Lina Basquette ~ The Tragedy Girl

Lina Basquette

Lina Basquette was a Ziegfeld Follies star silent screen actress who had seven husbands

She was born Lena Copeland Baskette on April 19, 1907 in San Mateo, California. Lina began dancing when she was a child and her ambitious mother was determined to make her a star. At the age of nine she was discovered by Carl Laemelle and signed by Universal Studios. She appeared in more than a dozen film shorts including The Caravan, The Human Cactus, and Brother Jim. Sadly her father committed suicide in 1916. Flo Ziegfeld invited her to join the Ziegfeld Follies where she was billed as "America's Prima Ballerina." When she was eighteen she married Sam Warner, producer and co-founder of Warner Brothers studio. He was twenty years older than her. Their daughter Lita was born in 1926. Tragically in October of 1927 Sam died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. Cecil B. DeMille gave her the leading role in his 1928 drama The Godless Girl. Her performance won rave reviews and she was chosen to be a Wampas Baby Star. In 1929 she had starring roles in the films Come Across and The Younger Generation.

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Lina married cinematographer Peverell Marley in 1929 but they split a year later. Soon after her former brother-in-law Harry Warner sued her for custody of her daughter Lita. Eventually she agreed to give him custody in exchange for $300,000. She immediately regretted her decision and attempted suicide. Lina married actor Ray Hallam in 1931. Just three weeks after their wedding he died of leukemia making her a widow for a second time. On October 31, 1931 she married boxing promoter Teddy Hayes. After discovering he was still married to another woman she divorced him in 1932. Then she fell madly in love with boxer Jack Dempsey. When he dumped her she attempted suicide again. Because of all the heartache in her life she was called "The Screen Tragedy Girl". She co-starred with Hoot Gibson in The Hard Hombre and with Rex Bell in The Arm Of The Law. Lina remarried Teddy Hayes in 1934 and they had a son named Edwin.

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The couple were divorced in 1935. By this time her film career had stalled and she began performing in vaudeville. She married British actor Henry Mollison in 1937 but they separated three years later. After a bit part in the 1943 mystery A Night For Crime she decided to quit show business. In August of 1943 she was raped by a twenty-two year old Army GI. The man was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison. During the 1940s she began a new career as a dog breeder. Lina bought a twenty-five acre farm in Pennsylvania where she raised champion Great Danes. On April 24, 1948 she married her sixth husband Warner E. Gilmore. This marriage also ended in divorce. She married Frank M. Mancuso in 1959. Lina spent her later years out of the spotlight. In 1972 she wrote a book about Great Danes. A few years later she moved to West Virginia and separated from her husband Frank. She returned to films in 1992 with a role in Paradise Park. On September 30, 1994 she died from cancer at the age of eighty-seven. Lena was cremated and her ashes were given to a friend.

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Posing semi-nude for Alfred Cheney Johnston

Lina Basquette