Categories: American Notables.
American actress who worked during the silent film era. She also directed two short films and was a scenario writer.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wilson's family moved to Alabama when she was still very young. She earned a degree from Alabama Normal College (now the University of West Alabama), and became a school teacher for young children, soon leaving to pursue a film career.
In 1915 Wilson moved to California after winning a beauty contest put on by Universal Studios and the Birmingham News. This pageant was the predecessor to the Miss Alabama/Miss America pageant system, and Wilson is considered the first Miss Alabama. Upon arriving in Hollywood, she auditioned and was hired by the Victor Film Company for several small film roles.
In 1916, she visited Chicago, where she met pioneer female film director Lois Weber, who gave her a small part in her film The Dumb Girl of Portici, which starred famed ballerina Anna Pavlova. Weber then took her to Los Angeles, where she was groomed for stardom and began playing leads opposite actors such as J. Warren Kerrigan and Frank Keenan.
After appearing in several films at various studios, Wilson settled in at Paramount Pictures in 1919, where she remained until 1927. She was a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1922, and all told appeared in 150 movies. Her most recognized screen portrayals are Molly Wingate in The Covered Wagon (1923) and Daisy Buchanan in the silent film version of The Great Gatsby (1926). She acted opposite male stars such as Rudolph Valentino and John Gilbert.
Wilson played both romantic leads and character parts. Despite making a successful transition to sound, Wilson was dissatisfied with the roles she received in the 1930s, and she soon retired in 1941, making only three films after 1939.
Lois ventured to Broadway and television following her final role in The Girl from Jones Beach (1949) with Ronald Reagan. Wilson played in the network soap operas The Guiding Light in 1952 and The Edge of Night. She portrayed featured character roles.
Wilson was also the model of the official poster for "America Welcomes the World", the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Celebration, in 1926.
She was once described as having a screen image of "the soft, marrying kind of woman"; in real life, however, she never married. She was chosen by Paramount Pictures to represent the motion picture industry at the British Empire Exposition of 1924. She was described as "a typical example of the American girl in character, culture and beauty".
Lois Wilson died of pneumonia at the Riverside Hospital for Skilled Care in Reno, Nevada at the age of 93. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Her funeral service was conducted at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, California.
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