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Dorothy Revier; Early Film Femme Fatale

November 24, 1993|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dorothy Revier, a blond silent screen femme fatale whose soft voice allowed her to make the transition to talkies, starring opposite both Douglas Fairbanks and his namesake son, has died. She was 89.

Miss Revier, who lived in West Hollywood, died Friday at Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, film historian Richard Lamparski said Tuesday.

Born Doris Velegra in San Francisco, Miss Revier became a professional cabaret dancer by the age of 14. She was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout while performing at Tait's Cafe in San Francisco.

She hoped to dance in films but was instead cast in dramatic roles, most frequently as a femme fatale.

Miss Revier made her screen debut in 1922 in "The Broadway Madonna" and worked steadily, making more than a dozen films in 1924 alone.

Titles of her films indicate their melodramatic nature: "The Martyr Sex" in 1924, "The Fate of a Flirt" in 1925, "Stolen Pleasures" in 1927, "Leftover Ladies" in 1931 and "Sin's Payday" in 1932.

Many silent stars were forced to abandon their careers with the advent of sound, but Miss Revier made a successful debut in the talkie "The Donovan Affair," directed by Frank Capra, in 1929.

Unimpressed by her own acting ability, she nevertheless won critical acclaim for such roles as the villainess Milady DeWinter in the elder Fairbanks' "The Iron Mask" and was cast opposite other such popular leading men as Charles Farrell, George Bancroft, Joe E. Brown, Walter Huston, George O'Brien, Richard Cromwell, Ben Lyon and Buck Jones.

She became known as "The Queen of Poverty Row" because of her work for Columbia, then one of the low-budget studios located on Hollywood's Gower Street, and because of her affair with its head, Harry Cohn. The late cinematographer Joseph Walker recalled in his autobiography that Cohn offered him a plum assignment in 1927 filming "The Warning"--conditional on how his lens captured Miss Revier.

"Make her look good and you've got the job," Cohn told him. "But if she doesn't, you're out!"

Miss Revier ultimately walked out on Cohn, impatient over his delay in divorcing his wife.

Her beauty was rarely in question, and in her heyday she distributed a line of skin preparations through department stores.

After she left films in the late 1930s, Miss Revier led a quiet life--painting, writing poetry and avoiding public attention.

She was married and divorced two husbands, director Harry J. Revier, from whom she obtained her professional name, and commercial artist William Pelayo.

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