The grand Helene Millard perfected the art of being a distinguished featured player in ‘30s and ‘40s cinema. Portraying characters with names like Mrs. Vincent Cantillon, June Deering and Sylvia DeWitt, she was always memorable even when her screen time was uncredited and seemingly insignificant.
She is perhaps best known for backing up Norma Shearer in a number of her most famous films, including The Divorcee and The Women. It was in 1929’s Their Own Desire that she made the most impact, though. As the scheming Beth Chevers, she steals the heart of Lewis Stone’s Henry Marlett, causing much trauma for his ex-wife and daughter, played rambunctiously by Shearer.
Nicely, Millard is given scenes in the latter half of the film that show her character to have a modicum of heart and a significant conscience, making her a more full bodied presence than the usual femme fatale stereotype. While books like They Had Faces Then, a study of ‘30s actresses, and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Character Actors, have (practically or completely) ignored Millard’s contributions, it is amazing to think that 90 years after her performance here, that she is still gaining new fans and being recognized as a true force of celluloid nature.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!