08 January 2013

Annette Benson

British actress Annette Benson (1895-?) was a star of the European silent cinema in the 1920s. She often played the bad or mistreated girl, as she did in some early Hitchcock films.

Annette Benson
German postcard by Ross Verlag. Collection: Didier Hanson.

A Mix Of Quaint Comedy And Pathos
Annette Benson was born in 1895. She made her film debut in 1921. That year, she played Betty Balfour’s sister in the comedy Squibs (1921, George Pearson). Janiss Garza at AllMovie: “Actress Betty Balfour made several pictures about Squibs the flower girl and her adventures. (…) Squibs lives with her father, a cheap bookmaker (Hugh E. Wright), and her sister Ivy (Annette Benson), who not only loves to drink, but also hangs out at sleazy dance halls. Ivy has attracted the attention of a tough character named Bully Dawson (Cronin Wilson). When Bully tires of Ivy, he tries to force himself on Squibs. But the rounder is sent packing by Squib's sweetheart, a bobby by the name of Charlie Lee (Fred Groves).” The following year, Benson returned as Ivy in the sequel, Squibs Wins the Calcutta Sweep (1922, George Pearson). The Squibs series was based on an old music-hall sketch. Betty Balfour's mix of quaint comedy and pathos made the series the most successful of its day. Benson played Isobel Elsom’s maltreated sister in the melodrama Harbor Lights (1923, Tom Teriss). She moved to France, where she appeared in a series of films. In the war film Veille D'Armes (1925, Jacques de Baroncelli), she co-starred with Nina Vanna and Maurice Schutz. In Le Puits de Jacob/Daughter of Israel (1925, Edward José), she was the second leading lady after American star Betty Blythe. And in Le Berceau De Dieu/The Cradle of God (1926, Fred LeRoy Granville), she starred opposite Stacia Napierkowska.

Stacia Napierkowska
French postcard in the series Les Vedettes de Cinéma by A.N., Paris, no. 50. Photo: Sobol.

A Vindictive Waitress
Annette Benson returned to England and featured in Shooting Stars (1927, A.V. Bramble, Anthony Asquith). She played an unprincipled film star whose infidelity is discovered by her husband. He wants a divorce which will finish her film career, so she schemes to murder him. Hal Erickson at AllMovie: “Greeted with mixed reviews in 1928, Shooting Stars seems somewhat better today than it did then, primarily because of the detailed authenticity of the movie-studio scenes.” Benson’s best known film is Downhill/When Boys Leave Home (1927) starring Ivor Novello and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Novello plays the black sheep of a prosperous family, whose life begins its downward spiral when he is expelled from school after shielding a friend from punishment. He takes the blame after a vindictive waitress (Benson) points him out as her seducer. Benson’s next film was Confetti (1928, Graham Cutts), the first film produced by Teddington Studios under their ‘quota’ arrangement with Hollywood's First National. Benson played the love-interest of musical-comedy favorite Jack Buchanan. In 1928, she played again opposite Ivor Novello, this time in South Sea Bubble (1928). Although the film was based on a script by Alma Reville, Hitchcock’wife, the director was T. Hayes Hunter. One of her last films was the crime thriller Deadlock (1931, George King) with Warwick Ward. During the shooting of a film scene an actor is murdered. But the camera has filmed the murder. More information about Annette Benson was not to be found on the net. Even her death year is unknown.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Janiss Garza (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.


Bunched Undies said...

That must have been quite a scandalous postcard in its day :)

Anonymous said...

She is great.Truly star.
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