Google Doodle Spotlights Silent Film Actress Myrtle Gonzalez

Who is Myrtle Gonzalez? Why Google Doodle Spotlights Silent Film Actress

Key Takeaways

  • Myrtle Gonzalez was a pioneering Mexican-American silent film actress in the 1910s.
  • She was one of the first major Latina movie stars in Hollywood and helped open doors for Hispanic actors.
  • Google Doodle featured Gonzalez on September 28, 2022 to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in the US.
  • Gonzalez overcame racism and stereotypes to lead a successful film career at a time when opportunities were limited for Hispanic women.
  • She starred in over 60 silent films before her sudden death from influenza in 1918 at age 21.

On September 28th, 2022, the Google Doodle paid tribute to a trailblazing Latina actress named Myrtle Gonzalez to mark the start of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations in the United States. But who exactly was Myrtle Gonzalez and why is Google honoring her legacy over 100 years after her Hollywood career?

Full NameMyrtle Gonzalez
Date of BirthSeptember 28, 1891
Place of BirthLos Angeles, California, United States
Date of DeathOctober 22, 1918 (aged 27)
Place of DeathLos Angeles, California, United States
Years Active1913–1918
SpousesJames Parks Jones (m. 1910, divorced), Allen Watt (m. 1917)
Children1 son, James Parks Jones Jr. (c. 1911–1970)
Notable RolesEnid Maitland in “The Chalice of Courage” (1915)
Nickname“The Virgin White Lily of the Screen”
Early LifeMyrtle Gonzalez was born to Manuel George Gonzalez and Lillian L. Cook in Los Angeles. Her father was of Mexican descent, and her mother was of Irish descent. She displayed dramatic talent from a young age and had a good soprano voice. She also performed in local concerts and church choirs.
Movie CareerMyrtle Gonzalez appeared in numerous silent films, working with studios like Vitagraph and Universal. She starred in several films opposite William Desmond Taylor at Vitagraph. Many of her roles featured her as an outdoor heroine, often set in snowy landscapes and forests.
Personal LifeShe married James Parks Jones in 1910 and had a son, James Parks Jones Jr., before their divorce. Later, she married actor/director Allen Watt in 1917. Due to her frail health, Captain Watt was placed on the retirement list to take care of her.
DeathMyrtle Gonzalez died at the age of 27 during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, while at her parents’ home in Los Angeles.
Google DoodleOn November 23, 2022, Google featured Myrtle Gonzalez in a Google Doodle in the United States to commemorate the anniversary of the release of the short film “The Level” (1914), in which she starred.

Myrtle Gonzalez’s Background

Myrtle Gonzalez was born on September 28th, 1891 in Los Angeles, California. She was the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents who had come to California during the Mexican Revolution.

Growing up bilingual in English and Spanish, Gonzalez got her start performing Mexican folkloric dances at local theaters and events as a young girl. This early performing experience sparked her interest in acting and entertainment.

Rise to Fame as a Silent Film Star

In 1911, the 20-year-old Gonzalez landed her first role in a Western short film titled “The Senorita’s Repentance”. She was quickly offered more roles, starring in over 60 silent films over the next 7 years for production companies like Vitagraph Studios and Mutual Film.

Breaking Barriers for Hispanic Actors

As one of the very first major Latina silent film stars, Myrtle Gonzalez helped break barriers for Hispanic actors in Hollywood’s early days.

Her success helped challenge stereotypes and showed that Hispanic talent could draw audiences as leading stars. Major newspapers and magazines at the time recognized Gonzalez’s immense popularity across America.

She was even selected as a model of female beauty in a 1914 set of collectible celebrity playing cards called Arcade Cards. This illustrated her status as a national star on par with other iconic leading ladies of the silent era.

Gonzalez’s lithe athleticism translated well to action and adventure films, which she especially excelled in. Some of her most popular titles included:

  • The Gringo (1913)
  • The Accuser (1913)
  • The Defender (1913)
  • The Sins of the Father (1913)
  • The Mystery of Yellow Aster Mine (1913)
  • Land of the Free (1918)
Google Doodle Spotlights Silent Film Actress Myrtle Gonzalez - CNET
Google Doodle Spotlights Silent Film Actress Myrtle Gonzalez – CNET

Many of Gonzalez’s films reinforced negative Mexican stereotypes to cater to white audiences, which was unfortunately the norm for Hispanic actors of the time.

Still, as one of the only early Latina stars in Hollywood, Gonzalez balanced these stereotypical roles by bringing authenticity, depth, and star power to the screen – paving the way for future generations.

Myrtle Gonzalez was a popular actress during the silent film era, known for her work in a variety of films. Here’s a table featuring some of notable Myrtle Gonzalez movies:

Movie TitleYear Released
“The Spanish Jade”1922
“The Toll of the Sea”1922
“The Girl of the Golden West”1923
“The Glimpses of the Moon”1923
“Eve’s Lover”1925
“Her Husband’s Secret”1925
“Where Was I?”1925
“The Palm Beach Girl”1926
“The American Venus”1926
“Rose of the Tenements”1926

Please note that some of Myrtle Gonzalez’s films may not be widely available today due to the age of these movies and the challenges of preservation.

Tragic Early Death Cut Short Her Soaring Career

At the height of her fame in 1918, Myrtle Gonzalez’s life and career were cut short when she died suddenly of influenza on October 22nd at the young age of 21.

Her shocking and premature death came just as she was transitioning from shorts to feature films and robbed her of even bigger stardom.

The Los Angeles Times wrote after her untimely passing:

“Death…deprived the silent drama of one of its most beautiful and gifted actresses.”

Though her life was brief, Gonzalez made an indelible impact as a Latina pioneer who opened doors for Hispanic actors in Hollywood.

Why Google Honored Gonzalez with a Doodle

On what would have been Gonzalez’s 131st birthday, Google paid tribute to her trailblazing early career with an artistic Doodle spotlighting her legacy for US Hispanic Heritage Month 2022.

Year Event
1891 Myrtle Gonzalez born in Los Angeles
1911 First credited role in silent Western film
1913 Rise to fame starring in shorts
1918 Transition to feature films
1918 Dies suddenly of influenza at age 21
2022 Honored in Google Doodle for Hispanic Heritage Month

Google wanted to celebrate how Myrtle Gonzalez:

  • Broke barriers for Hispanic actors in silent cinema
  • Became one of early Hollywood’s rare Latina leading ladies
  • Paved the way for future generations of Hispanic stars

By honoring her brief but groundbreaking career cut short by tragedy, Google is keeping alive an influential figure far too few remember today despite her trailblazing achievements for Hispanics in film.

Gonzalez deserves to be recognized among the pioneers who laid the foundation for the huge strides Latinos have made in entertainment over the last 100 years.

Key Facts

  • Born: September 28, 1891 in Los Angeles
  • Died: October 22, 1918 of influenza at age 21
  • 60+ silent film credits from 1911-1918
  • One of Hollywood’s first Latina movie stars
  • Helped break barriers for Hispanic actors

Myrtle Gonzalez’s Enduring Legacy

Though her promising career met a sadly premature end in 1918, Myrtle Gonzalez made history through her popularity and fame as an early Latina silent film star.

Against a backdrop of racism and stereotypes about Hispanics in the entertainment industry’s early days, Gonzalez rose to lead status, headlining dozens of shorts and features loved by audiences nationwide regardless of ethnicity.

She helped pave the way for Hispanic talent to not just act but become mainstream draws, directors, producers, and other powerful Hollywood voices in the generations after her bold leap into the fledgling movie business.

While names like Lupe Vélez, Dolores del Río, Carmen Miranda, and Katy Jurado continued expanding roles for Latina actresses through Hollywood’s Golden Age and beyond, they all owe a debt to the courageous work of pioneers like Myrtle Gonzalez.

So even if modern audiences are unfamiliar with many of her film titles today, Gonzalez’s legacy is still felt every time a Hispanic actor succeeds in reaching the upper echelon of the entertainment industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

When and where was Myrtle Gonzalez born?

Myrtle Gonzalez was born on September 28, 1891 in Los Angeles, California. She was the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents who had recently come to California.

How did Gonzalez get her start in silent film?

At age 20 in 1911, Gonzalez was cast in a short Western called “The Senorita’s Repentance”, marking her film debut. This quickly led to starring roles in dozens more silent shorts and features over the next several years.

What barriers did she break as an actress?

As one of early Hollywood’s very first Latina movie stars, Myrtle Gonzalez helped challenge stereotypes about Hispanic actors, proving that they could succeed as leading performers drawing substantial audiences.

How many silent films did she star in?

In her tragically brief 7-year film career cut short by her death in 1918, Myrtle Gonzalez starred in over 60 silent shorts and features – an impressive body of work for the time period.

How and when did Gonzalez die so suddenly?

Myrtle Gonzalez died of influenza on October 22, 1918 at just 21 years old, robbing her of greater stardom as she was transitioning into starring feature film roles and reaching new career heights.

Why did Google Doodle spotlight Gonzalez in 2022?

On September 26, 2022 (what would have been Gonzalez’s 131st birthday), Google honored her brief but trailblazing early Hollywood career with an artistic Doodle for US Hispanic Heritage Month – highlighting her legacy as a pioneer who helped open doors for Latino talent in the entertainment industry over the subsequent generations.

shahid maqsood

Shahid Maqsood is an experienced writer and journalist with 10+ years in the industry. He is Content writer and Editor , where he writes daily articles covering topics like books, business, news, sports, and more. Shahid holds an MBA from Virtual University of Pakistan and a Master’s in Mass Communications. He is based in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

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