Florence Lawrence, the first movie star
Largely forgotten today, Florence Lawrence was one of the biggest stars of the early silent era, and is often credited as "The First Movie Star."
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, in (according to conflicting sources) either 1886 or 1890, Florence Annie Brigwood took the surname of her mother, a vaudeville actress, after her father left the family when she was four.
Appearing on stage with her mother as "Baby Florence, The Kid Wonder," she eventually put her horse-riding skills to use in her early film appearances, beginning in 1906.
"Romeo and Juliet"
Known at first as "The Biograph Girl," Lawrence appeared in more than 200 movies during her stints at Biograph, Lubin, Victor, Vitagraph and Independent Motion Picture Company of America (or IMP) studios.
Left: Florence Lawrence starred with Paul Panzer in the 1908 Vitagraph production of "Romeo and Juliet," directed by J. Stuart Blackton.
"Ingomar, the Barbarian"
At Biograph Studios she appeared in dozens of films directed by D.W. Griffith, including "Ingomar, the Barbarian" (1908), filmed in Cos Cob, Connecticut.
Florence Lawrence is a woman wronged by her affair with a man of wealth and position (Arthur V. Johnson) in the 1908 melodrama, "Resurrection."
A Star Is Born
By 1910, Florence Lawrence was so popular that the studio was putting her name on their posters - the first film star to be so honored.
The honor initially came thanks to a ruse created by IMP studio owner Carl Laemmle, who planted a rumor in the press that Lawrence - then shooting the film "The Broken Oath" - had been killed in a car accident. Once the news headlines had spread, Laemmle published an ad (left) revealing Lawrence to be alive and well, and soon to be seen in a new motion picture. (And so what if the film's title was mis-spelled?)
A Star Is Born
Left: A 1912 trade ad featuring Florence Lawrence.
"Vanity and Its Cure"
Florence Lawrence and Harry Myers in "Vanity and Its Cure" (1911).
Florence Lawrence is caught in the middle of a romantic triangle with Matt Moore (left) and Owen Moore, in the 1912 film, "Tangled Relations."
"The Redemption of Riverton"
Owen Moore is a minister and Florence Lawrence is a barkeeper's daughter in "The Redemption of Riverton" (1912).
Florence Lawrence is a Southern girl who is fought over by two rivals in "After All" (1912).
A portrait of Florence Lawrence, dated 1913.
Lawrence was injured while filming a fire stunt in 1915. Though she later returned to work, her movie roles dried up. She made her last appearance in a small role in the 1936 romantic comedy, "One Rainy Afternoon."
Health problems, combined with a series of unhappy marriages, took their toll, and eventually led Lawrence to take her own life on December 28, 1938, in her Beverly Hills home - a sad and distinctly non-Hollywood ending for one of Hollywood's earliest stars.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan