Myrtle Gonzalez – A Pioneering Woman of the Silent Movie Era

Myrtle Gonzalez was an American actress who starred in at least 78 silent-era motion pictures from 1913 to 1917. She is regarded as Hollywood’s first Latin and Hispanic movie star actress. She was known for playing strong and brave women in outdoor adventures and dramas.

She worked with some of the most famous directors and actors of her time, such as William Desmond Taylor, William Duncan, and Allen Watt. She died young, at the age of 27, from the Spanish flu pandemic, but her legacy lives on as a pioneer in silent films.

Biography of Myrtle Gonzalez

Full NameMyrtle Gonzalez
Date of BirthSeptember 28, 1891
Place of BirthLos Angeles, California, U.S.
Years Active1913–1918
SpousesJames Parks Jones (m. 1910, divorced), Allen Watt (m. 1917)
Date of DeathOctober 22, 1918
Cause of DeathSpanish Flu Pandemic
Height5’5″ (Approx.)
Weight50 kg (Approx.)
Eye ColorBlack
Hair ColorBlack

Early life and career

Myrtle Gonzalez was born on September 28, 1891, in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Lillian L. Cook and Manuel George Gonzalez. Her father’s family was a Hispanic Californio family of Mexico, which had long settled this territory before the US took it over. Her mother, the daughter of immigrants from Ireland, was a former opera and popular singer. Her father was a retail grocer.

Myrtle Gonzalez
Myrtle Gonzalez

Myrtle showed great dramatic talent and a pleasing soprano voice from early childhood. She appeared in many local concerts and sang in church choirs. She later played juvenile parts on the stage with Florence Stone and Fanny Davenport.

Myrtle married James Parks Jones circa 1910. They had one son together, James Parks Jones Jr., before they divorced in 1914. Myrtle charged Jones with desertion.

Movie star

As she grew up in Los Angeles, the movie production shift to her hometown was a big benefit for her. Myrtle worked for such studios as Vitagraph and Universal. Out of a total of 80 movies in her career, she appeared in 5 movies opposite William Desmond Taylor at the drama Tainted Money (1914), Vitagraph: the comedy/drama Her Husband’s Friend (1913), the comedy Millions for Defence (1914), the drama Captain Alvarez (1914), and the drama The Kiss (1914).

Myrtle Gonzalez
Myrtle Gonzalez

In many of her roles, Myrtle typified a vigorous, out-of-doors type of heroine. During the last six years of her career, many of the movies she starred in were stories of the snowy country and the forests. She was best known for her role as Enid Maitland in Vitagraph’s six-reel feature-length drama The Chalice of Courage (1915) opposite William Duncan. A magazine writer once called her “The Virgin White Lily of the Screen”.

Personal life and death

On December 1, 1917, she and actor/director Allen Watt were married in Los Angeles. They had no children together.

Myrtle contracted influenza during the 1918 pandemic and died on October 22, 1918, at her home in Los Angeles. She was buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

She was one of the first movie stars to die from the flu, along with Harold Lockwood and Olive Thomas. Her husband, Allen Watt, died in 1944 and was buried next to her.

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Myrtle Gonzalez was a trailblazer for Latin and Hispanic actresses in Hollywood. She broke stereotypes and showed that women of colour could play diverse and complex roles on screen. She also inspired generations of filmmakers and fans with her talent and charisma.

She has been honored by Google with a Doodle on November 23, 2022, which marks her 131st birthday.

She has also been featured in several books and documentaries about silent film history, such as The First Female Stars: Women of the Silent Era by David W. Menefee, Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage by Luis Reyes and Peter Rubie, and The Women Who Made Hollywood by Jill Watts.

Interesting facts about Myrtle Gonzalez

Given below are some interesting facts about Myrtle Gonzalez:

  • She was recognized as the first Latino/Hispanic actress in Hollywood.
  • During her career, she earned the reverential title “The Virgin White Lily of the Screen” from a magazine writer.
  • She often portrayed strong, courageous women in her roles.
  • For the last six years of her career, most of her films were set in the snowy country or forests.
  • She was dedicated to hard-hitting storylines and excelled in challenging scenes that required a lot of physical prowess.
  • She pushed herself both mentally and physically while on set, striving for authenticity in her acting style like few women before her.
  • She worked with actor William Desmond Taylor in five films.
  • She is a descendant of a native Hispanic Californio family on her father’s side, and her maternal grandparents were born in Ireland.
  • She sang in choirs and performed at local concerts and benefits, as well as playing juvenile parts on the stage with Fanny Davenport and Florence Stone.
  • She gave up her screen work and retired after marrying actor/director Allen Watt.

People May Ask

Who was Myrtle Gonzalez?

Myrtle Gonzalez was an American actress who starred in at least 78 silent-era motion pictures from 1913 to 1917.

When and where was she born?

She was born on September 28, 1891, in Los Angeles, California.

What is she best known for?

She is best known for her role as Enid Maitland in Vitagraph’s six-reel feature-length drama The Chalice of Courage (1915).

What was her personal life like?

She was married twice, first to James Parks Jones with whom she had a son, and later to actor/director Allen Watt.

When did she pass away?

She passed away on October 22, 1918.

What is her significance in film history?

She is regarded as Hollywood’s first Hispanic and Latin movie star actress.