Marion Leonard

Delahousse, Sarah

It is well known that Florence Lawrence, the first “Biograph Girl,” was frustrated in her desire to exploit her fame by the company that did not, in those years, advertise their players’ names. Lawrence is thought to have been made the first motion picture star by an ingenious ploy on the part of IMP, the studio that hired her after she left the Biograph Company. But the emphasis on the “first star” eclipses the number of popular female players who vied for stardom and the publicity gambles they took to achieve it. Eileen Bowser has argued that Lawrence was “tied with” the “Vitagraph Girl,” Florence Turner, for the honorific, “first movie star” (1990, 112). In 1909, the year after Lawrence left Biograph, Marion Leonard replaced her as the “Biograph Girl.” At the end of 1911, Leonard would be part of the trend in which favorite players began to find ways to exploit their popularity, but she went further, establishing the first “star company,” according to Karen Mahar (62).


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Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019


A research update was added to this essay on October 20, 2023.