Gladys McConnell, Actress, Skilled Equestrian and Avid Aviatrix!

Fire Detective Gladys McConnell

Gladys McConnell with only seven pictures under her belt, she was getting publicity via checks. “Checks” you say? Quite the idea actually, McConnell (I am sure that an agent was involved in some way) had her picture put on her personal checks. The story proclaimed… “Her Picture Is Worth Money.”[1] But this seems too good to be true that she just happened upon such fame, and so it is too good to be true for we are lacking the full story, for Miss McConnell had already been in films prior to what most sources proclaim as her debut which was, The Feud, January 31, 1926. But that film and date is from our modern perspective, not from the contemporaneous news reports; by those news-bits, we know that McConnell was signed by Universal in 1923.[2]

By the time she was named a “Baby Star” by the Wampas (a screen-publicists’ organization) in 1927, McConnell was already a veteran trooper, her beginnings near storied, never having had to brave the Extras line,[3] but almost graduating from high-school into moving-pictures. She was dubbed a Fox Kindergarten member, along with Janet Gaynor, Richard Walling, Olive Borden, Gene Cameron, Barry Norton and Reata Hoyt. Our trail of unlisted, uncredited films begins with a credited appearance in Pigs,[4] (AKA The Midnight Kiss, 1926) an upcoming Fox release starring McConnell, Gene Cameron and Richard Walling (he was selected from the Fox still-camera staff). This article about The Midnight Kiss, points directly to earlier film experience for McConnell, I might look no further, save, here is mentioned that she had, had work in two-reel comedies.[5]

Harry Langdon when searching for a leading lady for his upcoming Three’s a Crowd, 1927, chose her after viewing some two-reel westerns (evidently McConnell had been in a dozen or more western and comedies; she easily adapted to the western genre because she had been riding horses since the age of six[6]) and knew that he had his gal.[7] We find this corroborated when in she was given her part in The Devil Horse, 1926, a Hal Roach film, Gladys McConnell is considered experienced as a western-leading-woman;[8] a remarkable statement, considering that it was made in August of 1925, yet according to modern sources, she was not seen until January of 1926 on the silver-screen. We further find that McConnell did her very first work in film on a desert location for a western.[9] This secret stash of two-reel films seems to have taken place in 1924, but she took a year off, after being disappointed by not being able to land anything beyond these two-reel westerns and comedies.[10] A local paper in Modesto, California reported that McConnell had been appearing with Tom Mix and Buck Jones; Jones we can track, The Flying Horseman, 1926, but Tom Mix, what Tom Mix movies? I can find not one listing for McConnell and Mix together.

What follows is one of the missing McConnell roles: she had the female lead role in the 1924 Phil Goldstone production of The White Panther, a feature film (56 minutes), directed by Alvin J. Neitz; McConnell is mistakenly listed as Gertrude McConnell. But, there is no doubt that it is Gladys because she is correctly identified in a film summery by The Film Daily.[11] As a cherry sits so nicely on the top of a sundae, so the fact that on top of all of that talent, Gladys McConnell was also a competitive aviatrix, flying in the first trans-continental women’s air-derby; the race was from Santa Monica, California, and ending in Cleveland, Ohio; McConnell did finish the race. There is some confusion because of another contestant Gladys O’Donnell, Ms. O’Donnell came close to winning the derby. So, if you do your own research on McConnell’s love of flying and her competing in the first women’s air derby, some list her, and some do not; I believe that is because of the similar last name.

Gladys McConnell had roles in around forty productions, (that is of course if we use our new information regarding her earlier unlisted works), she also supplied research for Angkor, 1935.

McConnell miscellany, take a moment and read this amusing bit from the Brisbane Courier.[12]

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] The News (Frederick, Maryland) July 19, 1926

[2] Motion Picture Classic, June, 1926

[3] New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) March 7, 1927

[4] The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) June 6, 1926

The News (Frederick, Maryland) May 29, 1926

[5] The News (Frederick, Maryland) May 29, 1926

[6] The Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) October 9, 1926

[7] The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) May 29, 1927

[8] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) August 6, 1925

[9] Ogden Standard Examiner (Ogden, Utah) June 15, 1927

[10] The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) May 29, 1927

[11] The Film Daily, January 27, 1924

[12] Brisbane Courier, (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)  January 19, 1929

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