5 Things You May Not Know About Norma Shearer
1.) She was hatched from the icy north
Despite being one of classic Hollywood’s greatest stars, Shearer was born nowhere near Hollywood. In fact, she wasn’t even born in America. That’s right, one of Hollywood’s most celebrated stars was actually born in the land of maple syrup and hockey: Canada! Montreal to be exact. In 2008 she was even added to Canada’s Walk of Fame.
2.) Music was her first calling
Like most creative types, Shearer tried a couple of different art forms before realizing her calling. More specifically, her first childhood ambition was music. With a whole lot of direction from her mother, the young Shearer hoped to one day become a concert pianist. All that changed, however, when she saw her first vaudeville show and promptly fell in love with acting.
3.) Always had an eye for talent
Sure, everyone knows the story of how Shearer discovered Hollywood great, Janet Leigh, but did you know that she also helped to build the career of one of Hollywood’s greatest portrait photographers? In hopes of vamping up her image to get “sexier” roles, Shearer enlisted the help of then unknown LA-based photographer George Hurrell in the early 1930s. The picture above is just one of many great portraits that came from their sessions together — and before he knew what happened, Hurrell was basically the official photographer of the stars.
4.) Revived by scholars
Although now seen as a feminist icon, that was not always the case. In fact, by the time of her death Shearer was simply remembered for her more “noble and upper crust” roles thanks to Romeo and Juliet, Marie Antoinette and The Women. However, once the resurgence of pre-code films began hitting the market in the 1990’s, film scholars quickly took note of the complex sexuality she was able to exude on screen. Her ability to maintain a dignified front while bucking the notion that a woman must remain virginal to be respected, demonstrated a depth to her acting that one would miss if they only paid attention to her time spent in period costumes. Film scholars still examine her roles to this day, analyzing them through the ever-changing lens of modernity and feminism.
5.) She is Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month!
That’s right! You can see her films every Tuesday night in November on TCM. And if you are interested in seeing the pre-code films I was just talking about, pay particular attention to what’s airing on the 10th because that’s when most of her pre-code films are airing.
Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub