Anita Page, who co-starred in "The Broadway Melody," the 1929 film that was the first talking movie to win the best-picture Academy Award, died Saturday at her home in Van Nuys, according to Randal Malone, an actor and longtime friend. She was 98.
One of the last known living attendees of the first Academy Awards ceremony, Page co-starred with some of the giants of film — including Lon Chaney, Ramon Novarro, Buster Keaton and Joan Crawford — at the height of her career.
Her performances in "Telling the World," "Our Dancing Daughters," one of three films she appeared in with Crawford, and "While the City Sleeps" with Chaney, made her a star in 1928. By the late 1920s, the petite, blond actress was reportedly receiving 10,000 fan letters a week. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was said to be a regular correspondent.
Page was born Anita Pomares in Flushing, N.Y., on Aug. 4, 1910. She went to Washington Irving High School in New York and started as an extra in movies at the Paramount Studio in Astoria. According to a biography on her website, she began in films with a small role in the 1925 silent film "A Kiss for Cinderella." A year later, she had another small role in "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em." She was offered a contract with MGM, and Page, still a teenager, moved to Los Angeles. Her mother acted as her secretary, and her father was her chauffeur.
"Telling the World" (1928) was her first MGM film, and her next two, "Navy Blues" (1929) and "The Flying Fleet" (1929), starred the popular Novarro.
Her career highlights include acting as Clark Gable's first love interest in "The Easiest Way" (1931) and appearing with Keaton in two of his early sound films, "Free and Easy" (1930) and "Sidewalks of New York" (1931).
When her contract with MGM was up in 1933, she decided that she had had enough of the film life and turned to marriage. She wed composer Nacio Herb Brown, who wrote songs for "The Broadway Melody," but that brief union ended in annulment. In 1936, she married Hershel House, a Naval aviator who became an admiral. The couple moved to Coronado, where she was a vibrant hostess.
The couple had two daughters. House died in 1991, and Page returned to Hollywood and did some screen work for fun. Her last appearances came in low-budget horror films.
She is survived by her daughter Sandra.