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Grave of Forgotten Silent Film Star Marked at Green-Wood Cemetery

By Dana Varinsky | April 28, 2014 12:40pm
 A grave for silent film star Florence LaBadie, whose burial site in Green-Wood Cemetary was never marked, was unveiled Sunday.
Florence LaBadie
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GREENWOOD HEIGHTS — Nearly 100 years after the death of silent film star Florence La Badie, a headstone with her name has been unveiled at Green-Wood Cemetery.

La Badie, who was a popular New York movie star from 1909 to 1917, was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery after she was killed in a car accident at age 28. Until Sunday, however, her grave had never been marked.

“For Florence and her family, this recognizes her as an individual who made a contribution to early silent film,” said Ned Thanhouser, whose grandparents ran Thanhouser Company motion picture studios in New Rochelle, where La Badie worked.

Thanhouser spearheaded the effort to mark La Badie’s grave after he was notified on Facebook of the actress' presence in Green-Wood. He raised $3,100, which was matched by the cemetery to commission and install the headstone.

“Everybody should be remembered, and now people can see that she’s here,” said Richard Moylan, president of Green-Wood Cemetery. “This is a terrific find.”

The unveiling ceremony for La Badie’s headstone was held Sunday, which would have been the actress’s 126th birthday. During her short career, she appeared in more than 180 films, and was at the height of her stardom when she died.

La Badie was known for doing her own stunts, and this courage garnered her the nickname “Fearless Flo.”

At the ceremony, Thanhouser read a quote from a 1914 issue of Blue Book magazine, in which silent film director Howell Hansel said of La Badie: "She'll do anything I ask her to. If I were to say to her, 'Miss La Badie, go and jump out of that window; there'll be someone down below to catch you,' she'd do it without even going to the window to look out to see. She's pure steel."

Ben Model, a silent film accompanist and historian who played piano at the unveiling ceremony, said he appreciates the continued interest in preserving the history of silent film.

“There were a lot of movie stars, especially women stars, in the mid-teens who are completely forgotten,” he said. “When you find out about her career, you can’t believe that she’s been completely overlooked.”

At the unveiling ceremony, Model explained that in La Badie’s time, seeing films was primarily a working class activity, since it was cheaper than going to the theater. He said it would have cost viewers a nickel to watch her movies.

After unveiling La Badie's headstone Sunday afternoon, fans and film buffs celebrated her life by sharing coffee and cookies, and watching portions of her films at Green-Wood’s chapel.

Barbara Davis, the city historian of New Rochelle, said she hopes marking the grave will help preserve the history of silent film.

“She was one of the first great American leading ladies,” Davis said.