Anita Page, an MGM actress who appeared in films with Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford and Buster Keaton during the transition from silent movies to talkies, died Sept. 6 in Los Angeles, said actor Randal Malone, her longtime friend and companion. She was 98.
Page’s career, which spanned 84 years, began in 1924 when she started as an extra.
Her big break came in 1928 when she won a major role — as the doomed bad girl — in “Our Dancing Daughters,” a film that featured a wild Charleston by Crawford and propelled them both to stardom. It spawned two sequels, “Our Modern Maidens” and “Our Blushing Brides.” Page and Crawford were in all three films.
Page’s daughter Linda Sterne said her mother had been good friends with Marion Davies and Jean Harlow, and for about six months in the 1930s lived as a guest in William Hearst’s massive castle on the Southern California coast.
In 1928, the New York-born Page starred opposite Chaney in “While the City Sleeps.”
The following year, she was co-star of “The Broadway Melody,” the 1929 backstage tale of two sisters who love the same man. The film made history as the first talkie to win the best-picture Oscar and was arguably the first true film musical.
In his 1995 book “A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film,” author Richard Barrios reserved much of his praise for Bessie Love, the veteran actress who played the other sister. But he called Page “intensely likable — sincere, well-meaning, endearing, in much the same fashion as Ruby Keeler several years later — and, of course, quite beautiful.”
Variety wrote in 1929 that Page “is also apt to bowl the trade over with a contribution that’s natural all the way, plus her percentage on appearance. … She can’t dance, (but) the remainder of her performance is easily sufficient to make this impediment distinctly negligible.”
Among Page’s other films were two of Keaton’s sound films, “Free and Easy” in 1930, and “Sidewalks of New York” in 1931; “Night Court,” with Walter Huston in 1932; and “The Easiest Way” in 1931, in which Clark Gable had a small role.
For a short time Page was married to composer Nacio Herb Brown, who wrote songs for “The Broadway Melody,” but the marriage was annulled within a year, Sterne said.
Page stopped acting in 1936 when she fell in love with Herschel House, a Navy aviator. The couple married six weeks later and Page happily adapted to life as an officer’s wife, hosting many parties at their home in Coronado.
The couple had two daughters, Linda and Sandra.
After House died in 1991, Page returned to acting. In 1994, she appeared in the suspense thriller “Sunset After Dark.”
Most recently, she had a cameo in the horror film “Frankenstein Rising,” due later this year.
— Associated Press