Silent film siren Norma Shearer was nicknamed "The First Lady of MGM," as she was the first female actress in the golden age of the studio. She was spotted by Louis B. Mayer's 'number two' man Irving Thalberg in 1923. So impressed was Thalberg by her unique look and talent that he not only signed her for a multi-year contract, but he married her.
Norma seemed to easily transform into the talkie age of cinema; she got an Academy Award in 1930 for her role in "The Divorcee," and several Oscar nominations after that. In 1936, Irving died. During this time, Norma was working on their best and most expensive venture together, "Marie Antoinette." Some believe that this is her best film.
Through this success, Norma still worried about her appearance. She felt that her face was too round and her legs too big. Her insecurities were compounded when Hollywood began to agree with her, believing that she was only with Thalberg to move ahead. Many fellow actors felt she got roles because of his pull in the studio, especially Joan Crawford, who made life on the set of "The Women" a living hell.
Norma had trouble convincing Hollywood that she was talented, no matter how many Oscar nominations she had received. The public was not open to the idea of her playing Scarlet O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind;" so open were the protests that she turned down the career-defining role.
She retired from the screen in 1942, wishing to live a more private life. She died in 1983 of Alzheimer's and Pneumonia.
I read about Norma Shearer in the book "The Golden Girls of MGM" and fell in love with her unique, fresh face and her almost tragic story. I love her classic beauty and the way she had to prove herself in Hollywood. Looking at her accomplishments, it's obvious that her talent is deeper than we may ever know.
Visit a great tribute website dedicated to her at Classic Movie Favorites, loaded with tons of pictures and information.
If you'd like desktop wallpapers that I made of any "Va Va Voom" Stars, email me!