Alice White

Alice White
Elmer Fryer / First National Studios


Alice White
Film: West side of the 1500 block of Vine Street
Born Alva Violet White on Aug. 26, 1906 in Paterson, NJ
Died Feb. 19, 1983 of stroke in Hollywood, CA

Alice White's first big break in motion pictures came when she was noticed by Charlie Chaplin, who encouraged her to pursue screen roles.

The petite, red-haired spitfire of a woman made 36 films between 1927 and 1949, including "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" in 1928 and "Flamingo Road" in 1949.

A glamor girl in the late 1920s and early 1930s, she gained notoriety in two stormy marriages and one of the longest on-again, off-again romances in Hollywood history.

Born Alva Violet White in Paterson, N.J., on Aug. 26, 1906, she was brought up by her grandparents and moved with them to Hollywood when she was still in her teens. She took a secretarial course at Hollywood High School and went to work as a script girl at Charlie Chaplin studios. When she was asked to stand in for a star, Chaplin saw her and told her to keep trying.

Her first screen tests were bad, but an agent believed there was some promise in the pert, overdressed girl. He took her to First National Studios, where she was given a part in "The Sea Tiger."

Her performance impressed no one at the studio, but audiences wanted to see more of her.

White was 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed 138 pounds when she made "The Sea Tiger," but after seeing herself on film she brought her weight down to 100 pounds. First National gave her a contract and, after appearing in several minor roles, she was loaned to Paramount for a part in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

Studio executives discovered that she had brains as well as beauty and a toughness that belied her stature. She often defied convention.

White met Sidney Bartlett, a New York stage actor trying to break into films, in 1929. Their romance rocked Hollywood as they traveled across the country together, sometimes proclaiming and sometimes denying that they were engaged. After four years, they were wed at a colorful ceremony in Magdalena, in the Mexican state of Sonora.

If the engagement was one of the longest in Hollywood history, the honeymoon was one of the shortest. Less than 24 hours after they said their vows, White was recalled to Hollywood to begin work on a new film. Bartlett stayed behind to work on a cattle roundup.

They parted 18 months later, and in 1937 White told a divorce court that she left Bartlett after she discovered that while she was away on a personal appearance tour, Bartlett had other women living with him at their home.

She later married Columbia Studio writer Jack Roberts in a secret ceremony in Kingman, Ariz., in 1941. That marriage ended in divorce in 1949. She told the divorce court that Roberts called her vile names, threw things around and carried on with other women. The judge ordered Roberts to pay her 30% of his earnings for three years, but Roberts spent two days in county jail before giving the court a statement of his earnings.

It was six more years before White obtained a final decree from Roberts. The actress said she held out for the final decree because Roberts had not complied with the financial terms of the settlement.

White's career of glamor drew to a close after her second marriage ended.

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