(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Claudia Dell Smith
1909 - 1977
Claudia Dell Smith was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1909 and was the only child of Oliver W. Smith and Mary Kathleen Woods Smith. Father "Ollie" was a salesman and circa 1920, his job required him to travel to various locales in Mexico. Her aunt was Claudia Coleman (1886-1938), vaudeville performer and later, a movie actress. Coleman was the impetus that brought Claudia to New York and introduced her to the stage. The Newspaper Archive had a bunch of 1920s articles from the San Antonio Light and San Antonio Express newspapers which reference Claudia's early years. A few mentions follow:
In addition to the above, there are trade ads from 1925 with fifteen year old Claudia Dell playing vaudeville with the Harry Carroll Musical Revue at B. F. Keith's Palace in New York City. Moving up the success ladder, seventeen year old Claudia became a Ziegfeld Follies girl circa 1927. January and February, 1929 issues of Variety mention Claudia exiting "The Midnight Frolic"; appearing in "Showboat"; and heading to London for a role in "Merry Merry" ... but everything wasn't Merry as she didn't get the role and returned home.
The beautiful lady with blonde tresses came to Hollywood in 1930, and her 40+ film career lasted into the mid 1940s. But the bulk of her movie work occurred from 1930-1939. She signed with Warners and her earliest starring assignments were in SWEET KITTY BELLAIRS (Warners, 1930) and with Al Jolson in BIG BOY (Warners, 1930). Released by Warners in 1931, she found leads and character/support jobs for many A and B production companies including Tiffany, Mayfair, Chesterfield, Puritan, Reliable, Universal, RKO, and Paramount.
Claudia was the heroine in a few westerns: DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (Universal, 1932) with Tom Mix; TRAILS END (Black King Prod/William Steiner, 1935) with Conway Tearle; GHOST PATROL (Puritan, 1936) with Tim McCoy; and BOOTS OF DESTINY (Condor/Grand National, 1937) with Ken Maynard. She was also the leading lady to Kane Richmond in THE LOST CITY (Super Serial Prod/Regal, 1935), perhaps the worst sound serial ever filmed. I chuckled at a 1935 review of THE LOST CITY in Harrison's Reports: "... it is too far-fetched to appeal to intelligent adults, but it should thrill the younger folk because of the ingenious electrical contraptions used by William Boyd in his efforts to destroy the world ..." (That's William (Stage) Boyd, not William Boyd of Hopalong Cassidy fame.)
Above is Claudia Dell, Tony Jr. and Tom Mix in a crop from a lobby card from DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (Universal, 1932). This was the first of nine sound films that Mix did at Universal during 1932-1933.
June 27, 1928 issue of Variety: "Claudia Dell ... to Phil Offin, in business with his uncle, Max Hayes, ... in Yonkers, N. Y. June 7 (1928)." (Hayes and Offin were New York City agents and vaudeville show bookers. June 28, 1930 Variety noted that Claudia claimed dessertion and obtained a divorce from Phillip G. Offin.)
January 1, 1935 issue of Variety: "Claudia Dell, film actress, to Eddie Silton, agent, in Los Angeles, Dec. 29 (1934). Second marriage for each." (Silton became Claudia's Hollywood agent circa 1930. They divorced in 1947.)
December 17, 1947 issue of Variety: "Claudia Dell to Daniel Emmett [sic], Hollywood, Dec. 13 (1947). Bride is a screen actress." (Newspaper reports indicate Emmet was an executive with a chewing gum manufacturer.)
I found no mention of Claudia having any children.
Claudia's life from the mid 1940s through 1960 is a question mark. We do know that third husband Dan Emmet passed away in 1956. Circa 1961, she embarked on a new career with the John Robert Powers School of Modeling. Excerpts from the November 15, 1973 Van Nuys (California) The News newspaper: "CLAUDIA DELL, new student director of the John Robert Powers Charm and Modeling School in Sherman Oaks and Woodland Hills Promenade." ; "... Miss Dell's experience in the field includes 12 years as director of the John Robert Powers School in Beverly Hills. Internationally known as a singer and actress, Miss Dell was educated in Mexico City. As a young woman, she moved to New York City where she studied singing at Juliard ..."
Claudia passed away September 5, 1977 in Hollywood, California and a month later, the October 5, 1977 Los Angeles Times newspaper had a funeral notice: "EMMET, Claudia Dell. Services ... at Pierce Bros. Hollywood." Note the one month delay from her death until the funeral service - methinks there were problems locating a next of kin to care for her funeral and interment.
|On the right is a trade ad from 1922 for Claudia Dell's aunt, Claudia Coleman (1886-1938). She was a noted vaudeville performer and in the 1930s, did some films.|
Coleman's agent was Max Hayes in New York. When Claudia Dell went east to stage work and the Ziegfeld Follies, she was also represented by Hayes. And Dell's first husband was Phillip G. Offin, one of the agents on Hayes' staff.
Above - a 1931 newspaper ad from a San Antonio, Texas theater which has been customized to show "Claudia Dell (Smith), San Antonio's Own Star". 50 MILLION FRENCHMEN (Warners, 1931) starred the Olsen and Johnson comedy duo, William Gaxton and Helen Broderick. Claudia was sixth billed.
YouTube has the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APIuPouq1VM
and the full movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvretC-SCpE
|From the August 6, 1932 issue of Hollywood Filmograph:|
"Miss Dell was selected by President Joe Brandt of WORLD WIDE PICTURES, to portray the living 'trade mark' which will be flashed on every screen when a WORLD WIDE PICTURE is shown. Attired in flowing classical robes, her blonde hair adorned with the traditional laurel wreath, Claudia Dell will be seen holding in each hand, a revolving sphere upon which is carved the name of the company ..."
From the August 4, 1932 issue of Film Daily:
"Joe Brandt, president of World Wide Pictures, has selected Claudia Dell for World Wide's trade-mark girl. An animated trade-mark, showing Miss Dell holding two revolving globes, will introduce each of World Wide's new features."
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on:|
Claudia Dell: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0217303/
Claudia's aunt, Claudia Coleman (1886-1938): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0170984
The Internet Archive has a half dozen Claudia Dell films which you view/stream/download: https://archive.org/details/feature_films?sort=-publicdate&and=%22claudia%20dell%22
YouTube has a three minute clip of Claudia (and Walter Piedgeon) from SWEET KITTY BELLAIRS (Warners, 1930): https://youtu.be/udZrTpAPqnM
The Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen website has a bio/timeline on Claudia: http://www.glamourgirlsofthesilverscreen.com/show/528/Claudia+Dell/index.html
The Internet Broadway Database has Claudia Dell in 1925-1928 productions of "Gay Paree", "Ziegfeld Follies of 1927", and "Rosalie": http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=37778
J. David Goldin's RadioGoldIndex website has Claudia Dell in three 1943-1944 broadcasts of the Lux Radio Theater. When you get to the site, click "Start Here", then select "Search By Artist", then select D, then scroll down for Claudia Dell's radio credits: http://radiogoldindex.com/
Jerry Murbach's Doctor Macro website includes several Ziegfeld photos of Dell (as a brunette): http://www.doctormacro.com/Movie%20Star%20Pages/Dell,%20Claudia-Annex.htm
Info on Dell (and others) who may have been the model for the Columbia standing lady with the torch logo: http://www.reelclassics.com/Studios/Columbia/columbia-article-logo.htm
1963 lawsuit against Bette Davis (and others) regarding Claudia Dell's suicide mention in Bette's 1962 "The Lonely Life" autobiography: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1817&dat=19631109&id=MP0cAAAAIBAJ&sjid=C5sEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1344,1144128
On the trail of Claudia Dell
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), and the California Death Index has information on Claudia Dell and family:
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a photo of the grave marker for Claudia Emmet who is interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6693478