Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer. Obituary.

LOS ANGELES — Oscar-winning actress Norma Shearer, acclaimed as the ‘Grand Lady of Hollywood’ during the movie industry’s golden age in the 1920s and 1930s, died Sunday of natural causes, it was announced Monday. She was about 80.

Miss Shearer, the widow of MGM boy wonder Irving Thalberg, died quietly at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital, spokeswoman Jean Ferris said.

The cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

The hospital said Miss Shearer was born, Aug. 15, 1902, making her 80, but several reference books listed other birthdates, putting her between 78 and 83.

Miss Shearer starred in dozens of period dramas and won an Academy Award as the best actress for 1929 in ‘The Divorcee.’ She went on to star in a succession of roles including ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’ and ‘Strange Interlude.’

Miss Shearer was a winsome Canadian girl with stardust in her blue eyes, a perfect profile and a willowy figure that brought a promise of stardom when she was only 16.

During her reign that began in the days of the silent movies she became, next to Mary Pickford, the wealthiest movie queen in the world.

Her father was a rich architect in Montreal who went broke after World War I. Miss Shearer, her mother and sister moved to New York and landed several minor screen roles.

Miss Shearer then got a role in a western thriller, ‘Channing of the Northwest.’ It was seen by a young Hollywood producer named Irving Thalberg.

Thalberg took one look at the films of the blonde-haired beauty and wired her to come to Hollywood. She ignored him but eventually when he offered her $150 a week to start filming — twice her New York salary – she caught the next train west.

Their meeting led to one of the most celebrated romances in the movie capitol. Thalberg worked tirelessly, guiding her career from minor roles to top stardom.

They were married in 1928 and a year later she captured the Oscar. Her box office acclaim continued with ‘Smilin’ Through ‘ ‘Trial of Mary Dugan,’ and many others.

Miss Shearer and Thalberg had two children, Katherine and Irving Jr.

On Sept. 14, 1936, Thalberg died suddenly and left her a widow. She didn’t make another movie for almost two years. Thalberg left her with holdings that amounted to $4.5 million of which half went for taxes.

In 1938 she went back to work in the lavish production of ‘Marie Antoinette’ followed by ‘Idiot’s Delight’ and ‘The Women.’ She then retired and for the next six years lived a secluded life with her two children.

They vacationed in the winter resort of Sun Valley, Idaho, and learned to ski from a dark-haired young instructor named Martin J. Arrouge, who looked amazingly like the late Thalberg.

Arrouge and Miss Shearer were married in 1942. He said he loved her and not her cash and could support his new family without any help then signed an agreement that he would seek no share of her holdings.

There were some feelings that the marriage would not last because Miss Shearer was 10 years older than Arrouge, but they lived happily ever afterward, into the 1980s. The couple traveled extensively, often to places which offered good skiing and lived for a while in Switzerland.

In later years they returned to Hollywood and lived very quietly, attending theaters occasionally but shunning publicity. In the fall of 1980 Miss Shearer’s health deteriorated and she was hardly able to speak following three strokes.

Miss Shearer is survived by Arrouge and her children.

Private funeral services were to be held at an undisclosed time.

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