BEBE DANIELS (1901 – 1971)

Bebe Daniels

Bebe Daniels

Some facts about BEBE DANIELS.

Bebe and her husband Ben Lyon were living in London during the Second  World War. Bebe interviewed American troops for the radio series, “Stars and Stripes in Britain”, which was broadcast in America.

She performed for the troops. And she relayed battlefield reports after the Normandy  landings, the first civilian woman in Normandy.

After the war, President Harry Truman awarded Bebe the  Medal  of Freedom,the highest  award to honour civilian service during the war.

This was an actress who, by 1919, had made nearly 200 shorts for Hal Roach; who had a major career at Paramount in the 1920s; who adapted very well to Talkies, proving herself as an actress and singer in RIO RITA. Yet Paramount let her go.

She briefly worked at Radio Pictures in 1930 until Warner Brothers bought  out her contract in 1931 and starred her in the first MALTESE FALCON and in FORTY SECOND STREET.

But,inexplicably, Warners seemed to lose interest in Bebe. She had married Ben Lyon in 1930 and Ben’s career wasn’t going well either. Both upped stakes and left for Britain with their baby daughter Barbara .(They later adopted son Richard)

They were an instant success in England,appearing on stage and on radio, and only returned to the States occasionally in the next few decades.

For a decade in the 1950s, , Bebe and Ben had a very successful BBC  comedy radio  show,”Life With  the Lyons” in which their children also appeared. Bebe was one of the show’s writers.

Bebe and Ben both sang well, and on  You Tube, you can listen to Bebe and Ben sing ‘There’s a Small Hotel”. And Bebe does a great version of “Deep Purple”.

When Bebe was the subject of “This Is Your Life” in 1954, Hal Roach,Harold Lloyd and Cecil B. DeMille paid tribute.

I have only seen a few Bebe Daniels films but each time she impressed me and I wondered why she wasn’t a bigger success in the 1930s. I ‘d like to see COCKTAIL HOUR (1933), with Randolph Scott.

Cocktail Hour

Cocktail Hour

By the time of her last Hollywood film in 1935, MUSIC IS MAGIC, she was already being cast as the older woman.as she had been in FORTY SECOND STREET. She was 34!

 

THE WIZARD OF OZ

THE WIZARD OF OZ

Born in Texas, Bebe’s family moved to Los Angeles and ,aged 9, Bebe was Dorothy  in the 1910 short,THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, which can be seen at Archive.org.

 

 

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At 14 Bebe was starring in two-reelers with Harold Lloyd.

 

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Table Tennis with Charlie Chaplin.

 

 

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Bebe’s costars in the 1920s included Valentino, William Powell, Richard Arlen and Warner Baxter.

 

 

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Bebe costarred with Edward  G. Robinson in SILVER DOLLAR ,but it didn’t help her career.

 

 

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In 1921, Bebe spent 10 days in jail for speeding. Her mother insisted on being locked up with her! Hollywood cashed in on the publicity and starred her in THE SPEED GIRL

 

 

 

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The wedding of Bebe and Ben

 

 

 

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With daughter, Barbara

 

 

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With John Boles, RIO RITA

 

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As Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street.

 

 

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Barbara,Richard,Bebe and Ben. The Lyons.

 

 

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New biography due in 2016.

A 1975 biography called ‘Bebe and Ben’ was written by Jill Allgood and is a good read though not a definitive account of their careers.

I’ll always remember Bebe performing the Al Dubin/Harry Warren song, ‘You’re Getting to be a Habit  with Me’ in Forty Second Street, first in rehearsal with a pianist, then on stage in a nice dance routine with four chorus boys. A delightful scene.

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4 responses »

  1. What a super celebration of Ms D — many thanks!

    I was a huge fan of Life with the Lyons when I was about, I dunno, ten. It was on at lunchtime on Sundays, and we’d sit around the table in Old Aberdeen listening to it as we ate (sparingly, because we had very little money). My mum had to explain to me that Ben and Bebe were actors, because I’d never heard of them, and in fact it was only decades later that I was able to match Bebe the screen actress with Bebe the radio comic; I’m not sure if I’ve ever done the same for Ben, although he might have slid part in some supporting role I didn’t really register.

    I’d dearly love to see Miss Bluebeard; it looks quite splendid.

  2. Do you remember their Scottish maid, Aggie (Molly Weir)? She was great too.
    I got such a surprise when I saw the young Bebe in Forty Second Street. I only knew her as the plumpish,middle aged comedy character from the radio show – she reminded me of Gracie Allen. I had no idea she had been such a big star in silents.
    Bebe was a talented writer too. I expect most of her silents are lost.
    Britain took Bebe and Ben to their hearts.

    • Ha! I’d completely forgotten Weir was in the show. But I remember her all too well in all sorts of screen and radio things — a great comic actress, albeit one with a limited range. I loved her work dearly.

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