December 9, 1898: Silent film actress Carol Dempster born in Duluth

Despite what she claimed, on this day in Duluth in 1898, silent film star Carol Dempster was born in Duluth to John and Carrie Dempster. (Dempster would often say she was born in 1900.) John Dempster held a variety of jobs in Duluth before packing up his family and moving them to California in 1904. When she was 17, Carol enrolled in the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts in Los Angeles. The next year legendary director D. W. Griffith hired a group from the Denishawn School, including Dempster, to perform as dancers in his film Intolerance. Griffith reportedly became very fond of Dempster and found roles for her in 19 movies from 1916 to 1926, hoping she could replace the star power of Lillian Gish. She began with small roles and by 1920 starred in The Love Flower. For the next six years she would play the female lead in one Griffith film a year, paired with leading men from John Barrymore to W. C. Fields. Her final film, The Sorrows of Satan, was released in 1926. Dempster died in 1991. Read David Ouse’s biography of Dempster here.

Carol Dempster and W. C. Fields in a scene from Sally of the Sawdust. (Image: Alt Film Guide)