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The use of actors in advertising began slowly with lobby cards and photographs of the players. This failed to please audience demand. Seeing gold, Laemmle decided that he wanted the world to know Florence-- for her face and name to be as familiar to them as the President's! So, he pulled a little stunt and found a way to start a rumor that the IMP Girl, FLORENCE LAWRENCE, had been run over by a car. When it hit the presses, it was hot news. People were devastated, until of course it was revealed that Flo was alive and well. Then Laemmle took it a step further by having Flo make a hugely publicized personal appearance in St. Louis to prove to her fans that she had not "met her tragic end beneath the wheels of a speeding motor car." When she arrived at the station, her fans were so ecstatic to see her that they tore her hat from her head and the buttons from her clothes! Florence was both terrified and invigorated! She quickly became the highest paid actress in showbiz. After this, Laemmle would use the name of the "Girl of a Thousand Faces" to advertise all of her movies. Other studios followed suit, like Vitagraph, who made Florence Turner their #1 actress. But, there was no denying who the real star was. The first true star. All hail Florence Lawrence!!!
What Goes Up...
It seemed that Flo had everything she wanted: the career of her dreams, wealth, stardom, adulation... But inside her still lurked the insecure and sensitive girl whose emotions, so effective on screen, weighed her down in her private life. Not only did Flo empathize too heavily with her dramatic roles, just as she had as a child, but she continued to place incredible stress and pressure on herself to constantly improve, or at the very least maintain her position at #1. The obvious result of this was the collapse of her marriage, which was beginning to show strain of its own. Of course, Harry was no help. An emotionally needy man, he was threatened by the attention Florence was getting, and thusly the attention she gave her work and not him. In a way, he seemed to want to sabotage her career, and unfortunately, Flo, who was too spontaneous to be a good business woman, often followed his bad advice. As a result, she ended her contract with the man who had made her a star, Laemmle, and said goodbye to IMP. She quickly signed up with Sigmund Lubin sometime around Nov. of 1910. Laemmle sued her for breaking her contract, which didn't help Flo's finances since she was supporting her mother and brother Walter. It seemed a smart move when she invested in real estate, but this was plagued as well when the home she purchased went up in flames after the contractor disappeared with her money! The final blow came when Flo learned that Mary Pickford had taken her place at IMP, once again swooping in to take advantage of the opportunities Flo had naively given away.
Flo focused on work, making His Bogus Uncle in January of 1911. In 1912, "Photoplay" appeared, the first magazine completely dedicated to film fans who could finally read all about their favorite celebrities. Flo was a constant and favorite featured artist. Harry experienced some luck this year as well when he was recognized as one of the greatest directors of his day. However, Flo was getting antsy as usual. Upset with the doldrums of her life, she craved something more, but seemed to be struggling with finding out what it was. Co-stars would often see the quirky girl banging her head against the wall to exercise her frustrations. She really wanted to break through to freedom and independence. At one point, she abruptly disappeared without a trace, and people were relieved when she returned from her vacation, which she had taken to calm her nerves, relax, and breathe. When time came to renew her contract with Lubin, she and Harry declined. Her last film with the friendly Lubin was The Surgeon's Heroism.
Flo was looking for the next rung on the ladder, and she was able to reach it when she and Harry established The Victor Company in the summer of 1912. She would of course be the leading lady, Owen Moore was leading man, and Harry was the director. With their own company, they could control what movies and projects they made and released. Flo loved having artistic control and essentially being her own boss. The studio was located at 575 11th Ave, NYC. The first film Victor produced was In Swift Waters. The Solters, in celebration, purchased a home in River Vale, NJ. Flo was glowing. She enjoyed the privilege of being the first female to own her own movie studio. However, the films didn't fare all that well. The scripts were barely tolerable, and fans did not like Owen Moore, who was never able to attain true leading man status. Flo didn't miss a step with fans, who still adored her no matter what lousy film she appeared in. She was beginning to feel the pressures of pleasing the masses as the discrepancy between her true self and the larger-than-life person they expected her to be became greater. She was hard on herself, especially when meeting a fan in person. She once remarked: "I always feel that people are so disappointed in me, when they see me for the first time." The new standard of celebrity was becoming quite a burden to bear.
Between personal and professional stress, Flo and Harry were on shaky ground, and it wasn't long before they were separated. They would argue, live separately, reconcile, drift apart, etc. Ad nauseum. Harry had become frustrated with Flo's extreme vacillations in temperament, as well as the fact that she worked herself to exhaustion. Flo was sick of Harry's violent temper and feeble threats of suicide. To add fuel to the fire, they were unable to conceive, though perhaps in the end this was a blessing for such a volatile match. Flo was nearing a point of complete collapse. After Harry moved out yet again, Flo vowed to quit the business. As with all the ups and downs and back and forths in her life, it would not be the last time. She filmed The Lady Leone and retired to her new home in Hillsdale. The 18th-Century Mansion became her pride and joy. In lieu of acting, Flo studied languages, read, and took up botanical pursuits, making it her mission in life to develop a new breed of rose. Unfortunately, she would never accomplish the task. This time was rejuvenating for Flo, for she had peace, relaxation, and time to re-evaluate her life and decide where to go next.
Many changes in film occurred while she was on hiatus. Edison created the kinetophone, the first step toward sound pictures. Then, two-reelers became five-reelers, now providing the ever increasing audiences with a full hour of entertainment. People of every social status were attending movies, which were no longer considered an idle and brainless past time for the lower class. This resulted in the creation of great and luxurious movie palaces, which made movie viewing a whole new experience. Acting styles had also changed to the subtle gestures exhibited by Mary Pickford and Lilian Gish. Soon, Flo began to feel herself being left behind, and the competitor in her wanted to make her way back into the industry. Ironically, she re-teamed with Laemmle at his new studio, Universal, and made one film for him every two weeks. Her return was a triumph and covered by all the magazines. So often was she in the public eye that Flo learned to be cautious of the way she presented herself: what she said, how she behaved, and how she dressed. She learned to be diplomatic, always being confident in stating her opinion and making a stand where she felt it counted, while remaining respectful and thus respected. She was a staunch supporter of the suffragist movement, being a pre-feminist, but she made sure to balance her tough demeanor with softer qualities-- dressing delicately, doing needlepoint, etc. It was all a game really, and she was learning how to play it.
She kept up with the new film innovations as well, playing a dual role in The False Bride, which experimented with double exposure photography. Reviews of her dramatic interpretations in Unto the Third Generation and Influence of Sympathy were also highly praised. It is interesting to note, however, that while Florence's reviews were stellar at the beginning of her contract at Universal, they became more lackluster as her contract reached its end. Always up and down, Florence would come out on a new adventure like a cannonball, then succumbing to the pressures and perhaps even boredom she would begin to lose steam and set her sights elsewhere. Almost as soon as she entered a situation, she was looking for a way out.