14 Sep 1936 In Hollywood

Some months ago, when Central Casting Bureau staged a style parade to cut down its “dress extra” list and retain only the most eligible candidates, few recognized one smartly dressed blonde who stepped across the stage with the others and won, by judges verdict, the right to a place on the list. One reason so few identified her was that Jean Acker, in the days when she was screen and stage star was a brunette. But mainly was because the first Mrs. Rudolph Valentino had been in retirement, living on her income, for several years. The other day Jean Acker got the first “break” she has had in her comeback career. A Greta Garbo set was crowded with extras, ready for a big ballet scene in “Camille”. Leader of the ballet was Adrienne Matzenauer, daughter of the Operatic Prima Donna and then the word spread that Adrienne was ill. Director, George Cukor, with delay threatening a cost of thousands looked around the set and his eyes fell on a box peopled by dress extras. One of them was Jean Acker. Within an hour or so she had been rushed to “wardrobe” had done a hasty rehearsal, and they were shooting the scene. Mr. Cukor was grand to me she says and my gang they were wonderful, applauding after I’d finished. “My gang” referred to the other extras. Miss Acker is proud to be “starting again at the bottom”. Once she drew $3500 a week on the stage, after leaving films, and her salary in pictures was substantial. She retired with some $300,000 and then came 1929. “I had enough to live very conservatively, for a while” she says, “and then I had to go to work”. I didn’t want to intrude on my friends, or bother them. I had some nice clothes, so I turned to extra work. I hoped that if I was around, I would be seen. That’s better than waiting for something big to happen. “And I am happy, I have a little house, a garden, a little car, and work. I’d like to get back into bigger parts I think I could be a cross between Joan Blondell and a Genevieve Tobin, playing sophisticated but not hard characters”. But even if I keep on as I am, I’ll still be happy. I’m philosophical about things now. She can talk about her own misfortunes brightly, but she does not like to talk about Valentino. They say she is the only woman who still goes regularly to visit his tomb in the Hollywood cemetery, but she does not speak of that either, except to say that she is Irish and sentimental. Once she refused an offer of $25,000 for a story on the late great lover. She could use the money now, she says, but there still has been no authorized Valentino story with her byline.


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