Vera James

Vera James Munro (née Vera Gwendoline James, 2 April 1892 – 19 October 1980) was a New Zealand-born actor who worked in theatre and film. In 1929 she appeared in the first all-talking, all-colour feature length movie ever made, Warner Bros On with the Show!, and was already well known for starring in A Girl of the Bush in 1921.


James was born Vera Gwendoline James on 2 April 1892, the daughter of William Francis James and Alice Jane James (née Hill) of Dunedin, New Zealand.[1][2] She moved to Australia in 1919 and appeared in two films for Franklyn Barrett.[3] The first was A Girl of the Bush,[4] [5] which was screened in both Australia and New Zealand.[6] Her performance in the lead role was widely praised for the versatility of her acting, her mimicry, feats of horsemanship, and her good looks.[7] She had learned to ride horses and swim in order to land the role.[8] The second film was Know Thy Child,[9] in which James' character was first shown at the age of seventeen, then aged twenty-five, and finally aged about forty; "in each age she plays the part with restraint and dramatic skill".[10]

After these successes, James moved to Hollywood in 1922,[11] with her new husband, Arthur Henry Munro,[12][13] who she had married on 29 June 1921 at the Presbyterian Church, Neutral Bay, Sydney.[14] In Hollywood, James appeared in a B-Western, McGuire of the Mounted (1923), playing a member of a drug smuggling gang who was married to the hero while he was doped.[15][16] She was cast in Bavu (1923), and appeared in pre-release publicity images,[17][18][19] but does not appear in the cast list of the final release. James also had supporting roles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923),[19][5] The Radio Detective (1925) (a serial),[5][20] Three Wise Men (1925) with Janet Gaynor and Ben Corbett,[21] Fade-Away Foster (1926),[5] and On with the Show! which was the first all-colour, all-talking full-length movie in history.[12][19] She was one of the few New Zealand actors to find some fame in Hollywood at the time.[22]

In 1928 she appeared in a production of the operetta The Desert Song. The Los Angeles Times described her as "not only pleasing to gaze upon, but is possessed of a beautiful contralto voice".[23]

In 1929, she travelled back to Australia and New Zealand, intending to return to Hollywood the following year.[19][24][25] However, there is no evidence that she did.[1][12][19] She was offered parts after returning to Australia, but always turned them down.[26] She went on to manage a beauty salon in Sydney.[8] She died on 19 October 1980 in Sydney.[26]



  1. "A New Zealand girl". Auckland Star. LX (158). 6 July 1929. p. Supplement.
  2. "Birth search: registration number 1892/6191". Births, deaths & marriages online. Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  3. "Footlight flashes". Truth (1626). New South Wales, Australia. 6 March 1921. p. 11. Retrieved 16 November 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  4. Stratton, David (1980). The last new wave: the Australian film revival. Angus & Robertson. p. 2. ISBN 9780207141461. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  5. "Memory! 3rd edition Internation Film Heritage Festival" (PDF). Memory Film Festival. Yangon, Myanmar. p. 64. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  6. "New York Goes to Bed". Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1930). Sydney, NSW: National Library of Australia. 17 April 1921. p. 22. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  7. "MISS VERA JAMES". Evening Star (17630). 8 April 1921. p. 4. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  8. Frizell, Helen (6 June 1975). "Out of the Silents, A Flashback to 1921". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 November 2018 via
  9. Edmondson, Ray; Pike, Andrew (1982). Australia's Lost Films: The Loss and Rescue of Australia's Silent Cinema. Canberra: National Library of Australia. p. 51. ISBN 9780642992512. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  10. "The Grand to-night: Know Thy Child". Hawera and Normanby Star (XLIII: XLIII). 21 January 1924. p. 8. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  11. "Vera James". Camera!. Los Angeles, California: Raymond Cannon: 20. April 1922 – April 1923. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  12. "Talkie Trials : Experience of N.Z. Actress". The Sun (5796). New South Wales, Australia. 7 June 1929. p. 18 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved 16 November 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  13. "Theatredom and Movie Gossip". The Call (408). Western Australia. 10 March 1922. p. 7. Retrieved 16 November 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  14. "Marriages". Otago Daily Times. 9 July 1921. p. 8. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  15. Kelly, Mary (14 July 1923). "McGuire of the Mounted". Moving Picture World: 157. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  16. Irene (6 July 1923). ""M'Guire of the Mounted" not that kind of a film". Daily News. New York. p. 21. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  17. "Three New Universal Films Nearly Ready". Moving Picture World: 701. 17 February 1923. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  18. ""Bavu" Here Friday and Saturday is Great Russian Melodrama Which Has Thrills and Mystery Galore". The Brookville American. Brookville, Pennsylvania. 30 August 1923. p. 8. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  19. "Hollywood from the inside". Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1930). Sydney, NSW: National Library of Australia. 23 June 1929. p. 23. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  20. 'Studio and Stage', Los Angeles Times 15 Sep 1925: A11.
  21. 'Mary Pickford Premiere Set for Thursday', Los Angeles Times 16 Oct 1925: A9.
  22. "A tour through the United States and Canada". Lake County Press (3065). 6 November 1924.
  23. 'Vera James Known as Contralto too', Los Angeles Times 5 July 1928: A11.
  24. "Social and personal". Evening Star (20316). Dunedin, New Zealand. 26 October 1929. p. 26. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  25. Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 106.
  26. "Vera gives up a lead role". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 October 1980. Retrieved 18 November 2018 via
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