from my sketchbook: betty blythe

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here she comes a-struttin'/In her birthday clothes

After her five-year contract expired, silent film sex symbol Theda Bara retired from the silver screen. Fox Studios scrambled for a suitable replacement. Stage actress Betty Blythe fit the bill. Betty was recruited to appear in a series of costume productions originally tagged for Bara, including the famously risqué The Queen of Sheba  in 1921. Betty was one of the first actresses to appear nude in a mainstream Hollywood film. She described her Queen of Sheba  wardrobe by noting “I had 28 costumes in that picture, and if I’d worn them all at once I couldn’t have kept warm”.

Betty was a major star in Hollywood in her time, starring in roles opposite top box-office draws like Lon Chaney. As silent movies gave way to talkies, she continued her career for the next four decades taking one uncredited character role after another.

Betty’s last film appearance was in a crowd scene in 1964’s My Fair Lady.  Her ground-breaking impact on movie history long forgotten, Betty succumbed to a heart attack and died in near obscurity in 1972. She was 78.




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