She is the only Quebecer to have won an Oscar for acting. In the same decade she was a six-time Academy Award finalist, including twice in 1930 for the Academy Award for Best Actress, which she won ahead of Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson. In 1938 she won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival.
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And yet few Quebecers remember Norma Shearer, who would have turned 120 this week. She was born on August 10, 1902 in Montreal. Like Leonard Cohen, she attended Westmount High School. When her father, owner of a building materials company on the corner of Shearer Street and Saint-Patrick Street in Pointe-Saint-Charles, went bankrupt, her parents separated and her mother decided to leave Montreal for New York with her daughters. Norma was 18 years old.
After the figuration has been made, especially in Way down in the east by DW Griffith (with her younger sister Athole, filmmaker Howard Hawks’ first wife), she was noticed by producer Irving Thalberg, who offered her a contract in Hollywood. After the founding of MGM Studios in 1924, Norma Shearer established herself as one of its biggest stars.
Five years later, Norma Shearer married Irving Thalberg, who was now Hollywood’s most powerful film producer and she herself was its most popular star. Some are jealous of her and mockingly call her the “First Lady” of MGM. Her arch-rival Joan Crawford is said to have said, “How can I compete with her? She sleeps with the boss! »
Not her husband, but apparently her older brother Douglas Shearer, a pioneer of sound recording, helps the actress the most in coping with the turn of the silent film end by teaching her to modulate his voice. Douglas Shearer, who stayed in Montreal with his father after his mother left, has been an Oscar finalist 21 times and won seven statuettes.
Norma Shearer, who has acted in more than 50 films, was a star during a very special time in Hollywood, before the introduction of the Hays Code (1934-1966), a strict moral code that strongly recommended that productions be based on religious criticism and criticism should refrain from showing scenes of nudity, drinking alcohol, even mixed relationships or overly longing kisses on the screen.
“He was a very big star. She was the Rolling Stones while Greta Garbo was the Beatles,” said Mick LaSalle, critic at the Chronicle of San Franciscoits test complicated womenabout Hollywood actresses of the early 1930s, focuses on Norma Shearer.
Censorship found Norma Shearer more subversive than Marlene Dietrich. She often embodied the “modern woman”, rebellious, sexy and unconventional. She chose morally and sexually complex roles, despite her husband’s reservations.
Irving Thalberg, perhaps to discourage her, reportedly told her she didn’t have enough sex appeal to be the lead The divorced by Robert Z. Leonard, which he wanted to give to Joan Crawford. She had to hire a photographer without her knowledge and take daring photos of her to convince him.
in the The divorced, her character Jerry realizes after three years of marriage that her husband is cheating on her. She, in turn, cheats on him with his best friend. ” I have balanced our accounts she told him. He refuses to accept it and demands a divorce. So she multiplies the conquests by denouncing these two weights, two measures.
Hugely popular and surprisingly modern and feminist for its time, Norma Shearer won the Oscar for Best Actress (she was also in the running for the Oscar). your own wish). She had managed to garner critics by making it acceptable for a woman to have extramarital sex in the cinema without losing audience sympathy.
At the peak of her career, Norma Shearer was making over $300,000 a year. But after the sudden death of her husband of a heart attack in 1936, at the age of 37 with two dependent children, she considered leaving the profession and even turned down the role of Scarlett O’Hara Blown by the windfor which Vivien Leigh received an Oscar.
She gets two more citations at the Academy Awards, for Romeo and Juliet and Marie Antoinettea mega-production of 2.5 million that earned him the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival in 1938 (it’s better than the movie, a kitsch pouf).
Norma Shearer retires at just 40 years old. She suffered from Alzheimer’s and died of pneumonia on June 12, 1983 in Los Angeles. More or less forgotten, at least in his native Quebec. And if her name was Normande Charron, would we remember her better? I bet yes.