Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jeanne Iver: Elinor Glyn's "Find" from Akron, Ohio

Jeanne Iver aka Ruth MacTammany

A decade before Elinor Glyn declared Clara Bow the It Girl, she hand-picked another rising star to bring her original stories to the big screen.

When the tradepapers reported that Jeanne Iver (sometimes credited as Jeanne Ivers) had been selected to play the role of Opal in the Elinor Glyn-penned “One Day,” critics and fans were already expecting great things. Glyn herself, it was said, had discovered Iver in Paris, and had convinced her to join the film world. Glyn had even declared Iver to be “the ideal type” to play the character of Opal. Although the starlet was seemingly plucked from obscurity, she actually came to the production with stage and musical experience.

"One Day"
A Still from "One Day"

At the age of 5, she appeared on stage with the Akron Stock Co. in a production of “The Land of Make-Believe.” Although she could act, it was her soprano voice that caught the attention of the Boston Talking Machine Company, and she was offered a one-year contract. She then went abroad to Europe to study and tour before returning to the States and being selected to play Opal in early 1916.

The film was made and released through the BS Moss Motion Picture Corporation, and although she received favorable reviews for her performance, the name “Jeanne Iver” disappeared from the spotlight and the tradepapers following “One Day.” Variety reported that she had signed a 10-week contract to play Loew vaudeville houses in March 1916, but that was the last coverage Jeanne Iver received.

So, what happened? She reinvented herself, or, should I say, she returned to her roots.

"Alma, Where Do You LIve?"
A still from "Alma, Where Do You Live?"

The woman known professionally as Jeanne Iver was born Ruth MacTammany (sometimes written as McTamany) in Akron, Ohio on January 4, 1892. Just as “Jeanne Iver” had, MacTammany had studied voice culture abroad while also performing throughout Europe. Following “One Day,” however, she decided to drop the name “Jeanne Iver” and take more control over her career and her work. In April of 1916, she announced the formation of the Ruth MacTammany Motion Picture Corporation. The New York-based company touted MacTammany as the secretary and VP, while CJ Allenbaugh held the role of president and general manager. The first point of action for the company was to purchase the states rights of “One Day” for Ohio and Kentucky and then, they promised the trades, they would produce their own picture.

Despite those plans, the two other films that MacTammany made were not produced through her company (“The Girl From Rector’s” -- Mutual; “Alma, Where Do You Live?” -- Newfields). In fact, those films were not made and released until 1917, a year after the formation of her company. Her film and musical career slowed even more when the US entered the first World War. MacTammany found herself touring and studying in Italy when the US entered the war, and due to the poor timing, found herself arrested on more than one occasion on accusations of espionage. She ended up joining the war effort herself as an ambulance driver, and also wrote about her wartime experiences in a series of articles for Scripps-McRae newspapers in the US.

Jeanne Iver aka Ruth MacTammany

After the war ended, she returned to her first love and became involved in musical theater. The musical comedy “The Lady in Red” opened in April 1919 and she received great reviews, but once again, she disappeared from the spotlight. She married her second husband Alvin C. Rishel (her first marriage was to Frederick Lane in 1912), and spent the rest of her years as Ruth Rishel. She died on March 28, 1977 in Contra Costa, California.