Florence Turner (January 6, 1885 - August 28, 1946) was an American actress, who became known as the "Vitagraph Girl" in early silent movies.
Born in New York, New York, she was pushed into appearing on the stage at age three by her ambitious mother. Turner became a regular performer in a variety of productions.
In 1906, she joined the fledgling motion picture business, signing with the pioneering Vitagraph Studios. Turner made her debut in Cast Up by the Sea (1907).
At the time, there were no stars. Performers were not even mentioned by name. Long, drawn out screen credits were not thought of. There was nothing but the name of the company and the picture. As the content of movies evolved from simple incidents, or situations, into definite stories, some of the heroes and heroines were conceded a vague identity, such as the "Edison Girl," et cetera.
Though she was known only as the "Vitagraph Girl" in the early motion picture shorts, Turner became the most popular American actress to appear on screen (at that time still dominated by French pictures, especially from the Pathe and Gaumont companies). Her worth to the studio, as its biggest box-office draw, was recognised in 1907 when her pay was upped to $22 a week -- as proto-star plus part-time seamstress. It was somewhat less than the male leading players, especially those with stage experience, particularly the super-popular Maurice Costello. In 1910 Florence was paired several times opposite heartthrob Wallace Reid, on his way to stardom.
As the demand for identification grew, within a few years she was famous as Florence Turner. But with the rise of more stars such as Gene Gauntier and Marin Sais at Kalem Studios, Marion Leonard and Mary Pickford at Biograph Studios, and Florence Lawrence (Vitagraph, moving to IMP in 1910), Florence Turner was no longer quite as special. By 1913, she was looking for new pastures and left the United States accompanied by longtime friend Laurence Trimble, who directed her in a number of movies. They moved to England, where she and Larry began performing together in London music halls.
She sometimes wrote screenplays and directed her own movies, including a number of comedies. She also organized her own production company, Turner Films, for which she made more than thirty shorts.
Turner entertained Allied troops during World War I. She returned to the U.S. after the Armistice, but was not as successful as before. In 1920, she again went to England, where she remained until moving to Hollywood, virtually forgotten, in 1924.
By then, she was thirty-nine years of age and, in this era of youth and great glamour consciousness, her starring days were long behind her. She went on to play secondary roles when she was able to find work.
In 1928, she acted in a minor role on Broadway in Sign of the Leopard, which ran for thirty-nine performances.
Turner was placed on the payroll at MGM by Louis B. Mayer in the 1930s, but was limited in the assignments offered. She mostly played bit-parts and worked as an extra.
She later moved to the Motion Picture Country House, a retirement community for the industry in Woodland Hills, California.
After appearing in more than 160 motion pictures, Florence Turner died at age sixty-one in Woodland Hills, an almost forgotten figure. She was cremated at a mortuary in Hollywood and, at her request, there was no funeral service.