Carol Dempster
Date of Birth
Dec 08, 1901
Birth Place:
Duluth, MN

Biography

D.W. Griffith's foremost protegée of the 1920s, Carol Dempster earned the dubious distinction of being blamed for the great director's downfall. None of Griffith's other stars had anything good to say about her, on or off the screen, and critic Burns Mantle, in surveying her performance in The Love Flower (1920) (in which Dempster poses, swims, poses, and swims), famously wrote: "As an actress, Miss Dempster is an excellent high diver." None of this, however, is really fair: A former dancer with Ruth St. Denis, Dempster possessed a rare grace onscreen, and, in at least two of her films, Isn't Life Wonderful (1924) and, especially, The Sorrows of Satan (1926), she emerges as a fine actress indeed. Griffith himself was perhaps mostly to blame for Dempster's ill repute, constantly attempting to turn her into carbon copies of his earlier, more legendary, leading ladies. In one film, The Girl Who Stayed at Home (1919), she attempted an obvious imitation of Lillian Gish, while, in another, the miserable Dream Street (1921), her acting choices suggested the more lighthearted Dorothy Gish. She failed utterly in both cases. Angular and handsome rather than wistful and pretty, Dempster seems an odd choice for Griffith, who for years failed to see her true potential. But she was suddenly almost startlingly right as the Polish refugee in post-war Berlin in Isn't Life Wonderful and she completely overcame the melodramatics inherent in the Faust theme of The Sorrows of Satan, delivering what at least one notable Griffith historian has termed "the definitive Carol Dempster performance." Alas, Griffith was no longer his own producer and The Sorrows of Satan proved her final film. Marrying a New York banker, Dempster retired to La Jolla, CA, rarely, as she once stated, giving any thoughts to her long-ago screen career. "So many of my movies were so sad," she said in one of her very few interviews. "Maybe my fans would like to know that in real life Carol Dempster had a happy ending." ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Provided by Rovi