Norma Shearer - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Norma Shearer

Canadian-born Norma Shearer (1902-1983) used her sheer determination and charm to overcome the fact that she didn’t fit the Hollywood ideal of beauty to become one of the leading ladies at MGM in the 1930s. Before that, she emerged from a riches-to-rags childhood with fearless courage to pursue her acting dreams, even when faced with years of bit parts, small ads, and being called a dog by Florenz Ziegfeld after she met him for a role in his Ziegfeld Follies. Shearer finally got a ticket to Hollywood in 1923 when her role in a B movie caught Louis B. Mayer’s attention and landed her a contract. In two years, she went from being a contract player to one of MGM’s biggest stars, often playing the role of a spunky, sexually liberated ingenue. Shearer was the first American actress to make it socially acceptable to portray a single girl who was not a virgin on screen.

Exceptionally savvy with her career, Shearer was tireless in her work commitment: she practiced her best angles in front of the mirror, worked with an eye doctor to uncross her eyes, and trained her voice for two years to get it ready for the talkies. And it was ready—her first talkie was a huge success and set the bar for actresses who followed. She was one of the few actors who transitioned seamlessly from silent films to talkies. Shearer took boudoir photos to convince her studio VP husband that she could be cast as the sensual lead in The Divorcee, a role that led to her first Oscar win. When the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code (a guideline of industry moral standards that were enforced by the Motion Picture Association of America) came into effect, she evolved again, becoming a serious actress who took on heavy-hitting roles in period dramas. Over the course of her twenty-three-year career, she was nominated for eight Oscars.

Played the wild and free single girl