Edith Norma Shearer (August 11th note 1902 — June 12th 1983) was a Canadian-American actress that was a notable figure in the Silent Era and The Pre-Code Era of Hollywood.
Shearer grew up in Montreal and moved to New York with her family in 1920, starting her career as a model and making brief appearances in silent B-movies. She moved to Hollywood three years later after being offered a contract for MGM, named Louis B. Mayer Pictures at the time, and soon became one of the most popular and wanted actresses in Hollywood by 1925. (The fact that she was married to Irving Thalberg, the head of production at MGM, didn't hurt.). When sound films were becoming popular, Shearer was reluctant to end her silent film career, however, her appearance in The Trial of Mary Dugan in 1929 won over critics and audiences, who liked her Canadian accent.
In the time of pre-Hays Code, Shearer portrayed racy and scandalous women in films like The Divorcee and A Free Soul, which destroyed her "good girl" image that prior roles had type-casted her as. She was nominated for an Academy Award six times and won once in 1930 for Best Actress in The Divorcee. However, she appeared in biopics as historical figures, such as Marie Antoinette, feature in all-star ensembles like The Women in 1939, and appeared as Juliet in a 1936 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, and she was praised for her versatility.
She's also the reason the Academy Awards for acting are typically presented by the previous year's winner of the opposite gender; for the second and third years they were simply presented by the previous winner in the same category, but then Shearer won in 1929 and was then nominated again in 1930,note making clear the flaw of potentially putting the presenter in the embarrassing position of announcing themselves as the winner.
Shearer retired from Hollywood in 1942, and eventually fizzled out of its social spectrum by the 1960s. However, she had many bursts of popularity when her movies were aired on television in the 1950s and '70s. She died of pneumonia in 1983.
Norma Shearer on TV Tropes:
- He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
- Lady of the Night (1925)
- The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927)
- The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)
- The Divorcee (1930)
- A Free Soul (1931)
- Private Lives (1931)
- Smilin' Through (1932)
- Strange Interlude (1932)
- The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)
- Romeo and Juliet (1936) (WAY too old to play Juliet)
- Idiot's Delight (1939)
- The Women (1939)
Tropes that applied to her characters:
- Good Bad Girl: Once she turned to sound pictures, she was either this or was attracted to roguish men.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Shearer's height has been guessed as either five feet tall or 5'1". Regardless, every leading man (and other actresses in photos) towers over her, even when she's wearing heels.
- Ms. Fanservice: In the early 1930s, she became this, with her low-cut gowns and her flirty gazes. Her most well-known example was when she was flirting with an irritated Clark Gable in A Free Soul.
- Nice Girl: Often remembered for these characters more than the rest of her roles.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: Shearer had bright blue eyes (although, you can only tell their brightness by her photos — coloured photos of her are very hard to find). She assumed that they were one of the reasons why she got signed to film studios, which is impressive, since she was once dismissed for her slight lazy eye.