Anita Page dead at 98

Silent screen siren passes away in her sleep after 84-year career.

by Jennie Kermode

Anita Page was just ten years old when she first graced the silver screen, working as an extra, but there was something about her and the bright-eyed blonde soon moved on to starring roles. She became one of the big stars of the silent era, starring alongside the likes of Buster Keaton and Jean Harlow, just as it was ending, but though that was the peak of her popularity she went on to give many more accomplished performances.

With a total of 38 films to her credit, Page had a career which attracted many admirers. She got more fan mail than anyone in Hollywood except Greta Garbo, and Benito Mussolini wrote repeatedly to ask for her hand in marriage. She was a friend of William Randolph Hearst and a popular California socialite, dating such luminaries as Clark Gable, Prince Louis Ferdinand and Douglas Fairbanks Jr and claiming that she was the recipient of sexual advances from Joan Crawford. But in 1946 she fell in love with aviator Herschel House and decided to give up acting, complaining that her directors kept flirting with her.

Returning to acting upon House's death 55 years later, Page took a particular interest in the horror genre, and had just completed work on Frankenstein Rising when she died in bed in her home in Los Angeles. "If I saw Mussolini today I would tell him that people should see films," she said in her final interview. "Going to see a film opens your mind and gets you thinking. They give you inspiration. I hope I entertained and inspired someone."

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