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Barbara Kent, 1907 – 2011

One of the last survivors of the silent era, she performed with Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo and Harold Lloyd.

From Farran Nehme comes word of the passing of Barbara Kent at the age of 103. Farran's "seen only two pictures starring Barbara Kent," one being "the 1933 shoestring Oliver Twist, with Kent as Rose. The other is Flesh and the Devil, in which Kent had the unenviable task of the being the forsaken lover to Garbo's lascivious temptress. Still, it's the silent Flesh and the Devil that left a far stronger impression. Sound seemed to diminish this diminutive actress, as it did so many others. In pantomime, her tiny body made her even sweeter and more fragile, and it added poignance to her hurt over John Gilbert's betrayal…. The Siren always knew she would most likely live to see every silent-film artist depart the planet before she did. But the Siren still wishes she'd gotten the chance to tell Kent, or any of the other artists that Kevin Brownlow has spent a lifetime celebrating, that she's sorry about all the years when so few people were even trying to preserve their legacy."

Kent "made the transition to talkies in the Harold Lloyd comedies Welcome Danger and Feet First," notes the Los Angeles Times. "In the early 30s, she appeared in Night Ride with Edward G Robinson, Indiscreet with Gloria Swanson and Freighters of Destiny with western star Tom Keene before her contract ran out."

"'I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,' she told Michael G Ankerich in an interview for The Sound of Silence, his 1998 book about Hollywood in the transition from silent to sound pictures. But, she added, 'being an actress was not it.'… After she had left acting behind, Ms Kent rarely consented to interviews for the rest of her life, or even acknowledged that she had ever had a film career."

Update, 10/21: "She appeared in the last great silent American film, Lonesome (1928), Paul Fejos's masterpiece of urban poetry," notes Ronald Bergan in the Guardian. "Kent played Mary, a switchboard operator, who meets Jim (Glenn Tryon), a factory worker, in Coney Island. They spend the day together, fall in love, and then lose each other in the crowd. The simple tale of 'little people' is raised by the sincerity of the performances and by the director's expressive use of location, camera movement and montage."

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