Colleen Moore Research Project

Colleen Moore in The Desert Flower by Irving Cummings
Colleen Moore in The Desert Flower. Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Codori

Collen MooreThose who truly know film history know Colleen Moore: the quintessential 1920s flapper whose bobbed hair was the fashion plate for millions of young women everywhere. What most people do not know is that there was far more to the actress than the fun-loving, zany image she left behind – an image that is mainly the product of a few surviving films of which hardly any are readily available.

In reality, Colleen Moore was a talented actress, equally accomplished in both drama and comedy. When I began researching Moore's life, I found that there is a dearth of information available on her. Worse yet, much of what exists consists of remnants of the Hollywood publicity machine from about eight decades ago.

My research, however, has been enlightening; I've uncovered new information and I've been compiling information uncovered by others. My ultimate goal is to write Moore's biography. In the meantime, I've established a website – www.colleenmoore.org – to make available some of what I've learned, including facts that go against prevailing wisdom about the actress.

Additionally, the website is a means of letting people know that I need help in my research. I'm not a professional film historian; I'm figuring things out as I go. Even so, my discoveries have been fascinating for they have cast a new light on Colleen's career and its place in Hollywood history.

Unfortunately, as a librarian I can't afford the luxury of taking time off to travel around the country looking for information on Moore's life. My hope is that someone living in a town where Colleen once lived or visited might be willing to find bits of information – e.g., by raiding the microfilm collections of their local libraries – so as to assist me on this project.

My chief interest is in her childhood – in Tampa, Atlanta, Port Huron, and other cities where she lived – and her silent film career from 1916 to 1930. Every little bit adds to the overall picture, and I'd very much appreciate any assistance that comes my way.

I can be reached at colleenmooresite at yahoo dot com.

“Colleen Moore Research Project” author Jeff Codori is working on a biography of the silent screen superstar.

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6 Comments to Colleen Moore Research Project

  1. Jim Armitage

    My father Robert Armitage was born in 1912 and his sister Ruth was born in 1915 in Tampa,FL. My father died in 1991, he told me he and his sister read that Colleen was back in Tampa to visit her parents and went to see her. I suppose this to be about 1924-1926 era. Colleen's parents lived in the Hyde Park area of Tampa. My father and his sister walked up to the door and knocked, Colleen came out and talked to them. She asked them if they would like to have a photo of her and of course they said yes. Colleen invited them into the house and took them into her bedroom and let them sit on her bed while she searched through her dresser for a photo for them. She gave them the photo and hugged them and walked them back out the front door. They never forgot what a kind lady she was.

  2. Alexis Cord

    Hello,
    I remember seeing Colleen Moore on an old “Art
    Linkletter House Party” tv show from the early
    60's. She had a voice that carried without a
    microphone, and when asked questions from the
    audience about Rudolph Valentino, she called
    him “very stupid”, standing next to Linkletter.

  3. James

    Yikes! I didn't realize my last message was so long! LOL!

  4. James

    Well, I don't consider Moore's survival rating dismal. It's not great, but I've seen much worse. We are missing quite a bit to be sure. “So Big” and “We Moderns” are gone and only a reel or so of her star-making film “Flaming Youth” exists. I think a greater portion of her surviving work is concentrated on her pre-1923 films. And I know quite a few are incomplete. Still, there's still quite a bit of her later films kicking around such as “Ella Cinders”, “Irene”, “Orchids and Ermine”(Perhaps my favorite so far) and such dramatic roles as “Twinkletoes” and “Lilac Time” There are others that I'm not remembering at the moment.

    So, while not complete, certainly not dreadful. Of course we wish they all survived, but at least what's left of Moore's output illustrates a diverse cross-section of her career from her early years, her middle period, and her final years in films. Some stars have entire four or five year blocks of films missing, and given that it wasn't uncommon for some stars to make 5,6,7 films a year that represents quite a significant portion of their career. For really pathetic survival ratings check out the existing records for such stars as Clara Kimball Young, Corinne Griffith, Elsie Ferguson, or Marguerite Clark just to name a few.

    The losses of silent films are lamentable and frustrating and it's even more heartbreaking to understand that many of the losses could have been prevented. Be that as it may, we really can't berate these folks too much now for not protecting and preseving these films. That so much is gone is carelessness and negligence on a grand scale to be sure. No question about it.

    Unfortunately pop culture(And these films represent the pop culture of their time) is often considered disposable. What's “hot” one minute is regarded as obsolete the next. This is as true now as it was then. How many times am I riding home on the bus and I overhear kids talking about movies they watched. One will say “I saw such and such last night on DVD”, then instantly another kid will chime in incedulously with “What?? That's SO old! You watched that?” Only to discover the film in question came out two years ago.

    People in 1917 could have had no idea that people 90 years later would be watching and continuing to enjoy the product they produced. And few operated under the notion they were creating anything of lasting value. Movies were only considered to have a value for as long as the film made money. Once that was exhausted they moved onto other things. It's only now that the films have the added signifigance of historical perspective.

    So, all we can really do now is look at the negligence(Intentional or unintentional) from those who came before us and use it as a model and learn from it to make sure that those who come after us will have as complete a cinematic record of our world as possible. Now that we have a better understanding today of the importance of film preservation and how film not only entertains, but has the power to inform us of a time gone by or cultures alien to us, we can better ensure that the mass destruction of film never happens again.

  5. Andre

    According to a librarian/researcher friend most of Moore's films are now lost. She had donated them to MoMA, and the museum (and Warner Bros.) allowed them to, if I remember it correctly, literally burn to ashes. (Or to whatever is left after film strips and negatives are incinerated.)

    He met Moore in the early 1970s, and just this past weekend he told me that she saw restoring her own films as a “vanity” endeavor. It's pointless to get into that sort of (lack of) logic now, though according to him she (and Lillian Gish) did help convince Mary Pickford not to destroy her films.

  6. Tom

    I could have sworn I read an article on Colleen in the 1980's where she stated she owned prints of almost all her films yet only ten or so are floating around currently. She was always so rich and quite accessible to film historians in her last several decades, I can see her doing it. After all, she saved her movie scrapbooks from childhood. I wonder what happen to her personal archives which I would imagine would be just as exhaustive as Gloria Swanson's.