It’s a new month and November’s featured star, Clyde Cook, will pass the crown to a new performer. This month’s star peaked around 1915 and is obscure even in silent movie circles.
The featured star is…
Cleo Ridgely (1893-1962)
Cleo Ridgely’s career is something of a who’s who of the nickelodeon and early feature era. She started out as a leading lady of westerns over at Lubin (her first credit is in 1911) and then starred in a Kalem series of shorts as Jean, the Girl Detective. (I don’t know about you but I would LOVE to see films in that series!) Ridgely then joined up with Lasky (proto-Paramount, basically) and made the jump to features.
According to Cecil B. DeMille, Ridgely was cast in her most famous role, leading lady of The Golden Chance (1915), by being in the right place at the right time. The actress who had been hired for the role, quite a big name according to DeMille, proved to be an unreliable lush and so an emergency substitution was required. Ridgely was sober and available and so she won the part.
Ridgely’s output slowed considerably after she married director James W. Horne (who had worked with her on the Girl Detective series) in 1916 and gave birth to twins in 1917. She did occasionally returned to pictures in supporting and bit parts well into the talkie era.
Why you should love her:
Her performances are not easy to see these days but from what is available, it is clear that Ridgely has an appealingly modern, sporty quality to her and it’s no surprise that she was an accomplished equestrienne.
Ridgely is able to pull of the innocent act that was so popular in the 1910s but still look like she’s a lot of fun to hang out with. While many leading ladies fell into the trap of simpering or acting like a doofy babydoll, Ridgely remains fresh and appealing.
Where you can see her
I have reviewed two films with Ridgely, she stars in one and has a bit part in the other.
The Golden Chance (1915): Ridgely plays respectable young woman who married poorly (her husband is a burglar). When her employer hires her to pose as wealthy debutante, things get complicated. You see, Wallace Reid is present and he would very much like to get to know this mysterious young lady better.
Joan the Woman (1916): Ridgely has a bit part as “the King’s Favorite” in this Joan of Arc biopic. You can spot her near the end in the scene where Raymond Hatton’s Charles VII parties as Joan burns.