Dorothy Davenport’s family was well known in the theater. Her grandfather Edward Loomis Davenport was a famous 19th century character actor and the patriarch of the family; his daughter and Dorothy’s aunt, Fanny Davenport, was considered one of the great actresses of the time. Her father, Harry Davenport, was a Broadway star. With her background on the stage, she was in her early teens when she started playing bit parts in the fledgling film industry. By the time she was 17, she was a star at Universal. Davenport was a horsewoman of distinction, and did many of her own stunts in films. While with Universal, she would meet a young actor (and assistant director-gopher-scenariowriter) named Wallace Reid. The two soon became involved in a relationship. They married on October 13, 1913. Dorothy Davenport and Reid continued to work together as he directed and starred with her in two films per week for the next year. When Wallace left Universal, Dorothy also left films, only to return in 1916 to appear in a small number of movies. While filming on location in Oregon for The Valley of the Giants (1919), Wallace Reid was injured in a train wreck. As a remedy for the pain from this injury, studio doctors administered large doses of morphine to Reid to which he became addicted. Reid’s health slowly grew worse over the next few years, and he died of the addiction in 1923. After Reid’s death, Dorothy Davenport and Thomas Ince co-produced the film Human Wreckage (1923) with James Kirkwood, Sr., Bessie Love and Lucille Ricksen, a film that dealt with the dangers of narcotics addiction.
Davenport took Human Wreckage on a roadshow engagement, followed up with another “social conscience” picture about excessive mother-love called Broken Laws in 1924, again billed as “Mrs. Wallace Reid” to capitalize on her husband’s notorious death. She then produced The Red Kimona (1925) about white slavery. On screen she opens the film in ‘silent’ narration or prologue. The details of the latter film were so realistic that Davenport was successfully sued. She would later direct Linda (1929), Sucker Money (1933), Road to Ruin (1934), and The Woman Condemned (1934) and worked as a producer, writer, and dialogue director. Among her last credits are co-author of the screenplay for Footsteps in the Fog (1955), and as dialogue director for The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) with Ginger Rogers. She and husband Wallace Reid had two children. She was married to him until his death on January 18, 1923. She never remarried. Dorothy Davenport died at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in 1977 in Woodland Hills, California. She is interred with her husband in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.
- March, 13, 1895
- Boston, Massachusetts
- October, 12, 1977
- Los Angeles, California
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
- Glendale, California