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Winnie Lightner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Winnie Lightner
Lightner in 1930
Winifred Josephine Reeves

(1899-09-17)September 17, 1899
DiedMarch 5, 1971(1971-03-05) (aged 71)
Resting placeSan Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, Los Angeles County California US[1]
Years active1922–1934
(m. 1934; died 1961)
ChildrenThomas Del Ruth

Winnie Lightner (born Winifred Josephine Reeves;[2] September 17, 1899 – March 5, 1971) was an American stage and motion picture actress.[3]

Perhaps best known as the man-hungry Mabel in Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), Lightner was often typecast as a wise-cracking gold-digger and was known for her talents as a comedian and singer. She is also noted for introducing the song "Singin' in the Bathtub" in the 1929 motion picture The Show of Shows.

Life and career

As a young vaudevillian, Lightner (left) partnered with the longtime vaudeville team of Theodora Lightner (from whom she took her stage surname) and Newton Alexander

Also known as Winifred Hansen (using the last name of her foster family),[2][4][5] she started off in vaudeville at age fifteen and adopting Winnie Lightner as her stage name, she was an immediate success and played the fabled Palace theater in New York City only three months after beginning her career.[citation needed]

With vaudeville in decline in the early 1920s, she switched to Broadway revues, where she starred in George White's Scandals of 1922, 1923, and 1924, in Gay Paree in 1925 and 1926, and in Harry Delmar's Revels in 1927.[6]

In 1928, she made a Vitaphone short in which she sang "We Love It", "Heaven Help a Sailor on a Night Like This", "That Brand New Model of Mine", and "We've Got a Lot to Learn". A censorship board in Pennsylvania held up the release of the film because of the content of Lightner's songs. According to film historian Alexander Walker, "Warners asked the censors to merely pass judgment on the visuals – the censors refused."[citation needed]

The musical Gold Diggers of Broadway was a 1929 triumph and made her a star. Warner Bros. quickly signed her up for additional films. The first of these was She Couldn't Say No (1930), in which Lightner was cast in a maudlin dramatic role that did not suit her talents. This was followed by Hold Everything, a lavish all-Technicolor musical comedy that was a huge hit. It was followed by another highly successful picture, The Life of the Party, which was also shot entirely in Technicolor but from which most of the songs were cut prior to release.

By the end of 1930, audiences had grown tired of musicals, while Lightner was in the process of shooting three of them: Sit Tight (1931), Gold Dust Gertie (1931), and Manhattan Parade (1932). They all were released with most of the music cut. This was especially noticeable on Manhattan Parade, in which even the background music was completely removed.

In response to the changes in public tastes, Warner Bros. decided to try another dramatic role for Lightner; the result was a picture called Side Show (1931) which proved to be unsuccessful. She appeared in two more comedies, in which she co-starred with Loretta Young – without songs – before she left Warner Bros. In the first of these, Play Girl (1932), she was billed with her name above the title, but in the second, She Had to Say Yes (1933), Young received first billing.


Lightner was the mother of multiple-Emmy-award-winning cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth and was married to film director Roy Del Ruth until his death in 1961.[7] She died in 1971, aged 71, and was interred in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery.[1]


Year Title Role Notes
1929 Gold Diggers of Broadway Mabel Incomplete film
The Show of Shows Performer in "Pingo Pongo" & "Singing in the Bathtub" Numbers
1930 She Coundn't Say No Winnie Harper Lost film
Hold Everything Toots Breen Lost film
The Life of the Party Flo Cut black-and-white print survives, full Technicolor version is lost
1931 Sit Tight Winnie Cut black-and-white print survives, full Technicolor version is lost
The Stolen Jools Winnie Short
Gold Dust Gertie Gertrude "Gertie" Dale Cut print survives, full version is lost
Side Show Pat Cut print survives, full version is lost
Manhattan Parade Doris Roberts Cut black-and-white print survives, full Technicolor version is lost
1932 Play Girl Georgine Hicks
1933 She Had to Say Yes Maizee
Dancing Lady Rosette LaRue
1934 I'll Fix It Elizabeth (final film role)

See also


  1. ^ a b Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries
  2. ^ a b "Film Celebrities Begin Honeymoon". Spokane Daily Chronicle. August 16, 1948. p. 12. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  3. ^ Winnie Lightner bio Retrieved July 1, 2015
  4. ^ Arnold Shaw (30 November 1989). The Jazz Age: Popular Music in the 1920s. Oxford University Press. pp. 236–. ISBN 978-0-19-536298-5.
  5. ^ Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 103.
  6. ^ Winnie Lightner at the Internet Broadway Database
  7. ^ "WINNIE LIGHTNER, 71, OF STAGE AND FILMS". The New York Times. March 6, 1971. Retrieved August 13, 2018.

Further reading

Lightner, David L. (2016) Winnie Lightner: Tomboy of the Talkies. University of Mississippi Press. ISBN 978-1496809834.

External links

This page was last edited on 3 March 2024, at 19:20
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