Thursday, June 3, 2010

Silent Film Star Monte Blue

I lived in Hollywood through most of the 1980's. While I was in LA for a conference last week, I visited my old neighborhood. One of the things I most wanted to see again was my Uncle Monte Blue's (1887-1963) star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He married Betty Jean Munson, my father's oldest sister in 1959. My parents said I was introduced to him while I was a baby, although I don't remember. I took a few cell snaps of his star at 6286 Hollywood Blvd (Hollywood & Vine), where he was enshrined on February 8, 1960.

1920's era postcard found at Paradise Leased.
Uncle Monte had an all American rags-to-riches story.  Half French, half Cherokee, his birthname was Gerard Montgomery Bluefeather.  Born in Indianapolis, he was placed in an orphanage as a child, yet he persevered, making it through Purdue University and excelling at all sports and physical activities. According to a story in the Blue Book of the Screen (1923), Blue was discovered by director D.W. Griffith while working as a day labor on the set of The Birth of a Nation (1915). Griffith observed him one day, up on a soapbox giving a heated speech about capital and labor.  Later, when another actor playing the part of a stump speaker wasn't sufficiently inspiring, Griffith remembered Blue and gave him a chance.  He continued on in supporting roles until his breakthrough role as the hero Danton in Griffith's French Revolution era epic Orphans of the Storm (1921) opposite the Gish sisters, Lillian and Dorothy. He was the romantic lead in a long string of silent films through the 1920's.  He successfully made the transition into "talkies" and continued to work as a character actor for film and television. One of his best remembered roles was as the sheriff in Key Largo, the 1948 film noir film directed by John Huston starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall and Lionel Barrymore. He retired from acting in 1954. He suffered a fatal heart attack while visiting Wisconsin on business in 1963 (Filmography).

My Aunt Betty Munson Blue, his widow, taught oil painting, and owned an art school in Beverly Hills on Wilshire near Doheny, a block from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences building at 8949 Wilshire. She relocated to Florida in her later years.

I have recently discovered that the house he lived in on N. Roxbury in Beverly Hills was sold to George Gershwin, who lived there for a year, during which he composed Rhapsody in Blue. It was later sold to the singer Rosemary Clooney, she kept it for 50 years and was demolished. Story/photos at this link

Wiki | Golden Silents | Walk of Fame | Silent Gents Photo Gallery | imbd profile


  1. What a great post about an unknown (to me) star. Good job. I enjoyed learning about him.

  2. Today I did research on Monte Blue and his wife Betty. My mom took art lessons from Betty Blue when she retired in Seminole, Florida. My mom didn't take up painting until she retired at age 55 and went to Florida for the winters. She died last year at age 89. I recently found her painting notes from her classes with Betty. My mom's painting are a complete joy to me and quite good! She always spoke so highly of Betty and felt honored to have been able to paint with her.

  3. A wonderful thing about Betty that is not mentioned here is that when she was in Seminole, FL she taught painting to able-bodied people through the week and taught people with disabilities (FREE) on the weekends. Some miraculous things happened for those people because of their artwork. My son took painting instruction from Betty when she lived in Seminole, FL. beginning at age 12. He was a teacher's pet being so young. She taught him so much about color "science" and his paintings were amazing because he had good drawing skills that he practiced every day. He ended up going to Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota and was employed as a comic book colorist using photoshop. Many Spiderman, Batman, Superman and other popular comic books. Now, after all these years, he still makes a living as a freelance graphic artist and lives in Beverly Hills, CA. Thank you for this information. I am going to forward it to my son. It will bring back find memories I am sure.

  4. It's great to hear this story about my aunt. I lived in California and took classes at her school in Beverly Hills. We became estranged in the 80's, and I never knew much about her life in Florida.