autobiography Lina: DeMille's Godless Girl. In this film, made at the transition from the silent era to the talkies, she played the title character. Judith is based on Queen Silver, a child prodigy and socialist orator The character, leader of a high school atheist society, forces members to renounce The Bible while placing a hand on the head of a live monkey. In the climactic scene, DeMille insisted on realism in filming a last shot of the reformatory going up in flames.

Sound years

After appearing in The Godless Girl, Basquette soon became a star in future DeMille films. While working for DeMille, Basquette began an affair with DeMille's chief cameraman, J. Peverell Marley. After this, she agreed to marry Marley, and the two were married in 1928. By 1930, Basquette was broke and spent a good amount of her time partying with fellow actresses Jean Harlow, Clara Bow and Carole Lombard.

Later years

In 1991, Basquette was cast as Nada in filmmaker Danny Boyd's Paradise Park. She played a grandmother who dreamed God was coming to grant a wish to residents of an Appalachian trailer park. The film features Porter Wagoner, as the governor of West Virginia, and Johnny Paycheck. Boyd was a communications professor at West Virginia State University.

According to her obituary in The New York Times, "from 1947 to 1974, she ran Honey Hollow Kennels in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She became one of the best-known breeders and handlers of champion Great Danes in American dog-show history, and also wrote several books on dog breeding."

Personal life

In 1925, Basquette began an affair with Sam Warner of Warner Brothers and the couple married on July 4, 1925. She was a mother at 19, and a widow at 20 when Sam Warner died from a brain abscess complicated by pneumonia. Warner left her $100,000.00 of his money and $40,000 from a life insurance policy, a car, the household goods, and $85 a week from one of Warner's trust funds.

When Basquette began to neglect her family, Warner's older brother, Harry, filed for legal guardianship of Lita Warner and it was awarded on 30 March 1930. Basquette was never financially stable enough to regain custody of her daughter. In 1931, Basquette, now divorced from Marley and depressed without her daughter, tried to commit suicide by taking poison. Basquette would only see Lita on two occasions over the next twenty years: in 1935, when Harry Warner and his family moved to Los Angeles, and when Lita was married to Dr. Nathan Hiatt in 1947.

In her autobiography, Lina: Demille's Godless Girl (1990), Basquette recounts her tempestuous affair with former world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey. The relationship came after Basquette discovered that her current husband, Theodore Hayes, whom she married on October 31, 1931, was a bigamist. Hayes was Dempsey's former trainer and Basquette's manager in theatrical affairs. On September 10, 1932, the actress was granted a Mexican divorce from Hayes. The divorce was granted on a plea of desertion for more than six months in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

In 1943, Basquette was raped by an AWOL serviceman who trespassed onto her Pennsylvania farm. The highly-publicized crime led to the soldier getting 20 years in prison.

Death

Basquette died of cancer at her home in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was 87. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Lena Basquette has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1529 Vine Street.

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Filmography

Year Film Role Notes

1916 The Dumb Girl of Portici

Juvenile Dancer

Brother Jim

The Grip of Crime

Shoes

The Human Cactus

The Caravan

1917 Polly Put the Kettle On

His Wife's Relatives

The Gates of Doom

The Star Witness

A Dream of Egypt

A Romany Rose

A Prince for a Day

Little Mariana's Triumph

1919 The Weaker Vessel

1922 Penrod

1927 Ranger of the North

Serenade

1928 The Noose

Wheel of Chance

Celebrity

Show Folks

1929 The Godless Girl

Come Across

The Younger Generation

1930 The Dude Wrangler

1931 Goldie

Pleasure

Arizona Terror

Hard Hombre

Morals for Women

Farewell Party

Trapped

Mounted Fury

1932 Arm of the Law

The Midnight Lady

Hello Trouble

The Phantom Express

1934 The Chump

1936 The Final Hour

1937 Souls at Sea

Ebb Tide

1938 The Buccaneer

Rose of the Rio Grande

Four Men and a Prayer

1942 Who Calls

1943 A Night for Crime

1991 Paradise Park

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