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Lyon in I Cover the Waterfront (1933)
|Born||February 6, 1901|
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||March 22, 1979 (aged 78)|
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
(m. 1930; died 1971)
|Awards||Hollywood Walk of Fame|
Early life and career
Lyon was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Alvine W. (Wiseberg) and Ben Lyon, a travelling salesman. His family was Jewish. Lyon entered films in 1918 after a successful appearance on Broadway opposite Jeanne Eagels. He attracted attention in the highly successful film Flaming Youth (1923) and steadily developed into a leading man. He was successfully paired with some of the leading actresses of the silent era, including Pola Negri, Gloria Swanson, Colleen Moore, Barbara La Marr, Viola Dana, Anna Q. Nilsson, Mary Astor and Blanche Sweet. In 1925, a writer for Photoplay wrote of him, "Girls, Ben Lyon looks harmless but we have reliable information that he's irresistible, so watch your step. Besides he's a mighty fine actor and if the ladies must fall in love with him he can't help it."
He had success as an actor in the 1930 film Hell's Angels. The film was a major success and brought Jean Harlow to prominence, but Lyon's performance as a heroic World War I aviator was also highly regarded. For the next decade he was constantly in demand, but his popularity began to wane by the early 1940s. By the mid 1940s he was working for 20th Century-Fox. On July 17, 1946, he met a young aspiring actress named Norma Jeane Dougherty. After his first meeting with her, he stated that she was "Jean Harlow all over again!" He organized a color screen test for the actress, renamed her, and finally signed her as Marilyn Monroe to her first studio contract.
During World War II, when the United States was still neutral, Lyon and his wife, actress Bebe Daniels, settled in London. The couple, along with the comedian Vic Oliver, starred in the radio series Hi, Gang!, which ran from 1940 to 1949. Hi Gang was succeeded in 1950 by Life with the Lyons, which also featured their real-life son Richard and daughter Barbara, and spawned a couple of theatrical films as well as a television series on BBC and independent television from 1954 until 1960. Bebe Daniels had top billing in these series, similar to the concurrent American show starring married couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Lyon married actress Bebe Daniels in June 1930. They had two children, daughter Barbara in 1932 and a son, Richard, whom they adopted from a London orphanage. In an issue of the contemporary magazine Radio Pictorial, Bebe explained how she saw Richard peering through the railings and instantly thought "A brother for Barbara". Daniels suffered a severe stroke in 1963 and withdrew from public life. She suffered a second stroke in late 1970. She died at the couple's London home in March 1971.
On March 22, 1979, Lyon and his second wife, Marian Nixon, were vacationing together on the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship near Honolulu, Hawaii, when Lyon suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 78 years old. His body was cremated and is interred in the Chapel Columbarium at Hollywood Forever Cemetery next to his first wife, Bebe Daniels.
A biography, Bebe and Ben, was written by Jill Allgood, a personal friend who worked with them at the BBC.
- The Transgressor (1918)
- Open Your Eyes (1919) - Harold Connors
- The Heart of Maryland (1921) - Bob Telfair
- The Custard Cup (1923) - Dick Chase
- Potash and Perlmutter (1923) - Boris Andrieff
- Flaming Youth (1923) - Monty Standish
- Painted People (1924) - Don Lane
- The White Moth (1924) - Douglas Morley
- Wine of Youth (1924) - Lynn Talbot
- Lily of the Dust (1924) - Lt. Prell
- Wages of Virtue (1924) - Marvin
- So Big (1924) - Dirk DeJong
- One Way Street (1925) - Bobby Austin
- The Necessary Evil (1925) - Frank Jerome
- Winds of Chance (1925) - Pierce Phillips
- The Pace That Thrills (1925) - Danny Wade
- The New Commandment (1925) - Billy Morrow
- Bluebeard's Seven Wives (1925) - John Hart / Don Juan Hartez
- The Reckless Lady (1926) - Ralph Hilliwe
- The Savage (1926) - Danny Terry
- The Great Deception (1926) - Cyril Mansfield
- Prince of Tempters (1926) - Francis
- The Perfect Sap (1927) - Herbert Alden
- High Hat (1927) - Jerry
- The Tender Hour (1927) - Wally McKenzie
- Dance Magic (1927) - Leach Norcutt
- For the Love of Mike (1927) - Mike
- Dancing Vienna (1927) - Jonny Conzaga
- The Air Legion (1929) - Dave
- West of the Rockies (1929) - Mathew
- The Quitter (1929) - Neal Abbott
- The Flying Marine (1929) - Steve Moran
- Lummox (1930) - Rollo Farley
- Alias French Gertie (1930) - Jimmy Hartigan
- Hell's Angels (1930) - Monte Rutledge
- What Men Want (1930) - Kendall James
- A Soldier's Plaything (1930) - Georgie
- The Hot Heiress (1931) - 'Hap' Harrigan
- Misbehaving Ladies (1931) - Phil Hunter
- Indiscreet (1931) - Tony Blake
- Aloha (1931) - Jimmy Bradford
- My Past (1931) - Robert 'Bob' Byrne
- Night Nurse (1931) - Mortie
- Bought! (1931) - Nick Amory
- Her Majesty, Love (1931) - Fred von Wellingen
- Compromised (1931) - Sidney Brock
- Lady with a Past (1932) - Guy Bryson
- The Big Timer (1932) - Cooky Bradford
- Week Ends Only (1932) - Jack Williams
- By Whose Hand? (1932) - Jimmy
- The Crooked Circle (1932) - Brand Osborne
- Hat Check Girl (1932) - Buster Collins
- Girl Missing (1933) - Henry Gibson
- I Cover the Waterfront (1933) - H. Joseph 'Joe' Miller
- The Women in His Life (1933) - Roger McKane
- I Spy (1934) - Wally Sawyer
- Crimson Romance (1934) - Bob Wilson
- Lightning Strikes Twice (1934) - Steven 'Steve' Brewster
- Together We Live (1935) - Max
- Navy Wife (1935) - Dr. Peter Milford
- When We Look Back (1935) - Glenn Burton
- Dancing Feet (1936) - Peyton Wells
- Down to the Sea (1936) - Steve Londos
- Treachery on the High Seas (1936) - Johnny Hammond
- Stardust (1938) - Roy Harley
- I Killed the Count (1939) - Bernard Froy
- Confidential Lady (1939) - Jim Brent
- Hi Gang! (1941) - Her Other Half
- This Was Paris (1942) - Butch, Sydney Chronicle Reporter
- The Dark Tower (1943) - Phil Danton
- Life with the Lyons (1954) - Himself
- The Lyons in Paris (1955) - Ben (final film role)
- Allgood, Jill (1975). Bebe and Ben. Robert Hale & Co. ISBN 0-709-14942-5.
- Daniels, Bebe; Lyons, Ben (1953). Life with the Lyons, the Autobiography of Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon. Odhams Press. ASIN B0000CIGNZ.
- Slide, Anthony (2010). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. University Press of Kentucky. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-813-13745-2.
- William D. Rubinstein, Michael Jolles, Hilary L. Rubinstein, The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History, Palgrave Macmillan (2011), p. 626
- "Ben Lyon". Photoplay. New York: Photoplay Publishing Company. January 1925. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
- Donnelley, Paul (2003). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Music Sales Group. p. 487. ISBN 0-711-99512-5.
- The New York Times Biographical Service, Volume 10. New York Times & Arno Press. 1979. p. 344.
- Donnelley 2003 p.191
- Golden, Eve (2000). Golden Images: 41 Essays on Silent Film Stars. McFarland. p. 21. ISBN 0-786-48354-7.
- D'Agostino, Annette M. (2004). The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia. McFarland. p. 75. ISBN 0-786-41514-2.
- "Hollywood Star Walk". latimes.com. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
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