Florence LaBadie, lovingly nicknamed Fearless Flo, was born on April 27, 1888 to Marie Russ in New York. When she was three, her father died, and her mother was unable to take care of her, either because of mental instability or money, or both.
No matter the reason, in 1891, Florence was adopted by the well-to-do Joseph and Amanda LaBadie. She grew up in their home in Montreal, Canada.
She became a model, did some stage work, and quickly broke into film. First, she was with the Biograph company starting in 1909. In 1911, she moved to the Thanhouser company, where she largely kept the company afloat. She played in almost 200 films in all between companies.
The reason she was nicknamed Fearless Flo was that she seemed simply fearless! She was a daredevil and loved to drive cars, swim, and insisted on doing her own stunts.
At the point of this interview she was almost 25 years old, although many fan magazines would list her birth year as 1891. Her most well known work was still to be made, a serial called The Million Dollar Mystery.
In 1917, while driving in New York with her fiance Daniel Goodman, Florence LaBadie’s brakes failed which resulted in an accident. Her fiance’s leg was hurt, but she was thrown from the vehicle, and she sustained a fractured pelvis, among other injuries. After six weeks in the hospital, she died of blood poisoning at age 29 on Saturday October 13th, 1917. This was exactly 100 years ago today.
Let’s remember her by reading her Chats with the Players from Motion Picture Story Magazine, January 1913.
Chats with the Players
FLORENCE LABADIE, OF THE THANHOUSER COMPANY
It would be hard to find a prettier picture of ideal home life than is seen when one calls on Miss Florence LaBadie, who lives with her devoted father and mother in a beautiful apartment on West 124th Street. For this popular young actress belongs to that type so frequently met in our American life—the petted, idolized, only child, around whom the home and family revolve like satellites around a star. Some girls are spoiled by this state of affairs; but there are others who seem to develop a rare sweetness of mind and soul from the love and care that surround them. Miss LaBadie belongs to the latter class; meeting her, one feels at once that here is a girl whose character, tho broadened by education, travel and experience, is yet moulded and sweetened, kept simple and sincere, by the wholesome, home-loving life and training that has been her good fortune.
She is a slender, graceful girl, with a repose of manner that is seldom found. She does not gesticulate when she talks, as do so many of her profession. Her slim hands lie quietly in her lap, and her face, with its delicate, regular features is under perfect control. Miss LaBadie can express much emotion with face and gesture, but she also can, and does, control her expression. She has a mass of fine, soft, brown hair, that lights into a pure golden tint when the sun touches it. Her throat is beautifully curved; her eyes are a bluish-gray, large, and a bit dreamy.
And yet this bit of a girl with the demure, half shy manner is known as the girl who is afraid of nothing! She is an intrepid rider, a daring swimmer, venturing difficult dives and feats without an instant’s tremor. She has taken flights in the air and on the sea with equal fearlessness, and she greatly enjoyed motor cycling until a recent terrible accident to a friend, who was racing with her, spoiled her enjoyment of this sport. But last week her reputation for bravery and nonchalance suffered a terrible shock. She actually got frightened when doing a scene in the studio yard, screamed and jumped and protested like any ordinary, nervous girl. And it was not a ferocious wild animal that caused all these tremors—just the common, back-yard variety of goat!
“He kept putting his head down and looking at me,” she explained; “it was dreadful!”
Before Miss LaBadie began her work in the pictures, which was only two years ago, she was successful on the regular stage, playing for two seasons with Chauncey Olcott and then at the New Century Theater in “The Blue Bird.” Her first photoplay work was with the Biograph Company, where she played opposite Edwin August. From the Biograph she went to the Thanhouser Company, where she has played a great number and variety of parts.
“I like comedy parts best,” she said, “but I do much better work in sad ones—why is it we always want to do the thing we cant do?”
As I ventured no reply to this world-old question, she went on, graciously, but with no self-assertiveness nor apparent desire to advertise her success, telling me interesting details of her work at the Thanhouser studio, which is located in New Rochelle, the famous little town “Forty-five Minutes from Broadway.”
“It is all so interesting,” she declared, her eyes losing that faint touch of dreaminess as she became interested in her subject. “There is such variety to the plays, and I never know what I may be called upon to do next. Not long ago I had the lead in Miss Robinson Crusoe. They left me floating on a log, so far out that, tho I am a good swimmer, I really wondered if I’d ever get back to land. Recently I have played ‘Undine,’ which was a very interesting subject, and have also enjoyed my work in the ‘Merchant of Venice’ and ‘Lucille.’ Yes, I always go to see the pictures in which I have appeared, and silly as it may seem, I really have stage fright. I sit with my hands clenched and watch myself, seeing where I might have done better and longing to walk into the picture again and improve my acting.”
With this spirit, it is easy to understand Miss LaBadie’s progress in her work. There are few more popular actresses today.
She was born in New York and it has always been her home, tho she has traveled all over this country. Her education was in the public schools and in a convent, and she greatly prefers the former. She is very skillful with pen-and-ink sketches, and meant to be an artist, in her early years, until her talent for acting turned her thoughts from the artistic career. Before her stage work began she posed for many of Stanlaws’ finest pictures.
An omnivorous reader, she is familiar with the whole range of literature, but prefers the old masters of fiction, particularly Dickens, Thackeray and Bulwer-Lytton. She is fond of outdoor sports, liking best “the things that I can do alone,” as she expressed it, swimming, rowing and skating. She adores her two tiny white toy spaniel dogs, Beauty and Teddy, and I suspect that she still plays with her dolls! At any rate, I saw three elaborately dressed ones reposing upon a divan in her dainty dressing-room, looking just as if somebody loved them.
“I’m always scared when an interviewer is coming,” she confessed, when I finally rose to go, “but this hasn’t been bad at all; I shall be glad to have you come again. I think The Motion Picture Story Magazine is fine.”
By the way, the LaBadies pronounce their name thus: Labodee, with the accent on the first syllable; the “bod” is pronounced the same as in body.