Leila Hyams
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Leila Hyams

Leila Hyams
Hyams-Leila 1932.jpg
Hyams in 1932
Born(1905-05-01)May 1, 1905
DiedDecember 4, 1977(1977-12-04) (aged 72)
Years activeprior to 1924 vaudeville and stage, 1924 – 1936, film
Phil Berg (1927–1977, her death)
Parent(s)John Hyams and Leila McIntyre Hyams

Leila Hyams (May 1, 1905 - December 4, 1977) was an American film actress, model, and vaudevillian, who came from a show business family. Her relatively short film career began in the 1920s during the era of silent films and ended in 1936. Although her career only lasted around twelve years, the blonde blue-eyed ingenue and leading lady appeared in more than 50 film roles and remained a press favorite, with numerous magazine covers.

Early life, stage and modelling

She was born in New York City to vaudeville comedy performers John Hyams, (1869-1940) and Leila (née McIntyre) Hyams (1882-1953).[1] Both parents appeared in films and mother Leila Senior was also a noted stage performer; her parents can later be seen together in several Hollywood films such as in 1939's The Housekeeper's Daughter. Hyams appeared on stage with her parents while still a child, working in their vaudeville act for five years.[2]

As a teenager, she worked as a model and became well known across the United States after appearing in a successful series of newspaper advertisements. This success led her to Hollywood.

Film career

Photoplay, 1929

She made her first film in 1924, and with her blonde hair, green eyes, delicate features, and good-natured demeanor, was cast in a string of supporting roles, where she was required to do very little but smile and look pretty. She proved herself capable of handling the small roles she was assigned, and over a period of time, she came to be taken seriously as an actress. By 1928, she was playing starring roles, achieving success in MGM's first talkie release, Alias Jimmy Valentine (1928) opposite William Haines, Lionel Barrymore, and Karl Dane. The following year, she appeared in the popular murder mystery The Thirteenth Chair, a role that offered her the chance to display her dramatic abilities as a murder suspect. At Fox that same year, she appeared in director Allan Dwan's now lost romantic adventure The Far Call opposite Charles Morton. The quality of her parts continued to improve as the decade turned, including a role as Robert Montgomery's sister in the prison drama The Big House (1930) with Chester Morris and Wallace Beery, for which Hyams once again received positive reviews. She then appeared in Surrender (1931) in which Warner Baxter and Ralph Bellamy desperately competed for her attention.[3]

Hyams in 1932

Although she succeeded in films that required her to play pretty ingenues, and developed into a capable dramatic actress in 1930s crime melodramas, she is perhaps best remembered for two early 1930s horror movies, as the wise-cracking but kind-hearted circus performer in Freaks (1932) and as the heroine in the Bela Lugosi film Island of Lost Souls (1932). Hyams was the original choice to play Jane in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), but turned it down. The role was played by Maureen O'Sullivan.[3] She also appeared in the once controversial Jean Harlow film Red-Headed Woman (1932), the musical comedy The Big Broadcast (1932) with Bing Crosby, George Burns, and Gracie Allen, and was praised for her comedic performance in Ruggles of Red Gap (1935).[3] In 1935 she made 1,000 Dollars a Minute for Republic and retired soon after.

Personal life

Hyams with co-star Richard Dix in Yellow Dust (1936)

Hyams married her agent Phil Berg in 1927.[2] In 1936, after a 12-year acting career and performing in 50 films, she retired from the motion-picture industry; nevertheless, she remained active in the Hollywood community for the rest of her life. In 1977, after a "brief illness", Hyams died at age 72 at her home in Bel-Air in Los Angeles. She was survived by her husband Phil.[2]

Complete filmography


  1. ^ Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2007). Vaudeville old & new: an encyclopedia of variety performances in America. Psychology Press. p. 545. ISBN 9780415938532. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Leila Hyams, 72, 'Golden Girl' Of Movies in 20's and 30's, Dies". The New York Times. New York, New York City. December 9, 1977. Archived from the original on March 16, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Leila Hyams on IMDb

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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