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Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE REEL REALS: Cleo Ridgely

Cleo Ridgely

Cleo Ridgely was yet another interesting leading lady of the silent film era. With a soft but sturdy beauty, she projected an image of equal parts vulnerability and resilience. Though she performed in nearly 70 credited films between 1911 and 1951, her talent has become overshadowed over the years by bigger names and a bigger Hollywood. She made appearances most notably opposite leading men like Wallace Reid, in the Cinderella story of The Golden Chance, and had enough chutzpah to impress Cecil B. DeMille into handing her a supporting role in Joan the Woman.

Cleo came off as a regular girl. Perhaps her normalcy is what stopped her from being as infamous and lasting as her contemporaries. Still, there is a poetry in the simplicity with which she approached her roles. Elegant but not haughty, attractive but not glamorous, she had an immediate amiability that allowed her to transcend stereotype and just be a woman. She also wasn't afraid to get down and dirty, and as an experienced horsewoman, she often performed her own, quite dangerous stunts.

After her second marriage to James W. Horne (of Laurel and Hardy fame), she left the movies behind to be with family and raise her children. She did return intermittently over the years, generally in uncredited bit parts. As you hear no horror stories or scandals attached to her name, it is fair to assess that she lived without regret and simply preferred a life of stability to the crazy world of Hollywood. This is understandable, but as a viewer, you wish you had gotten to know her a little better through her work, of which there remains far too little.

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