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Seena Owen

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Seena Owen (November 14, 1894 - August 15, 1966) was a Danish-American silent film actress.

Born Signe Auen

November 14, 1894

Spokane, Washington

Died August 15, 1966 (aged 71)

Hollywood, California

Spouse George Walsh (1916-1924)

Early Life

She was born Signe M. Auen at Spokane, Washington, the youngest of three children raised by Jens Christensen and Karen Auen. Her father and mother came from Denmark in the late 1880s and settled in Minnesota where they married in 1888. Within a short period of time they relocated to Portland and then Spokane where her father became proprietor of the Columbia Pharmacy on the corner of Main and Washington. In her youth Owen was enrolled at Brunot Hall, an Episcopalian girl’s school in Spokane founded by Bishop Lemuel H. Wells, and would later attend school overseas in Copenhagen. Owen's life as the daughter of an affluent business owner changed in her late teens when the family business failed and it became necessary to seek employment. She received her early inspiration to act while a student at the Pauline Dunstan Belden School of Elocution in Spokane before appearing in a stock production in San Francisco playing the part of a maid for $5 a week. Soon she traveled south to Hollywood to find work as a movie extra and had the good fortune to run into actor-director Marshall Neilan, then a Hollywood "boy wonder" who Owen knew when they both lived in Spokane. Through Neilan she was hired by the Kalem Company, an early motion picture studio, at $15 a week.


Her first important film was A Yankee From the West (1915) under the name Signe Auen at the age of 21. She was later convinced to change her name and settled on Seena Owen, the phonetic spelling of her real name. In 1916 she performed in D. W. Griffith's Intolerance. The same year she married George Walsh whom she had met on the set of Intolerance. The marriage lasted until their divorce in 1924. A regular player for the rest of the silent era, Owen appeared in films such as Maurice Tourneur's Victory in 1919 where she was photographed to great effect by Tourneur's cameraman, Rene Guissart. Victory long lost was recently found in 35mm print in Europe and can now showcase Seena's beauty to modern audiences on DVD. In 1920 Owen appeared in "The Gift Supreme" with Lon Chaney, who appeared with her in Victory. All but one reel of The Gift Supreme is lost. She also co-starred with Gloria Swanson and Walter Byron in the ill-fated Queen Kelly (1928), in which she plays the mad Queen who whips Swanson in one famous scene.

With the arrival of sound in movies, Owen's weak voice became a problem and forced her to retire from the silver screen in 1933. After her retirement, she worked on a number of films in the 1930s and 40s as a screenwriter including two starring Dorothy Lamour, Aloma of the South Seas and Rainbow Island, both in 1941. The former was written in part with her sister, Lillie Hayward, a successful Hollywood screenwriter.

Owen is also known for being on William Randolph Hearst's yacht The Oneida during the weekend in November 1924 when film director and producer Thomas Ince fell ill a few days before suffering a fatal heart attack at his Hollywood home. This incident was the basis for the film The Cat's Meow.


Seena Owen died on August 15, 1966 at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, aged 71, and was interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.She was survived by her daughter, Patricia Walsh Noonan.

Selected filmography

Queen Kelly (1929)

The Blue Danube (1928)

Flame of the Yukon (1926)

Back Pay (1922) (Extant; Library of Congress)

Riders of Vengeance (1919)

Victory (1919) with Lon Chaney, Sr. and Wallace Beery

Intolerance (1916)

Little Marie (1915)

The Highbinders (1915)

An Image of the Past (1915)

The Lamb (1915)

The Penitentes (1915)





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