Harriet Mildred Jeffries
April 8, 1893
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||January 19, 1967 73) (aged|
|Occupation||Actress, screenwriter, director|
|Spouse(s)||Joe Moore (19??-19??; divorced)|
Jack Shannon (1925–1967; her death)
Born Harriet Mildred Jeffries in Columbus, Ohio, by her late teens she was already acting in live theatre and silent films, using the stage name Grace Cunard. Although not clearly documented, it appears Cunard made her motion picture debut in 1910 in an uncredited role in a D.W. Griffith production for Biograph Studios.
In 1911, she had a significant secondary role in the Thomas H. Ince western, Custer's Last Fight. After making a number of westerns, she continued to work with actor-director Francis Ford at Universal Studios in a variety of dramas, and came to considerable fame starring in serials. She starred in Universal Pictures' first serial, Lucille Love, Girl of Mystery (1914), and quickly became Universal's serial queen. The following year Cunard did a 20-episode adventure/mystery called The Broken Coin, and in 1916, the very successful The Adventures of Peg o' the Ring. A 1917 Ford/Cunard two-part serial, The Purple Mask, was selected for the U.S. National Film Registry in 2014 and released by Kino Classics in their Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers box set in 2018.
In an era when the fledgling film industry saw actors and other film studio personnel frequently pitch in to do multiple tasks, Cunard was no exception, and wrote close to one hundred screenplays. As well, between 1914 and 1921, she directed 11 films and produced two others. With age, her career shifted to leads in B-movies and secondary roles or bit parts in others. Nonetheless, she worked regularly until the mid-1940s, mostly at her home studio, Universal.
Two of her more visible roles are in the 1942 serial Gang Busters (a small role, but important enough to serial audiences for her name to appear prominently in the ads and posters) and the 1945 Gloria Jean-Kirby Grant musical Easy to Look At (in which she plays a Broadway seamstress). When Universal changed hands in 1946 and discontinued its program of serials and low-budget features, Cunard retired, at the age of 53.
Cunard was married twice. The first marriage was to actor Joe Moore, which ended in divorce in 1925. She later married film stuntman Jack Tyler Shannon, with whom she remained for the rest of her life. Both unions were childless.
Grace Cunard Shannon died of cancer, aged 73, in 1967 in Woodland Hills, California. Her husband died in December 1968; the couple is interred jointly in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery, Chatsworth, California.
- Custer's Last Fight (1912)
- The Battle of Bull Run (1913)
- Lucille Love, Girl of Mystery (1914)
- The Mysterious Rose (1914)
- The Broken Coin (1915)
- Three Bad Men and a Girl (1915)
- The Adventures of Peg o' the Ring (1916)
- The Purple Mask (1917)
- Elmo the Mighty (1919)
- The Girl in the Taxi (1921)
- The Last Man on Earth (1924)
- Outwitted (1925)
- The Kiss Barrier (1925)
- The Winking Idol (1926)
- Fighting with Buffalo Bill (1926)
- Exclusive Rights (1926)
- A Trick of Hearts (1928)
- The Masked Angel (1928)
- The Ace of Scotland Yard (1929)
- A Lady Surrenders (1930)
- Resurrection (film) (1931)
- The Fourth Horseman (1932)
- Rustlers of Red Dog (1935)
- The Call of the Savage (1935)
- Girls of the Big House (1945)
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