Enid Bennett (15 July 1893 – 14 May 1969) was an Australian-born silent film actress, mostly active in American film.
Upbringing and early career
She was born Enid Eulalie Bennett in York, Western Australia, the second of three children born to Frank Bennett and Nellie Mary Louise (née Walker). Her older sibling was Francis Reginald, called "Reg," born 1891, her younger sibling was Marjorie, born 1896.
After an unsuccessful attempt to start his own school Frank took up the role of Headmaster at the newly established Guildford Grammar School in 1896. Frank died in tragic circumstances in 1898, after which Nellie married the new Headmaster, Alexander Gillespie in 1899, with whom she had two more children, Catherine in 1901 and Alexander in 1903. Following Gillespie's death in 1903 Nellie supported her five children by acting as School Matron. Enid attended Lionel Logue's acting and elocution classes in Perth and after receiving encouragement from a visiting actress in 1910, joined a touring company. By 1912, Enid had joined the Fred Niblo-Josephine Cohan touring company, performing comedies around Australia and understudying for Cohan herself, receiving consistently positive reviews. Her family had moved across the continent to Sydney by this time.
In the early part of 1915, theatre agents J. C. Williamson's decided to make short films of some of their popular plays, to forestall the release of imported American filmed versions. They used Niblo as director, and members of his troupe appeared in Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford and Officer 666. Enid Bennett appeared in both. Three reels of Officer 666 survive today in the National Film and Sound Archive. Film historians Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper describe it as "a crude production doggedly faithful to the stage." Both films were released in Australia after Bennett left for the United States in June 1915, travelling with Niblo and Cohan.
Film career in the US
Her first appearance in the US was in Henry Arthur Jones's play "Cock o' the Walk," at George M. Cohan's Theatre on Broadway in late 1915. Roles of increasing importance in films followed soon after. One of her most important early films was The Little Brother made in 1917, where she appeared opposite William Garwood. This brought her to the attention of studios, in particular Thomas H. Ince, who signed her up with the Triangle Film Corporation. From 1918 to 1921, she starred in twenty-three films, becoming well established as an actress and attracting great publicity and consistently positive reviews. In 1922, she starred in three films, one of which became her most famous role, the female lead of "Maid Marian" in Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks. Interviewed in the 1960s by Kevin Brownlow, Bennett said "I had a wonderful time playing Maid Marian. Of course, the part was not too demanding , I just walked through it in a queenly manner. Douglas Fairbanks was wonderful, inspiring."
Following Josephine Cohan's death she had married Fred Niblo, in 1918. In 1922 she and Niblo had their first child, Loris. In 1924 she played opposite Ramon Novarro in Niblo's film Red Lily. A son, Peter, was born later that year and another daughter, Judith in 1928.
Between 1923 and 1928 her career had slowed and she appeared in leading roles in fewer films. She made a transition to sound, appearing in two 1931 Jackie Cooper-Robert Coogan films; Skippy (which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture) and its sequel Sooky. Later at the end of the decade she appeared in a few minor roles, the last being the Marx Brothers 1941 film, The Big Store. Niblo had retired in 1933, and it appears she did too.
In later life, sister Marjorie Bennett explained that, somewhat against her will, she had been encouraged by the family to join Enid to keep her company in the US. But by the mid 1920s, her mother Nellie Gillespie, both her sisters, and her surviving brother were living in the US. In 1934 her brother Alexander Bennett married actress Frances Lee. The wedding was attended by some of Hollywood's biggest names, including Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo.
Fred Niblo died in 1948. In 1963 Bennett married American director Sidney Franklin. In later life she resided in Malibu, California, where she died in 1969, aged 75.
Bennett's sisters Marjorie (1896-1982) and Catherine (1901–1978) were also Hollywood film actresses.
- The Aryan (1916)
- Princess in the Dark (1917)
- Happiness (1917)
- Keys of the Righteous (1918)
- When Do We Eat? (1918)
- Fuss and Feathers (1918)
- Partners Three (1919)
- The Haunted Bedroom (1919)
- The Virtuous Thief (1919)
- What Every Woman Learns (1919)
- Her Husband's Friend (1920)
- The Woman in the Suitcase (1920)
- Hairpins (1920)
- The False Road (1920)
- Silk Hosiery (1920)
- Robin Hood (1922)
- Strangers of the Night (1923)
- The Bad Man (1923)
- The Courtship of Miles Standish (1923)
- The Sea Hawk (1924)
- The Red Lily (1924)
- Skippy (1931)
- Waterloo Bridge (1931)
- Intermezzo (1939)