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Profile of the Day: Florence Lawrence

Profile of the Day: Florence Lawrence

Florence Lawrence

On this day in 1886, actress Florence Lawrence was born. Often referred to as “The First Movie Star,” Lawrence holds a unique place in film history as the first actress to have her name used to promote her films.

Lawrence was born Florence Annie Bridgewood on January 2, 1886 in Ontario, Canada. Her father. George Bridgewood, was a carriage builder while her mother, Charlotte “Lotta” Dunn, was a vaudeville actress and director of the Lawrence Dramatic Company. She made her stage debut at the age of 3 alongside her mother, and as soon as she was able to memorize her own lines, Lawrence began performing in dramatic plays with the Company.

In 1906, Lawrence appeared in her first motion picture and although the next few years saw Lawrence appear in over 50 films, the public never knew her name. In the early years of cinema, studios did not credit actors on screen and so the public referred to her as the “Biograph girl” for her prolific work with the Biograph Company. It wasn’t until she was hired by a new studio that people would finally learn her name. In an elaborate publicity stunt, rumors were spread about the death of the “Biograph girl.” After gaining much media attention, it was later revealed in an ad that the “Biograph girl” was alive and that she would be starring in a new film, The Broken Oath by the Independent Moving Pictures company. And this time, she would receive an on screen credit. The stunt made Lawrence a household name and gave birth to the “star system” of Hollywood.

She would appear in over 300 films over the course of her career. However, by the last years of her life, her career had waned and she was diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disease. She took her own life on December 28, 1938 and was buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in an unmarked grave. In 1991, an anonymous British actor paid for a memorial marker, which named her “The First Movie Star.”

Explore Florence Lawrence’s family tree on Geni and perhaps you can help expand her tree to better connect her to over 128 million people in the World Family Tree.

View Florence Lawrence’s Geni Profile


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Image: New York Public Library


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