British Silent-Film Star Joan Morgan (1905–2004)

I don’t see anything in the British press about this yet, but it seems silent-film star Joan Morgan has died at the age of 99. I saw her interviewed in Kevin Brownlow’s wonderful Cinema Europe series, and she seemed bright and funny . . . She was offered a Hollywood contract in the 1920s, but her father turned it down. She said she still wonders what might have happened . . .

I have the L.A. Times and London Daily Mail obits bookmarked (how sick is that?), and neither of them have mentioned her yet. I know she’ll never show up in U.S. papers, but I am surprised at the Mail!

Ah, I did find one obit, written by my friend Kevin Brownlow. From that article:

Joan was offered a Hollywood contract in 1920. Famous Players-Lasky had opened a studio at Islington—soon to become Gainsborough—and hired Joan to play opposite Bryant Washburn in The Road to London (1921). For this, her salary went up to £30 a week and she received a bonus for her excellent work: “Famous Players offered me a five-year contract at $100 a week to start with. My father went up to meet them and they said, “What do you think of this offer we’ve made your daughter?” And he said, “Not much.” And that was the end. You could see a complex motivation; the break-up of the family, the loss of his star and a certain amount of jealousy. And I was absolutely the type—the little soft blonde of those days—but I was only 15—and not a pushy 15. Some girls of that age today would jump in a taxi and go. I didn’t. I just died inside.”

. . . and here are some photos of her.

(Eight whole views! I should have called this thread “George Bush Felches Goats in Star Wars!”)

Three of which are yours and three of which are mine.

Nope, definitely not your most successful thread.

Would it help if I added that Miss Morgan died while having a three-way with Halle Berry and the old dancing guy from the Six Flags commercials?

I’ve opened it 3 times myself.


I just don’t know.

Sorry but I’m a night person. I was asleep when you posted.

Thank you for starting this thread, Eve. I hadn’t seen any films by Morgan (that I can recall) but it is nice to read about her.

If the films were silent how can you tell she was British?

[Wanders in scratching self] Well, gee. I just had a quick pass through CS yesterday and I guess I missed it. Can I make up for it by bringing her IMDb page? Looks like she did some screenwriting, as well.


Well, at last The Telegraph comes through. Some excerpts, in case you have to register to read their site:

Joan Morgan, who was at least aged 99 when she died last Thursday, was the last British screen star from before the First World War, and later a scriptwriter, playwright and novelist. The daughter of the film director Sidney Morgan, she had the rosebud lips, luminous wide eyes and alabaster skin which made her perfect for the silent screen. Her first film was The Cup Final Mystery (1913). During the First World War she went to New York where she made several pictures, including The Reapers, then returned to appear in The World’s Desire and The Perils of Divorce (1915), Drink (1916) and Two Little Wooden Shoes (1919); none of these have survived.

Despite such an impressive start, Joan Morgan always felt that she had been cheated of great fame and fortune. After she appeared with the American star Bryant Washburn in The Road to London, the story of an American who elopes with an heiress, Washburn suggested that she return with him to Hollywood; he was confident that she could be a serious rival to Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Blanche Sweet and Mary Pickford. But Joan had a crush on Bryant. When he phoned her father, offering her a five-year contract which would include one picture with Charlie Chaplin and another with Douglas Fairbanks, Morgan played the heavy parent and turned him down without consulting either his daughter or her mother.

Joan Morgan claimed to have been born in London on February 2 1905, though there is good reason to suspect the year was 1899. She went for a time to the Elleker College for the Children of Gentlefolk, and started to appear in her father’s films at the Glasshouse studio on Shoreham beach, Sussex. “I remember Stanley Lupino visiting me with his young and rather timid daughter Ida, asking for my autograph. Ivor Novello became a good friend; he wrote a song for me called I Wonder Will My Dolly Miss Me?” Noel Coward demanded an introduction, though she recalled that he was very aloof and jealous. “There was no meat and bones to those silly flapper types. I thought that if my career was just simply going to consist of little bits of fluff then I’d better quit while ahead.” She did, however, make one talkie, Her Reputation, in 1932; it did not re-establish her name before the cameras.

But Joan Morgan claimed to have no regrets since she had taken up writing film scripts as well as producing 15 novels under the pseudonym of Joan Wentworth Wood in the 1930s; her only wish was that more of her work had been transferred to the screen.

Despite what The Telegraph thinks, I find no Joan Morgan in the London area except a 34-year-old in the 1901 census of England. I do find Joan Morgan’s birth certificate in the Lewisham registration district (London, Greater London, and Kent) for the March 1905 quarter (January-March), vol. 1d, p. 1268. There is no Joan Morgan birth registered in the March 1899 quarter anywhere in England.

Thanks Eve. I have a collection of silent movies, although I just admit this lady doesn’t appear in them. I will be looking for her work from now on though.

Are you kidding? Just look at that overbite. :wink:

Walloon, may I . . .

a) tip my saucy cocktail hat to you, and,

b) keep you in my Rolodex for further questions?

[Bennett Cerf voice]As the exhausted firefly said, “I’d be de-lighted.”[/Bennett Cerf voice]