Oscar Actors: Shearer, Norma–Social Background

Edith Norma Shearer was born in Canada on August 10, 1902; she died on June 12, 1983.

Her career spanned over two decades, from 1919 to 1942.

She was the first woman to be nominated five times for the Best Actress Oscar, winning once, for The Divorcee in 1930.

In the pre-Code era, Shearer played modern, sexually liberated and sophisticated (often single or divorced) who was not afraid to flaunt her sensuality.

later on, she appeared in “prestige movies,” adaptations of Noël Coward, Eugene O’Neill and William Shakespeare.

She was educated at Montreal High School for Girls and Westmount High School, and lived a life of privilege, due to the success of her father’s construction business. However, the marriage between her parents was unhappy. Andrew Shearer was prone to manic depression, while her mother Edith Fisher Shearer was attractive, flamboyant, and stylish.

After seeing a vaudeville show for her ninth birthday, she decided to become an actress. She was aware of her physical limitations, such as small eyes that appeared crossed, but she was “ferociously ambitious,” and planned to overcome her deficiencies through camouflage, determination, and charm.

In 1918, when her father’s company collapsed, and her older sister Athole suffered mental breakdown. Forced to move into a small, dreary house in a modest Montreal suburb, the sudden plunge into poverty only strengthened Shearer’s determined attitude.

Within weeks, her mother had left her husband and moved into a cheap boarding house with her two daughters. A few months later, encouraged by her brother, who believed his niece should try her luck in movies, Edith sold her daughter’s piano and bought three train tickets for NYC. She brought a letter of introduction from a local theatre owner to Florenz Ziegfeld, who was preparing a new season of his Ziegfeld Follies.

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