(CTN News) – In just five years, between 1913 and 1917, silent movie star Myrtle Gonzalez made eighty films, but her efforts are now forgotten. Gonzalez was born on September 28, 1891, into a family of Mexican descendants of Californios (settlers in California before the U.S. became a state, particularly Mexican and Spanish settlers) and Irish immigrants. Originally born in Los Angeles, CA, USA, the classic actress rose to fame in her native country.
Her early musical training led her to become a child soprano who sang in church choirs and theatres. It is believed that she performed throughout the city, according to scholar and author Rosa Linda Fregoso. Rosa Linda comments on this topic in her book, The Making of Social Identities on the Borderlands.
Enid Maitland was a role that she played in 1915, which made her a famous Spanish actress. The Vitagraph film “The Chalice of Courage” had a popular character called Enid, which attracted the audience’s attention. In addition to these films, she has also starred in:
- The Yellow Streak (1913)
- The Little Sheriff (1914)
- The Secret of the Swamp (1916)
- The Girl of Lost Lake (1917)
Although Gonzalez played various roles, including innocent heroines and scheming villains, her remarkable acting never made the audience feel like they were watching a film.
During the action scenes, she mostly displayed athleticism and performed stunts. During the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918, another big star and amazing actress was lost. Despite her short career, a Google Doodle celebrates her birthday as one of the most popular silent film actresses of her time.
Family and Early Life of Myrtle Gonzalez
The daughter of Manuel George Gonzalez and Lillian L. Cook, she grew up in Manuel George Gonzalez’s family. The child soprano’s parents were retail grocery store owners, and her mother was a former opera singer and popular singer in her day. Additionally, Myrtle had two siblings, Stella M. Gonzalez and Manuel G.
Gonzalez Jr., with whom she lived throughout her childhood. Her marriage to James Parks Jones in 1910 resulted in the birth of one son, James Parks Jones Jr. before they separated. During the summer of 1917, Myrtle married her lifelong love, Allen Watt, a filmmaker and actor.
Because Watt was an officer in the US Army, Myrtle left acting to follow him to Camp Lewis in Washington State. As a result of her health (heart ailment), she was too frail to handle the harsh climate, and she easily got caught up in it. Within a few months, Captain Watt also retired, and both moved to Southern California.
After his return to Universal, Watt began directing movies. As a couple, they remained together until 1918, when Myrtle Gonzalez passed away.
A detailed family tree of Myrtle Gonzalez can be found here:
- Father: Manuel George Gonzalez (1868–1919)
- Mother: Lillian L. Cook (1874–1932)
- Stella M. Gonzalez (1892–1965)
- Manuel G. Gonzalez Jr. (1898–?)
- James Parks Jones (circa 1910–circa 1915)
- Allen Watt (1917–1918)
- Children: James Parks Jones Jr. (c. 1911–1970)
The Education of Myrtle Gonzalez
Since there’s little information regarding the singer’s educational activities (which have been completely hidden until now), it’s not widely known about her. Although a soprano, she began her career singing in church choirs, performances, and concerts.
There is a possibility that she may have taken some vocal training or performing arts skills classes privately or in public schools. Fanny Davenport and Florence Stone, two well-known actresses of that period, also appeared on stage with Myrtle Gonzalez.
Her ability to produce 80 films and perform astonishingly suggests she had some acting training. It is possible that her academic and national awards were achieved due to the education she received. It prepared her for her career as an actress and singer, which she demonstrated magnificently in her films.
The career of Myrtle Gonzalez
A silent film actress who followed in her mother’s footsteps and possessed innate talent began her acting career in her teens. The fact that she appeared in local vaudeville shows and musical productions and made her film debut in 1913, “The Yellow Streak,” indicates her understanding of the entertainment industry.
In the wake of some successful silent films, her acting quickly gained popularity, leading her to become a regular performer at Vitagrapseveralg. As a character, Myrtle Gonzalez appeared in the Vitagraph film “The Chalice of Courage,” which turned out to be a major box office hit.
Despite the film stabilising her position as a leading lady in the industry and earning her critical acclaim, she could not prolong her golden career era for long because she passed away after 2 years. She was only 27 years old when she died, but she had accomplished a lot already as a young actress and prodigy.
Therefore, she is widely known in the industry and is considered the glory of the early 1910s: her beauty, talent, versatility, and film work continue to entice silent film fans to this day.
The Net Worth of Myrtle Gonzalez
Analysing Myrtle Gonzalez’s net worth is difficult due to the limited financial information from the silent film era. Despite this, based on information about her salary, popularity, and lifestyle, we can calculate her net worth. She might have earned around $500 per week at the peak of her career—a significant amount in the early 1910s.
Additionally, the actress received bonuses, royalties, endorsement deals, and other income sources from her films. As a result of her hefty earnings and rich heritage, Gonzalez owned multiple homes, cars, jewellery, and clothing and travelled extensively. At the time of her death in 1918, Myrtle Gonzalez probably had a net worth of $100,000 to $250,000 based on her income and expenses.
Currently, it will be around $1.5 million to $3.75 million, adjusted for inflation. She may have a different net worth from this estimate; it is only an estimation. In sum, Myrtle Gonzalez’s contributions to the film industry paved the way for later generations of Latina actresses, and the industry cherishes her as a pioneering singer and actress.