Norma Shearer Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (42)  | Personal Quotes (5)  | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

Born in Montréal, Québec, Canada
Died in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (pneumonia)
Birth NameEdith Norma Shearer
Nicknames The First Lady Of MGM
Queen Norma
Height 5' 1" (1.55 m)

Mini Bio (1)

She won a beauty contest at age fourteen. In 1920 her mother, Edith Shearer, took Norma and her sister Athole Shearer (Mrs. Howard Hawks) to New York. Ziegfeld rejected her for his "Follies," but she got work as an extra in several movies. She spent much money on eye doctor's services trying to correct her cross-eyed stare caused by a muscle weakness. Irving Thalberg had seen her early acting efforts and, when he joined Louis B. Mayer in 1923, gave her a five year contract. He thought she should retire after their marriage, but she wanted bigger parts. In 1927, she insisted on firing the director Viktor Tourjansky because he was unsure of her cross-eyed stare. Her first talkie was in The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929); four movies later, she won an Oscar in The Divorcee (1930). She intentionally cut down film exposure during the 1930s, relying on major roles in Thalberg's prestige projects: The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) and Romeo and Juliet (1936) (her fifth Oscar nomination). Thalberg died of a second heart attack in September, 1936, at age 37. Norma wanted to retire, but MGM more-or-less forced her into a six-picture contract. David O. Selznick offered her the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), but public objection to her cross-eyed stare killed the deal. She starred in The Women (1939), turned down the starring role in Mrs. Miniver (1942), and retired in 1942. Later that year she married Sun Valley ski instructor Martin Arrouge, eleven years younger than she (he waived community property rights). From then on, she shunned the limelight; she was in very poor health the last decade of her life.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (2)

Martin Arrouge (23 August 1942 - 12 June 1983) ( her death)
Irving Thalberg (29 September 1927 - 14 September 1936) ( his death) ( 2 children)

Trivia (42)

Sister of Athole Shearer and twelve time Academy Award winning sound director Douglas Shearer
Daughter of Edith Shearer.
Even after retirement, Norma maintained her interest in the film industry. While staying at a ski lodge, she noticed a photo of the receptionist's daughter and recommended her to MGM - that girl, became the star known as Janet Leigh. She also discovered a handsome young businessman beside a swimming pool - now actor/producer Robert Evans.
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Benediction, alongside her first husband Irving Thalberg.
Sister-in-law of John Ward.
Sister-in-law of Howard Hawks.
Former mother-in-law of Richard Anderson.
At the height of her career, she was earning $6,000 per week.
F. Scott Fitzgerald based one of his most famous stories, "Crazy Sunday," on a party hosted by Shearer, who also inspired the story's main character, Stella Calman.
Six years after the death of first husband Irving Thalberg, she married a ski instructor 11 years her junior and retired from the screen forever.
Turned down the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) and the title role in Mrs. Miniver (1942).
Her son died in 1988 of cancer. He was a philosophy professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Her daughter died in 2006 of cancer. A vegan, she headed the Society for Animal Rights in Aspen, Colorado, from 1989.
Was meticulous about her appearance. Early in her career, she spent money she could barely afford on the services on an eye doctor, who trained her to strengthen a weak eye. She swam everyday, had massages to firm her figure, and dieted religiously. She experimented with make-up until she decided on a light tone that would illuminate her face on screen.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 726-728. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
She is one of the celebrities whose picture Anne Frank placed on the wall of her bedroom in the "Secret Annex" while in hiding during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam.
She and her brother Douglas Shearer were the first Oscar-winning brother and sister.
In 1927, she insisted on firing the director Viktor Tourjansky because he was unsure of her cross-eyed stare.
She would not remove her wedding ring for a role, preferring to cover it up with flesh-colored tape.
She is commemorated on one of a set of postage stamps (issued in 2008) honoring prominent Canadians in Hollywood. The other stamps feature Marie Dressler, Chief Dan George and Raymond Burr.
Her sons-in-law were skier Jack Reddish, actor Richard Anderson, and Aspen mayor Bill Stirling.
She has three granddaughters from her daughter: Ashley (b. circa 1962), Brooke (b. circa 1964), and Deva (b. circa 1966).
Was offered the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd. (1950), but she turned it down. Gloria Swanson, who went on to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance, was cast instead.
Said to have been a major influence on the life of Eva Perón after Peron saw her in the role of Marie Antoinette.
She converted to Judaism in 1927 in order to marry Irving Thalberg. Even after he died, she continued to observe Judaism until her own death in 1983.
Was a staunch conservative Republican who was active in the presidential campaign of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Became a naturalized United States citizen in 1931.
Was the 3rd actress to receive an Academy Award; she won the Best Actress Oscar for The Divorcee (1930) at The 3rd Academy Awards on November 5, 1930.
She is the only actress to portray Juliet [Romeo and Juliet (1936)] and Marie Antoinette [Marie Antoinette (1938)] on screen and receive Academy Award nominations [Best Actress] for both performances.
Was the 2nd of 3 consecutive Canadian actresses to win the Best Actress Oscar. The others were Mary Pickford and Marie Dressler.
Norma Shearer was considered by her peers as the Queen of MGM Studios.
Gave birth to her 1st child at age 28, a son Irving Thalberg Jr on August 24, 1930. Child's father was her 1st husband, Irving Thalberg.
Gave birth to her 2nd child at age 32, a daughter Katherine Thalberg on June 14, 1935. Child's father was her 1st husband, Irving Thalberg.
Is one of 9 actresses who have received an Academy Award nomination for portraying a real-life queen. The others in chronological order are Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter (1968), Geneviève Bujold for Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), Vanessa Redgrave for Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Janet Suzman for Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Helen Mirren for The Madness of King George (1994) and The Queen (2006), Judi Dench for Mrs Brown (1997) and Shakespeare in Love (1998), Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), and Helena Bonham Carter for The King's Speech (2010).
The busy Shearer made eight films in 1924.
Regarding Shearer's marriage to studio boss Irving Thalberg, Joan Crawford allegedly said, "Sure Norma gets all the good parts. She sleeps with the boss...".
Appeared with mother Edith Shearer in "A Clouded Name" in 1924.
After Shearer and husband Irving Thalberg played host to author F. Scott Fitzgerald at their Santa Monica beach house, it became fictionalized in the author's book "Crazy Sunday" and the unfinished "The Last Tycoon.".
Starred in five Oscar Best Picture nominees: The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929), The Divorcee (1930), Smilin' Through (1932), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) and Romeo and Juliet (1936). She was nominated for Best Actress in three of these: The Divorcee (which she won), The Barretts of Wimpole Street and Romeo and Juliet.
Was the earliest actor of any gender to earn three, four, five and six Oscar nominations for her acting performances.
Never appeared in a Best Picture Oscar winner.
While doing research in the 20th Century-Fox archives for her biography of Natalie Wood, author Suzanne Finstead discovered that Norma Shearer was one of the early casting ideas for the role of Lucy Muir in "The ghost and Mrs. Muir" (1947). Had she played the part, it would have marked Miss Shearer's return to the screen after a five year hiatus. (As things stood, Miss Shearer's last film was 1942's "Her cardboard lover.").

Personal Quotes (5)

Scarlett O'Hara is going to be a thankless and difficult role. The part I'd like to play is Rhett Butler.
I get whatever placidity I have from my father. But my mother taught me how to take it on the chin.
It is impossible to get anything made or accomplished without stepping on some toes; enemies are inevitable when one is a doer.
The morals of yesterday are no more. They are as dead as the day they were lived. Economic independence has put woman on exactly the same footing as man.
Never let them see you in public after you've turned 35. You're finished if you do!

Salary (3)

Marie Antoinette (1938) $150,000
The Women (1939) $150,000
Escape (1940) $150,000

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