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Photographed on July 7, 1932
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Though she is not well known today, film and stage actress Lois Moran once epitomized the Hollywood starlet. “There is something different about her good looks,” Mordaunt Hall wrote in 1927; “she is the personification of youth and beauty. She is not like the usual run of dolls’ faces so prevalent in motion pictures. She is winsome, and wholesome, and earnest in her acting.”1

Lois Moran was born and raised in Pennsylvania, but her acting career began in France, where she appeared in two films before she was discovered by American producer Sam Goldwyn. Goldwyn, who was traveling in Europe in hopes of finding a girl to play Juliet in a film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, decided to make Stella Dallas instead and cast Moran as Laurel. She made a number of films in the late 1920s before embarking on a stage career in the early 1930s. She appeared as Emma Krull, the lead role in Robert E. Sherwood’s This is New York and this performance was followed by successful appearances in the Gershwins’ play Of Thee I Sing and its sequel, Let ‘Em Eat Cake.

Despite the fact that her films have been largely forgotten, Lois Moran has been immortalized as the supreme ingénue in American literature; she was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s inspiration for Rosemary, the beautiful young actress in Tender is the Night. Fitzgerald, with whom Moran was at one time romantically involved, provides an exact portrait of Moran in the first pages of the novel, in his description of Rosemary as she arrives with her mother on the French Riviera:

  She had magic in her pink palms and her cheeks lit to a lovely flame, like the thrilling flush of children after their cold baths in the evening. Her fine forehead sloped gently up to where her hair, bordering it like an armored shield, burst into lovelocks and waves and curlicues of ash blonde and gold, her eyes were bright, big, clear, wet, and shining, the color of her cheeks was real, breaking close to the surface from the strong young pump of her heart. Her body hovered delicately on the last edge of childhood—she was almost eighteen, nearly complete, but the dew was still on her.2

 

1 Mordaunt Hall “Tears, Sighs, and Comicalities” New York Times 12 June 1927
2 F. Scott Fitzgerald Tender is the Night NY: Scribner, 1933 pp. 1-2

 

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