The First Movie Star

Florence Lawrence -The first ‘movie star’.

The 'First Movie Star' - Florence Lawrence.


As another BIG awards night comes & goes.. as films, filmmakers & their ‘stars’ receive accolades for the work they have produced, I couldn’t help thinking about this lady, coined the ‘first movie star’..  Whilst recently watching an episode of ‘ The story of film: An odyssey’, this amazing woman & her history including a significant contribution to film & the modern culture of ‘the movie star’, jumped out & grabbed me! What perfect timing!

Dear Florence was born ‘Florence Ann Bridgewood’ c1886 in Canada.

Florence...a scene from one of her early films!







Florence started in Silent films in Hollywood in around 1906 and was known as the ‘Biogragh Girl’, namely for the company for which she worked.  She was fired from Biograph Films when she was discovered to be negotiating with Carl Laemmle of Independent Motion Picture Company. In 1910 Carl Laemmle was hard at work devising  promotions for a film ‘The broken Oath’ in which Florence was starring.. Carl was the head of his own film production business, the Independent Motion Picture Company of America, also known as IMP,  — Florence Lawrence who became the ‘Imp girl’ — had recently signed up after a three-year, roughly 100-film career with a number of other film companies. Well, Mr Laemmle was quite the ‘marketer’ & he released to the press a fictitious story that his leading lady had been killed in a street-car accident! Seem’s nothings changed with media, & they swallowed it hook, line & sinker!! The public took note & ground swell around this ‘actress’ grew. Mr Laemmle then proceeded to take out a full-page announcement in the March 12, 1910 edition of Moving Picture World, indignantly headlined “We Nail a Lie,” and assuring the public that Miss Lawrence was not only alive and well, but would soon be opening in a “ground-breaking new picture” (which was alas misspelled in the paper as The Broken Bath)…. I call that a ‘market machine LOL!

After this dear Florence became to the public, like a moth to a flame. Florence Lawrence was the first film player whose name was used to promote her films and the studio (Independent Moving Pictures Company [IMP]) for which she worked. Previous to the film process, editing & changes in film with inventive techniques such as the ‘close up’ – little had been known about the ‘actors’. Close up’s & the consequent of showing the actors emotion in the film began to shift a focus from just the amazing invention that was ‘film’, to the people in it.  Before Florence, actors and actresses worked anonymously. This one event and IMP, changed the course of movie history AND the course of what would be known in modern culture as, ‘A movie star’!

IMP girl!






Florence was more than a pretty face! A great use of ability & talent she captured the camera AND the audience. Whilst sweet & demur its said she exuded sexual  undercurrent…I say!! More than that, she was a smart cookie, starting her OWN company & earning  a substantial amount of income  for the time and, we must take into consideration, for a women! “She was in a class by herself. In every part she played she was an exquisite delight. Whether comic, pathetic, dramatic, tragic or any other old thing, she simply took the rag right off. The power of expression that lay in her features was nothing less than marvelous, and the lightning changes were a wonder. In fact, she was a wonder altogether, and her versatility would be unbelievable, if a fellow hadn’t seen it.” P.C. Levar in a letter published in Moving Pictures World.  Also worth noting is Florence is credited with inventing the first automobile turn and brake signals. The signals were operated by the driver pressing a button, and an arm on the back of the car indicating the turn direction or a stop. She did not patent the inventions, and they were superseded by more streamlined systems – AMAZING!

'Moving Picture Weekly' 1916







Photoplay Magazine







A career spanning  1906 – 1936 , fame & fortune in a fledgling industry & the title of the ‘first movie star’, yet, sadly tragedy befell this ‘movie star’ . Dear Florence passed in 1938 its said by taking poison. A succession of tragic losses personally & financially, grave personal injury, illness & pain plagued the star. In an unmarked gave, near to her mother, Florence – The first movie star laid. Until 1991, Mr Roddy McDowell, then serving on the  Nation Film Preservation board, paid for Florence to have a proper marker & restored the site! (note: The birth date on her gravestone is 1890, but many sources say 1886??)  Now called the ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery’, for many years the cemetery had laid in disarray. Clearly, Florence Lawerance was NOT forgotten by people like Roddy McDowell, nor was she forgotten by ‘The story of film’.

Finally, an unmarked grave not longer for this 'Star'! Thanks to Roddy McDowell.








A number of books & biographies have been written on the life & times of Florence, including  “The Biograph Girl” (2000) by William J. Mann. Florence is the subject of the novel where Mann imagines Lawrence didn’t die in 1938 from ingesting ant poison and is still alive in the late 1990’s. Well, there would’nt be Movies, movie stars & Hollywood if there also wasn’t a little mystery, dont you think?!! There is also now, thanks to technology, so much info to find on this amazing lady. .but did you know about, her to look in the first place?!.. Well, I DO HOPE YOU WILL CONSIDER it now. I hope you ponder what contribution people like Florence made, probably without any full realization of the impact they would have in the long term to an amazing art form & industry.

A book by Kelly R Brown







From the final entry of the auto-biographical series she wrote for “Photoplay” at the height of her stardom, dear Florence wrote..: “And now I say goodbye, I love you all– love you with all my heart and soul. When I look from my window at night I wonder if there is anything I have ever done to cause you pain. I hope not. So again, good-bye!” 

So i say, thank you dear Florence.. you are indeed REMEBERED!! love, love xx

Here's to YOU beautiful Florence.. Gone, but not forgotten!












NOTE: Thank you to all the amazing web sites, books & photo”‘s that I have sourced for info. I acknowledge their research, guide, photo’s & notes on helping me bring to life a short snippet of information on Florence Lawerence via my Blog.  I acknowledge the photo’s are not mine, but were sourced via google (many original sources unknown)

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