Norma Shearer ~ The Queen Of MGM

Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer was born Edith Norma Shearer on August 10, 1902, in Montreal, Canada. After seeing the Dolly Sisters perform on stage she decided to become an actress. Her mother took Norma and her sister to New York when they were teenagers. She auditioned for the Ziegfeld Follies but was told she wasn't beautiful enough to be in the show. Norma was able to get work as an extra in numerous films including The Flapper. In 1924 she signed a contract with MGM and was cast opposite Lon Chaney in He Who Gets Slapped. She appeared in more than a dozen silent films including The Waning Sex and The Student Prince In Old Heidelberg. Her first talkie, The Trial Of Mary Dugan, was a big hit and she was easily able to make the transition to sound films. Norma married MGM producer Irving Thalberg in September of 1927. They had two children together but she was not very maternal and had a distant relationship with them.

Norma ShearerNorma Shearer

Norma Shearer

She decided to pose nude for photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston to prove she could play sexier roles. It worked and she was cast as a femme fatale in the 1930 drama The Divorcee. She won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in the film. Norma starred in some of MGM's most prestigious films including A Free Soul, Private Lives, and Smilin' Through. She often played feminist characters who enjoyed their sexuality onscreen. Her nickname was "The Queen Of MGM" and she earned more than six thousand dollars a week. Other actresses at the studio were jealous of her success and believed she only got the roles because she was married to Irving. Her brother, Douglas Shearer, became an Oscar winning sound engineer. Tragically in 1936 Irving died from lobular pneumonia at the age of thirty-seven. Norma was devastated by her husband's death and took time off from making movies.

Norma Shearer

Norma ShearerNorma Shearer

She returned to the screen in the 1938 epic Marie Antoinette. Her performance earned her another Oscar nomination. Norma was offered the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind but turned it down. She was romantically linked to actors Jimmy Stewart, Mickey Rooney, and George Raft. In 1942 she married Martin Arrouge, a ski instructor who was twenty years younger than her. By this time she had lost interest in her career and decided to retire. Her final film was the comedy Her Cardboard Lover. She spent much of her time traveling and enjoyed living life away from the spotlight. As she grew older she began suffering from insomnia and underwent electric shock treatments. She was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and lived at the Motion Picture Retirement Home. Norma died on June 12, 1983, from pneumonia at the age of eighty. She is buried next to Irving at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.


Norma Shearer NudeNorma Shearer Nude
Norma posed nude to prove she could be sexy

Norma Shearer