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Anita Page, 98; Hollywood Star at End of Silent Movie Era

Silent-film actress Anita Page, once promoted as
Silent-film actress Anita Page, once promoted as "the girl with the most beautiful face in Hollywood," also starred in one of the first sound musicals, "The Broadway Melody." (Courtesy Of The Guardian)
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"They tried to paint Mr. Thaw as erratic and crazy, but I thought he was one of the nicest men I have ever met," she later told the publication Films of the Golden Age.

The Thaw film never found a Hollywood backer, and Ms. Page again sought Bronson's help. In 1928, Ms. Page signed a contract with MGM, and she was rushed into "Telling the World" (1928), starring Haines as a reporter and Ms. Page as a showgirl.

Haines was gay, but his chemistry with Ms. Page led to their being re-teamed in "Speedway," "Navy Blues" (both 1929) and "Are You Listening?" (1932). She claimed Haines and co-star Novarro ("The Flying Fleet"), who was also gay, both made passes at her.

She later told silent-film scholar Tony Villecco: "Ramon and I became so close during that period. . . . When he asked me to marry, I told him, 'Oh, maybe on an off Thursday.' Actually, I couldn't marry anyone who took longer to get ready than I did."

Despite a juicy role in the Lon Chaney police drama "While the City Sleeps" (1928), Ms. Page faced a new screen rival in Joan Crawford. After Ms. Page's work on "Our Dancing Daughters," she had diminished parts in two other Crawford films, "Our Modern Maidens" (1929) and "Our Blushing Brides" (1930).

If any movie would have established her in the sound period, it would have been "The Broadway Melody." Poorly trained as a dancer, Ms. Page is best remembered as the woman to whom matinee idol Charles King croons "You Were Meant for Me."

The ballad was written by Ms. Page's first husband, Nacio Herb Brown, whom she married in Tijuana in 1934. They divorced the next year, she said, "on the basis that I'd never lived with him as his wife."

At the start of the sound era, Ms. Page appeared in supporting parts in movies starring the comedy team of Marie Dressler and Polly Moran and also in some of comedian Buster Keaton's worst films, "Free and Easy" and "The Sidewalks of New York."

One bright spot was playing a married mother framed for prostitution by a corrupt judge (Walter Huston) in the drama "Night Court" (1932). More often, MGM lent her to so-called "Poverty Row" film companies, which effectively crushed her career.

She retired in 1937 after marrying a naval officer, Herschel House. After her husband's death in 1991, Ms. Page emerged in the documentary "I Used to Be in Pictures" and took small parts in a series of slumming horror films, including "Witchcraft XI: Sisters in Blood" (2000) and "Frankenstein Rising," due out this year.

Survivors include a daughter.

Ms. Page told Films of the Golden Age that she still became emotional when she thought of the end of the silent period and the way mood music was always played on the set before a scene.

"My favorite song was 'My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice' from 'Samson and Delilah,' " she said. "I never seemed to tire of it. The trouble with talkies was, they let you have the music, but they'd stop it when you had to talk and it was always a letdown for me."

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