Florence Deshon

Florence Deshon (July 19, 1893  February 4, 1922) was an American motion picture actress in silent films. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Deshon began her film career in 1915, appearing in The Beloved Vagabond, and would later star in numerous pictures for Samuel Goldwyn and Vitagraph Studios between 1918 and 1921. She was romantically involved with writer Max Eastman and actor Charlie Chaplin. She died of gas asphyxiation in her New York City apartment.

Florence Deshon
Deshon in 1920
Born
Florence Danks

(1893-07-19)July 19, 1893
DiedFebruary 4, 1922(1922-02-04) (aged 28)
Cause of deathInert gas asphyxiation
Other namesFlorence Deschon

Early life

Deshon was born Florence Danks in Tacoma, Washington to Samuel Danks, a musician and union organizer from Wales, and Flora Caroline Spatzer, a pianist of Austro-Hungarian descent.[1][2] She lived with her parents and older brother, Walter, in Washington until around 1900, when the family moved to New York City, where her parents pursued musical careers.

In 1913, she became acquainted with Max Eastman in Greenwich Village, and the two became romantically involved.[3]

Career

Deshon appeared in more than twenty movies beginning in 1915 with The Beloved Vagabond. In 1919, while living in New York City, she was summoned by Samuel Goldwyn to Los Angeles, California, and offered her work in his studio.[4]

Florence played in features for Vitagraph until 1921. Her final film credit was in the role of Sally McTurk in The Roof Tree, directed by John Francis Dillon. She returned to New York City with her mother in December 1921. Deshon hoped to continue her work in films there.[5]

Personal life

In addition to her relationship with Max Eastman, Deshon had a purported romantic relationship with Charlie Chaplin while living in Los Angeles, and purportedly "commuted from coast to coast" between the two men.[6]

Death

On February 4, 1922, Deshon was found unconscious on the third floor of her apartment building at 120 West Eleventh Street. A window was open in her bedroom but illuminating gas flowed from an opened jet. A newspaperwoman, Minnie Morris, found Deshon when she returned to the building. An ambulance took Deshon to St. Vincent's Hospital, but attempts to revive her were unsuccessful. She died the following afternoon. She was 28 years old. Deshon's apartment had been subleased from Doris Stevens, who was married to Dudley Field Malone. The couple were honeymooning in Europe at the time of the actress' death. Deshon was listed as being a resident of both Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Los Angeles. She died 5 days after William Desmond Taylor, who overshadowed her.

The New York Medical Examiner concluded Deshon's death was accidental. However, rumors persisted among her circle of friends and acquaintances that she might have committed suicide, and several biographers, including Ross Wetzsteon[7] and Christoph Irmscher,[2] have described her death as such. An unsubstantiated comment from a neighbour had it that she had recently argued with a person who came to her apartment. Having recently broken off their relationship, Eastman claimed that Deshon had no reason to kill herself and that her death was accidental but other mutual friends believed that she did indeed commit suicide. Eastman came across her on the street on the afternoon before her death when they spoke briefly before going their separate ways. That evening, Eastman heard that she had been rushed to hospital whilst he was watching a theatre performance. He went to St. Vincent's and gave blood but the attempt to revive Deshon was futile.

Filmography

Year Title Role Other notes Ref.
1915The Beloved Vagabond[8]
1916The Ruling PassionBlanche Walcott[9]
1916JafferyLiosha[10]
1917The Judgement HouseAl'Mah[11]
1917The Auction BlockLilas Lynn[10]
1917The Other ManLucia Stedman[10]
1918The Desired WomanIrene Mitchell[10]
1918A Bachelor's ChildrenMrs. Beaumont[10]
1918Just a WomanN/A[10]
1918The Golden GoalBeatrice Walton[10]
1918One Thousand Dollars Lotta Lauriere[10]
1918Love WatchesLucia de Morfontaine[10]
1918The Clutch of CircumstanceLory Williams[10]
1919The Cambric MaskMrs. Lanark[10]
1919The Loves of LettyMrs. Allardyce[10]
1920The Cup of FuryPolly Widdicombe[10]
1920DudsMarquise[10]
1920Dangerous DaysMarion Hayden[10]
1920Twins of Suffering CreekJess Jones[10]
1920Dollars and SenseDaisy[10]
1920CurtainLila Grant[10]
1920Deep WatersKate Leroy[10]
1921The Roof TreeSally McTurk[10]

References

  1. Warren 2011, p. 163.
  2. Irmscher, Christoph (2017). Max Eastman: A Life. Yale University Press. pp. 122–2. ISBN 978-0-300-22256-2.
  3. Warren 2011, pp. 163–4.
  4. Warren 2011, p. 164.
  5. IMDB entry
  6. Weztsteon 2007, p. 65.
  7. Wetzsteon 2007, p. 65.
  8. Wetzsteon 2007, p. 64.
  9. "Photoplay Attractions". Indianapolis News. February 26, 1916. p. 9 via Hoosier State Chronicles.
  10. "Florence Deshon". American Film Institute. Catalog of Feature Films. Archived from the original on October 18, 2017. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
  11. Wheeler, Edward Jewitt Wheeler; Crane, Frank, eds. (1918). "Leading Photoplays of the Month". Current Opinion. 64: 188.

Works cited

  • Warren, Beth Gates (2011). Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, and the Bohemians of Los Angeles. Getty Publications. ISBN 978-1-606-06070-4.
  • Wetzsteon, Ross (2007). Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-416-58951-8.

Further reading

  • New York Times, "Actress Dies Of Poison Gas", February 5, 1922, p. 3
  • New York Times, "Eastman Denies Rift With Miss Deshon", February 6, 1922, p. 3
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