Dorothy Davenport

Fannie Dorothy Davenport (March 13, 1895 – October 12, 1977) was an American actress, screenwriter, film director and producer.

Dorothy Davenport
Dorothy Davenport Reid, 1923
Born(1895-03-13)March 13, 1895
DiedOctober 12, 1977(1977-10-12) (aged 82)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Years active1910–1956
Wallace Reid
(m. 1913; died 1923)
Parent(s)Harry Davenport
Alice (Shepphard) Davenport

Born into a family of film performers, Davenport had her own independent career before her marriage to the film actor and director Wallace Reid in 1913. Reid's star rose steadily, making feature films at a pace of one every seven weeks,[1] until 1919 when a dose of morphine administered for an injury on location grew into an addiction.[2] Reid died in January 1923 at the age of 31. Davenport took her own story as source material and co-produced Human Wreckage (1923), in which she was billed as "Mrs. Wallace Reid" and played the role of a drug addict's wife. She advertised the film in terms of a moral crusade.

Davenport followed its success with other social-conscience films on other topics, Broken Laws (1924) and The Red Kimono (1925), with expensive litigation connected with the latter. While Davenport's own production company dissolved in the late 1920s, she continued to take on smaller writing and directing roles. In 1929 Davenport directed Linda a film about a woman who gives up her happiness for the sake of men and social expectations. Davenport directed her last film in 1934; however, she continued in the film industry in other roles until her last known credit in 1956 as dialogue supervisor of The First Traveling Saleslady.

Davenport died in October 1977 at the age of 82.[3]

Early career

Dorothy Davenport was born in Boston Massachusetts in 1895. Davenport's father, Harry Davenport, was a Broadway star and comedian, and her mother, Alice Davenport was a film actress who appeared in at least 140 films. Dorothy's grandparents were 19th-century character actors, Edward Loomis Davenport, a successful tragedian stage actor and Fanny Vining Davenport, who began acting at the age of three. Their daughter and Dorothy's aunt, Fanny Davenport, was considered one of the great stage actresses of the time.

Davenport's first professional role was in a stock company at the age of six. At age fourteen, Davenport continued in the entertainment industry, doing a type of burlesque.[4]

Davenport attended school in Brooklyn and in Roanoke Virginia. At the age of 16, after performing vaudeville for a year and a half, she moved from Boston to Southern California to pursue acting. She began her career with the Nestor Film Company, later acquired by Universal Pictures. Her first known film appearance was in Life Cycle in a supporting role. She was a talented horsewoman, and did many of her own stunts in films.[3]

While with Nestor, Davenport met a young actor named Wallace Reid on the set of a film. "Called on to act with him in a film, she was frustrated by his apparent lack of acting ability on the first day, but was smitten with him on the third day of their work together."[5] Both were prominent within Nestor during the early years of the company and although Wallace Reid had left to pursue another film for six months, he promptly returned to Nestor and the pair married in October 1913.

The following year they worked on over a hundred films together.[5] After this year, the pair left Universal to work on other films but returned in 1916. On June 18, 1917 Davenport gave birth to her first son, Wallace Reid Jr, in Los Angeles California.[6] The birth of her son caused Davenport to take a step back from her career, and become a full time mother. In 1920, Davenport and Reid adopted their second child, daughter Betty Anna Reid.[3]

Reid's addiction

While filming on location in Oregon for The Valley of the Giants (1919), Wallace Reid was injured in a train wreck. As a remedy for the pain from this injury, studio doctors administered large doses of morphine to Reid to which he became addicted. Reid's health slowly grew worse over the next few years, and he died of the addiction in 1923.

After Reid's death, Davenport and Thomas Ince co-produced the film Human Wreckage (1923) with James Kirkwood, Sr., Bessie Love and Lucille Ricksen, a film that dealt with the dangers of narcotics addiction. It was developed and marketed with expert assistance from members of the Los Angeles Anti-Narcotics League.[7] Davenport took Human Wreckage on a roadshow engagement with personal appearances, followed up with another "social conscience" picture about excessive mother-love called Broken Laws in 1924, again billed as "Mrs. Wallace Reid".

Davenport then produced The Red Kimono (1925) about white slavery. Both Human Wreckage and The Red Kimono were banned in the United Kingdom by the British Board of Film Censors in 1926.[8] Kimono is based on a real case of prostitution that took place in New Orleans in 1917. Billing it as a true story, Davenport used the real name of the woman played by Priscilla Bonner, who as a consequence sued Davenport and won a landmark privacy case.[9]

She later continued in the social-consciousness line with films Linda (1929), Sucker Money (1933), Road to Ruin (1934), and The Woman Condemned (1934), and worked as a producer, writer, and dialogue director. Among her last credits is the co-author of the screenplay for Footsteps in the Fog (1955), and as dialogue director for The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) with Ginger Rogers. In the 1970s near the end of her life, Dorothy still had a print of her husband's 1921 feature Forever. She gave the print to an organization planning a museum. The museum plans fell through and Dorothy's last remaining print of her favorite movie of Wally's was lost.

On October 12, 1977, Davenport died at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. She is interred with Wallace Reid at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.

Select filmography

Dorothy Davenport (left) in The Best Man Wins (1911)
Dorothy Davenport in 1916
Davenport and Lester Cuneo in The Masked Avenger (1922)
Davenport on the set of Human Wreckage (1923)
Poster for The Red Kimono (1925)
Year Title Role Notes
1910 The Troublesome Baby Cast member [10]
A Mohawk's Way Indian [11]
1911 The Best Man Wins Cast member [12]
1912 His Only Son Cast member [3]
1915 The Explorer Lucy Allerton [10]
1915 Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo Grand Duchess Feodora [10]
1915 The Unknown Nancy Preston [10]
1916 A Yoke of Gold Carmen [10]
1916 The Devil's Bondwoman Beverly Hope [10]
1916 Barriers of Society Martha Gorham [10]
1916 Doctor Neighbor Hazel Rogers [10]
1916 The Unattainable Bessie Gale [10]
1916 Black Friday Elinor Rossitor [10]
1916 The Way of the World Beatrice Farley [10]
1917 The Squaw Man's Son Edith, Lady Effington [10]
1917 The Girl and the Crisis Ellen Wilmot [10]
1917 (re-released in 1921) Mothers of Men'' / Every Woman's Problem Clara Madison [10]
1917 The Scarlet Crystal Marie Delys [10]
1917 Treason Luella Brysk [10]
1920 The Fighting Chance Leila Mortimer [10]
1921 Every Woman's Problem Clara Madison [10]
1922 The Masked Avenger Valerie Putnam as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1923 Human Wreckage Ethel MacFarland as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1924 Broken Laws Joan Allen as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1925 The Red Kimono Herself Prologue, as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1926 The Earth Woman Producer, as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1927 The Satin Woman Mrs. Jean Taylor as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1928 Hellship Bronson Mrs. Bronson as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1929 Linda Director, as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1926 The Dude Wrangler Producer, as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1932 The Racing Strain Writer (story), as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1933 Man Hunt Mrs. Scott as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1933 Sucker Money Co-director, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1934 The Road to Ruin Mrs. Merrill Also director and writer (story), as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1934 The Woman Condemned Director, as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1935 Redhead Producer, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1935 Honeymoon, Limited Producer and screenwriter, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1935 Two Sinners Story supervisor, as Mrs. Wallace Reid[10]
1935 Women Must Dress Writer (story and screenplay), as Dorothy Reid[10]
1936 The House of a Thousand Candles Producer, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1937 Paradise Isle Producer, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1937 A Bride for Henry Producer, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1938 Prison Break Screenwriter, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1938 Rose of the Rio Grande Producer, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1940 The Old Swimmin' Hole Screenwriter, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1947 Curley Screenwriter, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1948 Who Killed Doc Robbin Screenwriter, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1949 Impact Screenwriter, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1951 Rhubarb Screenwriter, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1952 It Grows on Trees Dialogue coach, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1954 Francis Covers the Big Town Dialogue director, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1955 Footsteps in the Fog Screenwriter, as Dorothy Reid[10]
1956 The First Traveling Saleslady Dialogue supervisor, as Dorothy Reid[10]


  1. Jackson, Robert (January 1, 2017). Fade In, Crossroads: A History of the Southern Cinema. Oxford University Press. p. 67. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  2. "Motion picture news: DOROTHY DAVENPORT". The Billboard (Archive: 1894–1960). October 7, 1911.
  3. Anderson, Mark Lynn (September 27, 2013). "Dorothy Davenport Reid". Women Film Pioneers Project. Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, Columbia University Libraries. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  4. The Movie Magazine: A National Motion Picture Magazine ... Movie Magazine Publishing Company, Incorporated. 1915.
  5. "Dorothy Davenport". IMDb. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  6. "Wallace Reid Jr". IMDb. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  7. Boyd, Susan C. (September 13, 2010). Hooked: Drug War Films in Britain, Canada, and the U.S. Routledge. p. 21. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  8. The Red Kimono at the database
  9. Friedman, Lawrence Meir (2007). "The Red Kimono [sic]: The Saga of Gabriel Darley Melvin". Guarding Life's Dark Secrets: Legal and Social Controls over Reputation, Propriety, and Privacy. Stanford University Press. pp. 217–225. ISBN 978-0-8047-5739-3.
  10. "Dorothy Davenport". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  11. Lowe, Denise (January 27, 2014). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895-1930. Routledge. p. 1939. ISBN 9781317718970.
  12. "Thomas Ricketts, Pioneer of Movies". The New York Times. January 21, 1939. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
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