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Libeled Lady
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Norma Shearer



Born: August 10, 1902 in Montréal, Québec, Canada
Died: June 12, 1983 in Woodland Hills, California, USA (pneumonia)

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Nicknames -

The First Lady Of MGM
Queen Norma

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Mini biography -

She won a beauty contest at age fourteen. In 1920 her mother, Edith Shearer, took Norma and her sister Athole Shearer (Mrs. Howard Hawks) to New York. Ziegfeld rejected her for his "Follies" but she got work as an extra in several movies. Irving Thalberg had seen her early efforts and, when he joined Louis B. Mayer in 1923, gave her a five year contract. He thought she should retire after their marriage, but she wanted bigger parts. Her first talkie was in The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929); four movies later she won an Oscar in The Divorcee (1930). She intentionally cut down film exposure during the thirties, relying on major roles in Thalberg's prestige projects: The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), Romeo and Juliet (1936) (her fifth Oscar nomination). Thalberg died of pneumonia September 1936, aged thirty-seven. Norma wanted to retire but MGM more-or-less forced her into a six-picture contract. David O. Selznick offered her the part of Scarlett O'Hara, but public objection killed the deal. She starred in The Women (1939), turned down the starring role in Mrs. Miniver (1942), and retired in 1942. Later that year she married Sun Valley ski instructor Martin Arrouge, twenty years younger than she (he waived community property rights). From then on she shunned the limelight; she was in very poor health the last decade of her life.


IMDb mini-biography by
Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

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Spouse -

Martin Arrouge (23 August 1942 - 12 June 1983) (her death)
Irving Thalberg (29 September 1927 - 14 September 1936) (his death) 2 children

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Trivia -

Children, with Thalberg, Irving Jr. (b. 1930) and Katherine (b. 1935)

Sister of Athole Shearer and twelve time Academy Award winning sound director Douglas Shearer

Daughter of Edith Shearer

Discovered both Janet Leigh and actor/producer Robert Evans.

Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Benediction.

Sister-in-law of John Ward.

Sister-in-law of Howard Hawks.

Former mother-in-law of Richard Anderson.

At the height of her career, she was earning $6,000 per week.

F. Scott Fitzgerald based one of his most famous stories, "Crazy Sunday", on a party hosted by Shearer, who also inspired the story's main character, Stella Calman.

Six years after the death of first husband Irving Thalberg, she married a ski instructor 20 years her junior and retired from the screen forever.

Turned down the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) and the title role in Mrs. Miniver (1942).

Her son died in 1988 of cancer. He was a philosophy professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Personal quotes -
"Scarlett O'Hara is going to be a thankless and difficult role. The part I'd like to play is Rhett Butler."


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Salary -

Marie Antoinette (1938) $150,000

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Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia -

It would be easy (and more than a little cruel) to assert that Norma Shearer kept her job by marrying the boss. But MGM production chief Irving Thalberg couldn't have maintained Shearer's star status indefinitely if she hadn't been able to deliver the goods-and she did, time after time, in the vehicles he lovingly produced for her. A former child model who began her screen career in 1920's The Flapper she was signed by Thalberg in 1923 after making a strong impression in Lucretia Lombard He brought her to Metro (where he had recently set up shop after a stint at Universal) and groomed her for stardom, seeing that she got the best makeup, the smartest gowns, and the ablest cinematographers on the lot. (She had unconventional beauty and charm, but also had a pair of oddly focused eyes that had to be photographed just right.)

Shearer appeared in He Who Gets Slapped (1924), Pretty Ladies, Tower of Lies (both 1925), The Devil's Circus, Upstage (both 1926), Ernst Lubitsch's delightful The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927), A Lady of Chance and The Latest From Paris (both 1928), among other silent films. Thalberg married her in 1927, from which time she got preferential treatment, including first choice of hot properties bought for or developed by MGM. She made her talkie debut in The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1929), and followed it up later that year with two better films, The Trial of Mary Dugan and Their Own Desire (for which she was Oscarnominated).

Shearer won an Oscar for her starring performance in The Divorcee (1930), playing a tolerant young society wife who finally tires of her husband's indiscretions and decides to match them with her own. She snagged another nomination for her turn as the spoiled lawyer's daughter who falls for exonerated racketeer Clark Gable in A Free Soul (1931). That same year she appeared with frequent costar Robert Montgomery in the delightfully witty adaptation of Noël Coward's Private Lives Thalberg guided Shearer's career choices, making sure she got the most sophisticated and elegant female parts MGM had to offer; he even took to buying established stage properties, such as Strange Interlude and Smilin' Through (both 1932), specifically for her.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), a literate, tasteful screen adaptation of the 19th-century romance between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, featured another Oscar-nominated Shearer performance, as did Romeo and Juliet (1936, opposite Leslie Howard) for which Shearer, who tried valiantly in the role, was far too old to be totally convincing.

Thalberg's untimely death in 1936 devastated Shearer, who nonetheless went ahead with the filming of Marie Antoinette (1938), the last project he had developed for her. She earned yet another nod from the Academy. In blond wig for her role in Idiot's Delight (1939), again opposite Clark Gable, she was annoyingly mannered and, for the first time, seemed ill at ease. The Women (1939) gave her a more down-to-earth characterization, which she carried off admirably. But her career was nearly over; after finishing Escape (1940), and a pair of duds, Her Cardboard Lover and We Were Dancing (both 1942), she retired from the screen. Left very well off by Thalberg, Shearer remarried happily and lived in contentment until mental problems plagued her in her final years. Her last contributions to movies were in the guise of talent scout: she spotted Janet Leigh's picture while vacationing at a ski resort and arranged for an MGM screen test in the late 1940s; then, in the 1950s, she spotted handsome garment center executive Robert Evans alongside a swimming pool, thought he bore a strong resemblance to her late husband, and suggested him to play Thalberg in the Lon Chaney biopic Man of a Thousand Faces launching Evans' short-lived acting career. Her brother Douglas was MGM's Sound Department head for decades, winning 12 Oscars for achievement on individual pictures and developing many technical innovations now considered commonplace.

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Filmography -

Her Cardboard Lover (1942) .... Consuelo Croyden
We Were Dancing (1942) .... Victoria Anastasia 'Vicki' Wilomirska
Escape (1940) .... Countess Ruby von Treck
... aka When the Door Opened
The Women (1939) .... Mrs. Stephen Haines (Mary)
Idiot's Delight (1939) .... Irene Fellara
Marie Antoinette (1938) .... Marie Antoinette
Romeo and Juliet (1936) .... Juliet (daughter of Capulet)
The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) .... Elizabeth Barrett
... aka Forbidden Alliance (USA: TV title)
Riptide (1934) .... Lady Mary Rexford
Strange Interlude (1932) .... Nina Leeds
... aka Strange Interval
Smilin' Through (1932) .... Kathleen (credited)/Moonyeen (uncredited)
Private Lives (1931) .... Amanda 'Mandy' Chase Prynne
A Free Soul (1931) .... Jan Ashe
Strangers May Kiss (1931) .... Lisbeth Corbin
Let Us Be Gay (1930) .... Mrs. Katherine Brown
The Divorcee (1930) .... Jerry Bernard Martin
Their Own Desire (1929) .... Lucia 'Lally' Marlett
The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1929) .... Fay Cheyney
The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929) .... Mary Dugan
A Lady of Chance (1928) .... Dolly 'Angel Face' Morgan Crandall
The Actress (1928) .... Rose Trelawny
... aka Trelawny of the Wells
The Latest from Paris (1928) .... Ann Dolan
The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927) .... Kathi
... aka Old Heidelberg
... aka The Student Prince (UK)
After Midnight (1927) .... Mary Miller
The Demi-Bride (1927) .... Criquette
Upstage (1926) .... Dolly Haven
The Waning Sex (1926) .... Nina Duane
The Devil's Circus (1926) .... Mary
His Secretary (1925) .... Ruth Lawrence
The Tower of Lies (1925) .... Glory or Goldie
A Slave of Fashion (1925) .... Katherine Emerson
Pretty Ladies (1925) .... Frances White
Waking Up the Town (1925) .... Mary Ellen Hope
Lady of the Night (1925) .... Molly
Excuse Me (1925) .... Marjorie Newton
The Snob (1924) .... Nancy Claxton
He Who Gets Slapped (1924) .... Consuelo
Married Flirts (1924) .... Guest at party
Empty Hands (1924) .... Claire Endicott
Broken Barriers (1924) .... Grace Durland
Broadway After Dark (1924) .... Rose Dulane
Blue Water (1924) .... Lillian Denton
The Wolf Man (1924) .... Elizabeth Gordon
The Trail of the Law (1924) .... Jerry Vardon
Lucretia Lombard (1923) .... Mimi Winship
... aka Flaming Passion
The Wanters (1923) .... Marjorie
Pleasure Mad (1923) .... Elinor Benton
The Devil's Partner (1923) .... Jeanne
Man and Wife (1923) .... Dora Perkins
A Clouded Name (1923) .... Marjorie Dare
The Bootleggers (1922) .... Helen Barnes
Channing of the Northwest (1922) .... Jess Driscoll
The Man Who Paid (1922) .... Jeanne Thornton
The End of the World (1922)
The Leather Pushers (1922) (uncredited) .... Undetermined Role
The Sign on the Door (1921) (uncredited) .... Bit Part
The Stealers (1920) .... Julie Martin
Torchy's Millions (1920) (uncredited) .... Bit Part
The Restless Sex (1920) (uncredited) .... Extra
Way Down East (1920) (uncredited) .... Barn dancer
The Flapper (1920) (uncredited) .... Extra
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