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GRIFFIN, CORINNE MAE

GRIFFIN, CORINNE MAE (1895?–1979). Corinne Mae Griffin [pseud. Corinne Griffith], motion-picture actress and author, was born in Hill County, Texas, to John Lewis and Ambolyn (Ghio) Griffin. Her father was a Methodist minister. Although records in the Texas State Library state that she was born in May 1899, records in the registrar's office at the University of Texas offer the more plausible date of November 26, 1895. She was raised primarily in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she attended Sacred Heart Convent school from 1905 to 1910. After her father's death, she and her mother moved to Santa Monica, California. Corinne later studied at the University of Texas for one semester, in the fall of 1912.

Several accounts of how she got in the movies exist. Fan biographies say she was offered a screen test after winning a beauty contest in either New Orleans or Santa Monica and being introduced to film director Roland Sturgeon, who cast her in a small part in a Vitagraph film. However, film director and fellow Texan King Vidor recalled in his autobiography, A Tree is a Tree (1953), as well as in a later interview, that Corinne Griffin was introduced to him during the summer of 1913 or 1914 in Mineral Wells, Texas. During the visit the two plotted their future careers in Hollywood. About six months later, Griffin asked Vidor for a letter of introduction and was introduced by a cousin of his who lived in Santa Monica, California, to the director-general of the Vitagraph Company.

Known popularly as the "Orchid of the Screen" because of her delicate features, she began her screen career in 1916 under contract to Vitagraph and in 1922 broke off to form her own production company, Corinne Griffith Productions. Her films from 1924 to 1930 were released through First National Pictures, and her last released film, Lily Christine,was made in England in 1932. She later made an appearance in 1957 in Stars in Your Backyard, which was never released. Despite the brevity of her film career, she made more than fifty-five features. Among her best-known are The Yellow Girl (1916), Thin Ice (1919), Six Days (1923), Lilies of the Field (1924), Black Oxen (1924), Classified (1925), and The Garden of Eden (1928). Vidor recalled, upon his move to California, that Griffith's starting pay was five dollars a day for two days of work per week. Later, at her peak, she earned as much as $12,500 weekly.

Shrewd real estate investments, coupled with earnings from the screen, made Corinne Griffith extremely wealthy. Although she lost money during the Great Depression, she maintained control over properties in Beverly Hills and throughout the Los Angeles area. Successful parleys in succeeding years left her reportedly worth $150 million at the time of her death. She had four marriages, all of which ended in divorce. The first was to actor-director Webster Campbell, from 1920 to1923; the second to screen producer Walter Morosco, from 1924 to 1934; the third to George Preston Marshall, founder and owner of the Washington Redskins, from 1936 to 1958; the fourth to Broadway actor Danny School, briefly in 1966.

For many years she was well known in Washington government circles, where she supported a lengthy campaign to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the income tax. For much of her life she was a Christian Scientist. Her books My Life With The Redskins, about her years with George Preston Marshall, and a semiautobiographical novel, Papa's Delicate Condition (1952), were best-sellers. The latter book and another work, Eggs I Have Known, were made into motion pictures. Her other titles include Hollywood Stories (1962), This You Won't Believe! (1972), and I'm Lucky-At Cards (1974). After a stroke in 1977 and a lengthy illness, Corinne Griffith died at St John's Hospital, Santa Monica, California, on July 13, 1979.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Variety, July 25, 1979.

John H. Slate

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

John H. Slate, "GRIFFIN, CORINNE MAE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgrac), accessed September 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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