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Bebe Daniels

Born 14 January 1901 in Dallas, Texas, USA, as Phyllis Virginia Daniels.
Died 16 March 1971 in London, England, United Kingdom, of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Daughter of theatre manager Melville Daniel MacNeal (Danny Daniels) and actress Phyllis de Forest Griffin (Phyllis Daniels).
Cousin of actor Calvert DeForest and actor DeForest Kelley. Second cousin of inventor Lee de Forest.
Married actor Ben Lyon, June 1930; daughter, singer and actress Barbara Lyon, born 1 September 1931;
adopted son, actor Richard Lyon, born 8 October 1934; until Bebe’s death, 16 March 1971.

Bebe Daniels began an acting career at the age of four, appearing in a number of touring companies with her parents over the years. She reputedly made her film debut at the age of seven in the short film A Common Enemy (1908), and the Selig short The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) may be her earliest surviving film. In 1915, at age 14, she was hired by Hal Roach of The Rolin Film Company to be Harold Lloyd’s leading lady in the recently-launched Lonesome Luke comedies. Bebe’s natural charm and comedic skills helped make the Lloyd comedies a success through Lloyd’s transition away from Luke to his ‘glasses’ character.

Even though still in her teens, Bebe was ambitious and sought greater professional challenges, which led to her leaving the Lloyd camp and signing a personal contract with Cecil B. DeMille to appear as a major supporting player in his feature films for Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. Her early appearances for DeMille, often as a vamp or other romantic antagonist, brought attention and praise from critics and fans alike, which led to her transition into the leading star in a successful run of feature comedies and dramas for Famous Players-Lasky throughout the 1920s. Several of her films from this period have survived to be enjoyed today.

While her long and successful run with Paramount (née Famous Players-Lasky) ended in 1928, Bebe leaped into sound films beginning with Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation’s musical Rio Rita (1929). In 1931, she began working for Warner Brothers and appeared in the original film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon, receiving star billing over Ricardo Cortez, who played Sam Spade. In 1933, she worked for Columbia Pictures Corporation and Universal Pictures, Incorporated, but opportunities began to thin and Bebe and her husband, actor Ben Lyon (whom she had married in 1930), pursued film work in England. In 1934, Bebe returned to Hollywood to appear in films produced by Warner Brothers (1934) and Fox Film Corporation (1935), but two films in two years did not make a living and Bebe and Ben supplemented film work by making personal appearances on the vaudeville circuit.

Having fallen in love with England, Bebe and Ben returned in 1936 to pursue stage, film and radio work there. A radio show they starred in became very popular and the couple settled into the English life. During World War II, instead of fleeing German attacks on London by returning to America, Bebe and Ben decided instead to use their radio show to continue to entertain, and bolster the bravery and determination of the British public.

Bebe and Ben starred as themselves (with their children, daughter Barbara and son Richard) in a British feature comedy entitled The Lyons in Paris (1955). The film would be the couple’s final film appearances.

A couple of Bebe’s cousins were also known for their entertainment work: DeForest Kelley is best remembered for his appearances on the 1960s Star Trek television series and the subsequent motion pictures; Calvert DeForest is best remembered for his appearances on Late Night with David Letterman as Larry ‘Bud’ Melman.

References: Website-IMDb; Website-Wikipedia.

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