Julie Cabanne

Daughter of the very prolific silent movie director, Christy Cabanne, Julie Cabanne was in the thick of Tinsel almost from the very beginning, and it seemed only natural that she wanted to become an actress. Sadly, her dad was relegated to low budget westerns by the time Julie’s time rolled along, and could not miraculously help his daughter get a career. Julie tried on her own merits, and gave up acting after a few valiant tries to raise a family.


Julia Gooden Cabanne was born on April 16, 1915, in Los Angeles, California to Christy Cabanne and Vivien Lyle Montrose. Her father was a Hollywood producer and director (more about him the private life section), and her mother was a vaudeville actress and costume designer. Christy’s family, the Cabannes, were an old and prominent St. Louis, Missouri, family. Julia was the middle of three daughters, her older sister was Vivien, born on October 22, 1913, and her younger sister was Virginia, was born on July 23, 1918.

As far as I can tell, Julie’s dad had an affair with silent actress Millicent Fisher while he was still married to Vivien. Millicent became pregnant and gave birth to Julie’s half brother, William, on July 18, 1920. Vivien found out and divorced Christy in March 1921. He married Millicent the moment he was free. Christy and Millicent had another child, a daughter, Audrey, born on March 11, 1923.

Julie and her siblings grew up in Los Angeles, adjacent to Hollywood, and Julie was involved with many showbiz personalities from early childhood. It was no surprise that she wanted to become an actress, but her mother forbade her any serious acting before she got her education done. Julie complied, and only after graduating from high school, enrolled into Fox Film Stock Players at Movietone City. There Julie and other hopefuls received expert coaching In the finer points of acting and also presented stage plays. This is how her career started.


Penny allegedly started her career in a Spanish language movie, Asegure a su mujer. It was made in the US, and, according to author Harry Waldman, this was the first Hollywood film adapted from a South American literary work. It’s a musical comedy with Conchita Montenegro in the leading role. Sadly it’s a forgotten movie today with no reviews, but let’s assume it has that ding that many of the early 30s musicals had.

Penny then became a proper chorus girl, and appeared in George White’s 1935 Scandals, as one reviewer wrote, “This buoyant Fox extravaganza turns out to be a fascinating backstage recreation of a Broadway revue and the process of putting on a lavish show, enriched by some tuneful and highly uproarious numbers.” Yep, you know the drill – story almost non existent, character thin but pretty looking, and plenty of dancing, singing and the alike. Enjoy in some Alice Faye, Eleanor Powell, Lyda Roberti and Arline Judge magic!

Next up, more of the same with Song and Dance Man, adaptation of a George Cohan play, with Claire Trevor playing the leading role. Claire’s character has a dance partner who liked to drink and gamble too much, but then she catapults to the stars with the help of another man, and drama ensures. There are plenty of really good character actors here (Paul Kelly, Ruth Donnelly, Michael Whalen, Margaret Dumont), but sadly the movie seems to be completely forgotten today.

And here we come to the much profiled Girls’ Dormitory, , an insipid drama-romance about a (gasp) girls dormitory, with Simone Simon in the lead. Tyrone Power was a secondary male character, so the movie is notable today if nothing else that as one of Tyrone’s earliest forays into the seventh art. As most movies featuring young, nubile girls, the film aims to shock but of course is more boring than anything. But one of the reasons to watch it is Herbert Marshall! Oh man! He was the epitome of class and charm back then and love him anytime he appears in any movie.

Then, Julie appeared in a Sonja Henie movie. I never tried to hide the fact that I dislike Sonja Henie movies. Sonja, while very cute with her round face and quite a capable skater, was, IMHO, quite  a talent-less actress and mostly made extremely simplistic movies without  a hint of intelligence. Thus, anything I say about One in a Million won’t sound kind, so I’ll just skip it. Tons of other chorus girls appeared in the movie, so I’l sure we will be seeing it elsewhere.

Julie’s last movie was In Old Chicago, and this one wasn’t too shabby. A typical old school movie of quality, it boasts a very effective love triangle in the form of Tyrone Power, Alice Faye and Don Ameche, and an intriguing story based of the great San Francisco fire of 1871. Pair that with good production values and sturdy film making, and we have a winner!

That was it from Julie!


Julie came from a showbiz family, and a Hollywood connected showbiz family at that. Julie’s dad Christy Cabanne was a vaudeville artists from St. Louis who jumped into the movie business when pictures were just getting under way and became close director with D. W. Griffith. He has been making pictures ever since but Julie is the first one of the old St. Louis family to act in movies. Cabanne was allegedly not a good director, simply a competent one, and his career skidded by the advent of sound. He was mostly doing low budget westerns and was far from the A class by the mid 1930s. Julie was mostly on her own from then on, as Christy probably pulled some string but could not do much more.

Julie was a very good looking girl, so much that a journalist harped on about her beauty in his column when she came to Hollywood:

Julie Cabanne, is rather tall, of deep brunette coloring with straight black hair which she wears parted smoothly over the ears and knotted low upon the neck. She had a serene but earnest air until, catching glimpse of friends and relatives around her, at last she did smile. Then deep dimples showed in her cheeks and her face became radiant.

Here is a beauty hint that Julie gave to her readers:

Massage will do much to enhance the beauty of your hair. Massage the nerve center Just In front of the ear with an outward rotary motion until a tingling sensation Is noticeable. A firm massage with the finger lips at the nape of the neck stimulates circulation and. relieves tenseness.

Also, publicity gimmicks! To raise her profile, various snippets were inserted into papers across the US. Example:

This was voted as the best answer to any question. Chorine Julie Cabanne is responsible for it. Question: What is your pet aversion? Answer: People who crackle cellophane wrappers in picture shows. 

What I also assume was a publicity gimmick was the fact that the papers claimed that Julie spoke fluent Chinese. Allegedly, Julie spent two years in China where she learned the language. I somehow highly doubt this, but hey, it’s not like I can completely rule that out so it theoretically could be possible.

However, the all the gimmicks did nothing for her career, and in 1936 Julie decided to stop and take a hard, long look at her current situation. She was young, true, but going nowhere. She decided to get more tutoring before making a return to the movie world. She went on studying voice and dramatics for two years, until 1938. That year, she had planned to re-launched her career at Universal with a role in “The Rage of Paris,” Danielle Darrieux’s first American picture with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Sadly, she made only one movie before dropping her career altogether.

But at least her romantic life was sedate and steady. Julie met another “younger generation of a illustrations family” club member, Carlyle Blackwell Jr, while they were making a movie together. They married in 1939. Here are the details of their marriage:

With the marriage tomorrow of Miss Julie Cabanne and Carlyle Blackwell Jr., two of Hollywood’s pioneer film families, will be united. The bride-to-be is the daughter of Christy Cabanne, early day director, while Blackwell is the son of the former picture star. The ceremony is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the Hollywood Congregational Church with Rev. James Lash officiating. Leo Carrillo will be best man and Miss Marian Weldon maid of honor. It was five years ago that the young couple met. while appearing in a picture together. She is 23 and he is 25. Miss Cabanne completed a picture at 20th Century-Fox yesterday so they will be able to leave immediately after the wedding on a motor honeymoon to San Francisco and Yosemite

Carlyle Blackwell Jr. was born on May 22, 1913 in Glendale, California, to Carlyle Blackwell and Ruth Hartman. His older sister Carol was born in 1912. His father was a famous actor, who made his debut with Vitagraph in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1910) and quiet popular as a romantic lead, progressing from one- and two-reelers to feature films by 1914. He was hugely popular, and in 1921 went on a European tour and opted to remain in England for the remainder of the decade, which turned out to be a good career move. He played a myriad of roles in the British silents, including Sherlock Holmes and Bulldog Drummond. He retained his popularity until the arrival of sound, which abruptly ended his career. He divorced Ruth in 1923, when he was already living in London, and she and the children returned to the US.

Carlyle grew up in Los Angeles, and began his career on the stage in stock companies. His father arranged him a meeting with Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille liked what he saw, and pulled further string for Carlyle to begin a career in the film industry. His first role was in DeMille’s “This Day and Age” (1933). Never achieving a matinee idol status, Carlyle nonetheless became a respected supporting actor appearing in over 45 features. He was already a seasoned player by the time he met Julie during a movie shoot.

Julie gave up on her career to focus on her growing family. Her son, Garrett, was born on November 7, 1941, and her daughter, Pamela Ann, was born on May 5, 1944. The family lived happily in Los Angeles. Carlyle gave up acting in 1947, and opened his own portrait studio where he worked as a photographer. Since Carlyle had plenty of experience as a model from his early days, the work came easily to him. The Blackwells were active donators to charity and often attended the local Episcopal church.

Julie never remarried, and lived the rest of her life quietly in California. Sadly, her son Garrett died in 2008.

Julia Blackwell died on November 6, 2010, in Los Angeles, California.

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