Oscar Actors: Griffith, Corinne Mae (1894-1979)–Most Obscure Nominee?

Described as the “Orchid Lady of the Screen,” Corinne Mae Griffith was one of the most popular and most beautiful actresses of the silent screen.

Griffith was born on November 21, 1894 in Texarkana,Texas to John Lewis Griffin and Ambolina (Ambolyn) Ghio.

She attended Sacred Heart Convent school in New Orleans and worked as a dancer before acting.

Griffith began her screen career at the Vitagraph Studios in 1916. She later moved to First National, where she became one of their most popular stars. In 1928, she had the starring role in The Garden of Eden. The next year, in 1929, Griffith received an Oscar nomination for her role in The Divine Lady.

Griffith’s first sound film, Lilies of the Field, was released in 1930. Griffith’s voice did not record well (one critic said she “talked through her nose”),and the film was a box office flop. After appearing in one more Hollywood picture, Back Pay in 1930 and a British film, Lily Christine in 1932, she retired from acting.

She returned to the screen in 1962 in the low-budget melodrama Paradise Alley, which received scant release.

Griffith was one of the few film stars to move successfully into new careers once her stardom had ended. She was an accomplished writer who published eleven books including two best sellers, My Life with the Redskins and the memoir Papa’s Delicate Condition, which was made into a 1963 film starring Jackie Gleason about the Ghio and Griffin family. Her actual family names were used in the film.

Her ventures into real estate were also successful (at one point she owned four different major office buildings in Los Angeles, each of them named after her).

Griffith was married four times but had no children. She married actor and co-star Webster Campbell from 1920 to 1923, producer Walter Morosco from 1924 to 1934, and the owner of the Washington Redskins football team George Preston Marshall from 1936 to 1958. During her marriage to Marshall, she composed the lyrics to the Redskins fight song, “Hail to the Redskins,” which became one of the most famous football anthems.

In 1966, within few days, she married and divorced her fourth husband, Broadway actor Danny Scholl (Call Me Mister). Scholl was 45, more than 25 years Griffith’s junior. In court she testified that she was not Corinne Griffith but the actress’s younger (by twenty years) sister who had taken her place upon the famous sister’s death. Contradicting testimony by actresses Betty Blythe and Claire Windsor, who had both known, did not shake her story.

In 1974, Adele Whitely Fletcher, editor of Photoplay, said Griffith was still claiming that she was her own younger sister.

On July 13, 1979, Griffith died of heart failure in California, age 84.  At the time of her death, her personal estate was worth over $150,000,000.

The silent star Corinne Griffith may be one of the most obscure Oscar-nominated actress in the Academy’s history.

Made in 1929, The Divine Lady is Vitaphone sound film with synchronized musical score and sound effects but no spoken dialogue, directed by Frank Lloyd, who received an Oscar Award in the second year of the kudos.

It is adapted by Harry Carr, Forrest Halsey, Agnes Christine Johnston, and Edwin Justus Mayer from the novel The Divine Lady: a Romance of Nelson and Emma Hamilton by E. Barrington.  The melodramatic tale concerns a love affair between Horatio Nelson and Emma Hamilton, played by Corinne Griffith, who was Oscar nominated.

Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh made a better, more famous version of this story in 1940, titled “That Hamilton Woman.”

Oscar Nominations: 3

Director: Frank Lloyd

Actress: Corinne Griffith

Cinematography: John Seitz

Oscar Awards:

Frank Lloyd won the Best Director Oscar for three films.  He is one of the few Oscar director to win this kudo for a film that was not even nominated.  He is better known for making The Mutiny on the Bounty, which won the 1935 Best Picture Oscar.

The Best Actress winner was Mary Pickford for “Coquette.”