Lucille Ricksen

Lucille Ricksen (born Ingeborg Myrtle Elisabeth Ericksen; August 22, 1910[1] March 13, 1925) was an American motion picture actress during the silent film era. She died of tuberculosis on March 13, 1925 at the age of 14.[2]

Lucille Ricksen
Lucille Ricksen in 1924
Ingeborg Myrtle Elisabeth Ericksen

(1910-08-22)August 22, 1910
DiedMarch 13, 1925(1925-03-13) (aged 14)
Cause of deathTuberculosis
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
Other namesLucille Rickson
OccupationActress, model
Years active19131923

Early life

Lucille Ricksen was born in Chicago on August 22, 1910. Her parents were Danish immigrants named Samuel and Ingeborg Nielsen Ericksen. Although Lucille Ricksen's birth year has been widely reported as being 1909, her birth certificate states 1910 as her true birth year. She had an older brother, Marshall, who was born in 1907 in Chicago, who also appeared in early silent films.

Edgar Pomeroy series

Ricksen began her career as a baby model, initially within poorly paid modelling roles.[3] Upon the urging of her parents, she advanced to more professional child modelling and acting roles, adopting the pseudonym Lucille Ricksen at age four.[4] Through these modelling and acting roles, Ricksen and her brother rose to fame and provided a revenue for their parents as both children were committed to increasingly exhaustive work schedules.[4]

By the age of eight, Ricksen's parents had divorced, and her mother reportedly began to view the income from her daughter's acting career as a primary source of stability for her entire family.[3] At the request of Samuel Goldwyn, Ingeborg relocated to Hollywood with her children in 1920. Shortly thereafter, Goldwyn cast the eleven-year-old in a comedy serial entitled The Adventures of Edgar Pomeroy, and from this point onward, Ricksen's acting and modelling commitments increased greatly, although at least outwardly, Ricksen enjoyed the fame and attention her career attracted.[5] The serial shorts of The Adventures of Edgar Pomeroy ran in approximately twelve installments and were based on the stories of Booth Tarkington, with child actor Edward Peil, Jr. taking the leading role of Edgar, and Ricksen the leading female role.[6] In one review of her performances in this series, Ricksen was described as: "One of the most promising Hollywood actresses"[6] and through this acting role, Ricksen formed close acquaintances with many notable directors, actors and actresses of the 1920s. She would also extensively tour the entire country, appearing in theaters and attending celebrity events, thus becoming one of the best known child actresses of the era.[6]

After leaving the Edgar Pomeroy serials, Ricksen appeared in more than 12 films between 1920 and 1921 alone.[7] She was next cast in the 1922 Stuart Paton directed comedy The Married Flapper opposite Marie Prevost and Kenneth Harlan and the thirteen-year-old's career opportunities began to improve dramatically. In 1922, Ricksen was signed to a contract with actor and director Marshall Neilan, who cast her in the commercially and critically successful Neilan-directed drama The Stranger's Banquet in which she was cast alongside both Claire Windsor and Hobart Bosworth.[8]

Progression of career

Beginning with the development of her career via the Edgar series, Ricksen took great care to preserve records of the early years of her career and her experiences in the silent films in which she starred. She is known to have preserved flyers and posters documenting her career, and to have cut and pasted newspaper clippings relating to any works in which she held a role into a journal. Beneath each cutting or photograph, she would write her personal sentiments as to her feelings relating to her progressing career.[9]

Throughout the early 1920s, Ricksen appeared in a number of high-profile acting roles, although in many instances, she had to portray a character much older than her years. Her first assigned role as the leading female actress in a major film was in the 1923 movie The Rendezvous;[10] a World War I satire in which she was cast as a deaf[11] Russian peasant girl named Vera.[12] Another notable performance Ricksen undertook in 1923 was her role as Ginger in the John Griffith Wray directed drama Human Wreckage: a drug prevention film produced by and starring actress Dorothy Davenport. (This film was made in reaction to the death of Davenport's husband, actor Wallace Reid, as a result of his morphine addiction).[13]

Initially, her true age was accurately reported in the press, with one typical editorial, the Covington Republic, appraising her in February 1923 as being "The youngest leading lady on the screen".[14]

From 1920 to 1925, Ricksen starred opposite some of the most popular actors of the silent era, including Conrad Nagel, James Kirkwood, Sr., Jack Pickford, Louise Fazenda, Laura La Plante, Anna Q. Nilsson, Blanche Sweet, Bessie Love, Cullen Landis and Patsy Ruth Miller, although the number of contracts and thus the required hours to be devoted to her career increased dramatically, with Ricksen completing no fewer than ten films within a seven-month period within 1924 alone.[14] Many of these roles again saw Ricksen portraying characters who were much older than herself. Nonetheless, she maintained her critical acclaim from the public and within the motion picture industry for her maturity at handling these adult themes.

In 1924, at the age of fourteen, Ricksen was named one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars; a promotional campaign sponsored by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers in the United States, which honored thirteen young women each year who they believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom. Other actresses named that year included Dorothy Mackaill and Clara Bow.[15]


While filming the Del Andrews directed comedy The Galloping Fish in 1924 opposite Sydney Chaplin and Louise Fazenda (in which she portrayed the role of the wife of the lead character),[16] Ricksen became ill. She had appeared in prominent roles in ten films that year, including the popular drama The Painted Lady opposite George O'Brien and Dorothy Mackaill. However, by early 1925, her condition had worsened and she was diagnosed as having tuberculosis.[17] During her illness, her father disappeared.[4] Ricksen's last screen appearance was opposite Claire Windsor and William Haines in the drama The Denial, filmed in 1924 and released in early 1925.[18]

Ricksen was bedridden for the last few months of her life, and her distraught mother, Ingeborg, maintained a bedside vigil over her daughter, insisting both the press and all contacts Ricksen had made throughout her filming career cease until she had recovered. Nonetheless, Ricksen was visited on a weekly basis by film director and screenwriter Paul Bern, who would bring her flowers and magazines, which he would read to Ricksen as he held her hand.[19]

In late February 1925, Ingeborg succumbed to a fatal heart attack and collapsed on top of her bedridden daughter.[18] After her mother's death, Ricksen spent her days being taken care of by others in the movie colony. In addition to Paul Bern, others to care for Ricksen included actress Lois Wilson.[4] She died just two weeks after her mother, on March 13, 1925 at the age of fourteen.[20]


After Ricksen's death, the media extensively reported that her illness had been created through a combination of malnutrition and exhaustion[21] due to her working almost non-stop for twelve years, largely under poor conditions and at the insistence of both her mother and her agents.[14] The Ricksen family doctor would support this prognosis prior to her death, stating: "She crowded too much work into too short a time, and overtaxed her capacities. Other youthful stars have done the same thing. The result is that she has had a complete physical and nervous collapse complete that she has not rallied from it as she should."[22] Ricksen's death was cited as an example for parents not to exploit their children to showcase their talent.[4]

A photo article of Ricksen is featured in the 2011 film The Artist. In the film, she is listed as a newcomer in 1929, four years after she had died in real life.


Year Title Role Notes
1920 Edgar and the Teacher's Pet Short film
1920 Edgar's Hamlet Short film
1920 Edgar's Jonah Day Short film
1920 Edgar Takes the Cake Short film
1920 Edgar's Sunday Courtship Short film
1920 Edgar Camps Out Short film
1920 Edgar's Little Saw Short film
1920 Edgar, the Explorer Short film
1921 Edgar's Country Cousin Short film
1921 Edgar's Feast Day Short film
1921 Edgar, the Detective Short film
1921 The Old Nest Kate at 9
1922 The Married Flapper Carolyn Carter
1922 Remembrance Child Lost film
1922 The Girl Who Ran Wild Clytie
1922 Forsaking All Others May Wharton
1922 The Strangers' Banquet Flapper
1923 The Social Buccaneer Lucille Vail Lost film
1923 One of Three Short film
1923 Under Secret Orders Short film
1923 Trimmed in Scarlet Faith Ebbing Lost film
Credited as Lucille Rickson
1923 The Secret Code Short film
1923 The Radio-Active Bomb Short film
1923 The Showdown Short film
1923 Human Wreckage Ginger Lost film
1923 The Rendezvous Vera
1923 The Judgment of the Storm Mary Heath
1924 The Galloping Fish Hyla Wetherill
1924 The Hill Billy Emmy Lou Spence[23]
1924 Those Who Dance Ninon Unknown/presumably lost
1924 Young Ideas Eloise Lowden
1924 Behind the Curtain Sylvia Bailey
1924 Vanity's Price Sylvia, Teddy's fiancee Alternative title: This House of Vanity. Lost film
1924 The Painted Lady Alice Smith
1924 Idle Tongues Faith Copeland
1925 The Denial The daughter Partially lost film

Further reading

  • Michael G. Ankerich (2010). Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. BearManor. ISBN 978-1-59393-605-1.
  • Roy Liebman (2000). The Wampas Baby Stars: A Biographical Dictionary: 1922-1934. McFarland Press. ISBN 978-0-786-44061-0.
  • Denise Lowe (2013). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895-1930. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-78901-843-4.
  • Michelle Morgan (2013). The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals. Constable & Robinson Ltd. ISBN 978-1-47210-033-7.

See also


  1. Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen p. 322
  2. "Ah! The Villain Gets His Due, At Last!". The Evening Independent. December 11, 1923. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  3. The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals ch. 4, p. 1
  4. "A Child Star", The Port Arthur News, March 21, 1925, p. 4
  5. An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895-1930 p. 170
  6. Paul Bern: The Life and Famous Death of the MGM Director and Husband of Harlow p. 52
  7. Wallace Reid: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol p. 233
  8. An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895-1930 ISBN 978-0-789-01842-7 p. 464
  9. Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen p. 321
  10. "Amusements: Lenard's Pictures". Barrier Miner. December 8, 1925. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  11. Syd Chaplin: A Biography p. 110
  12. Syd Chaplin: A Biography p. 109
  13. Fleming, E. J. (8 February 2007). Wallace Reid: The Life And Death of a Hollywood Idol. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0786428151.
  14. The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals ch. 4, p. 2
  15. John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars p. 67
  16. Syd Chaplin: A Biography p. 114
  17. "AllMovie - Movies and Films Database - Movie Search, Ratings, Photos, Recommendations, and Reviews".
  18. An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895-1930 p.1949
  19. Paul Bern: The Life and Famous Death of the MGM Director and Husband of Harlow p. 93
  20. "Error - Filmography - Movies - New York Times".
  21. The Milwaukee Sentilel Feb. 2, 1926
  22. Dangerous Curves Atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen p. 319
  23. "Martoo's Olympia". Queensland Times. December 9, 1925. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
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