Silent-film actress and screenwriter Barbara La Marr once said, "I take lovers like roses . . . by the dozen."
And she was hardly exaggerating: By age 19 she had been married three times, divorced and widowed. In her 20s, she married twice more. Still, she found time to become a world-famous actress, only to die at 29 a few months after collapsing on a movie set.
La Marr was one of those silent-film stars who disappeared from the world's consciousness almost as swiftly as she entered it, dying the year before the first "talkie" appeared.
During her brief career, she danced with Hollywood's greatest romantic idols, including Rudolph Valentino and Ramon Novarro, and starred with Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Even before she appeared in front of the cameras, La Marr wrote film scenarios and screenplays, according to newspaper accounts of the time.
Once she appeared on screen, she sizzled as a sexy vamp. According to her son, Don Gallery, La Marr lived with abandon, keeping a container of cocaine on her piano and binging on heroin and highballs. Friends and family members said she became hooked on drugs after being given painkillers for an injury.
Official accounts of her death in 1926 at her Altadena home on Boston Street list the cause as tuberculosis and nephritis — inflammation of the kidney.
She may have been the only screenwriter to persuade a dictator to appear in a film: Benito Mussolini played himself in the now-vanished 1923 film "The Eternal City," which La Marr starred in and for which she was reported to have done uncredited writing and producing.