Florence M.L. La Badie (born possibly April 27, 1888 - October 13, 1917) was the daughter of Joseph E. La Badie and his wife Amanda from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. However, it has been said that she was born in New York City and adopted by the La Badie family. While there is much evidence of her growing up in Montreal, in an alleged sworn deposition, a New York woman named Marie C. Russ claimed to be Florence’s biological mother and referred to a Russ family burial plot in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. However, this supposed legal deposition was dated five days before Florence’s death.
Florence’s father was a successful Montreal lawyer and her upper-middle-class parents sent her to a Catholic convent school to learn the ways of a "proper" young lady. She studied art, painting, sculpture, and learned to play the piano and to sing. Florence also wrote poetry in her spare time. In addition to these intellectual pursuits, she was also a very good athlete.
Completing her studies, Florence La Badie was offered work as a model in New York City. Once there, in early 1908 she obtained a small part in a stage play. Following this, she signed to tour with one of the road companies and for the next two years appeared on stage in various places in the eastern part of the United States. During this period she met a fellow Canadian, the young actress Mary Pickford, who in 1909 invited Florence to watch the making of a motion picture at the Biograph studio in Manhattan. Given an impromptu bit part, Florence was invited back to Biograph’s studios to participate in another film later that year. She would go on to make more films under the renowned D.W. Griffith until 1911 when the Thanhouser Film Corporation hired her. With her sophistication and beauty, Florence La Badie soon became Thanhouser Film’s most prominent actress, appearing in dozens of films including her most remembered effort in the 1914 - 1915 serial, The Million Dollar Mystery. Athletic and daring, in these films she performed all her own stunts.
When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, Canada immediately joined the war and as a result, several of Florence La Badie’s young male friends and relatives back home in Montreal were immediately shipped overseas. She had a great many movie fans in Canada and according to one New York Newspaper, in 1915 a young soldier fighting in the trenches at the Front in Northern France wrote to her, sending dozens of photographs that graphically depicted the horrors of the war. Deeply affected, Florence La Badie became a vigorous advocate for peace, traveling the United States with a stereopticon slide show of the soldier’s photographs, warning about the terrible dangers of going to war.
At the height of her motion picture success, on August 28, 1917, while driving near Ossining, New York in the company of her co-worker Daniel Goodman, the brakes on Florence La Badie’s car failed and the vehicle plunged down a hill overturning at the bottom. While Daniel Goodman escaped basically unharmed, Ms. La Badie was thrown from the vehicle and suffered serious injuries. Hospitalized, she clung to life for more than two weeks and seemed to be getting better when she suddenly passed away from what was described as an infection.
With her passing, Florence La Badie became the first female motion picture personality to die and the movie-going public mourned her passing. After a large funeral, she was interred in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. Obituary notices stated that she was survived by her mother, Amanda La Badie, with no mention of her ever having been adopted as would have been customary at the time.
Following her death, a mechanical inspection of her motor vehicle revealed that the brakes had been tampered with. Despite this, no formal investigation was ever undertaken to find the facts of her accident and death. Certain of Ms. Labadie’s close friends cautiously alluded to her having been involved in an intimate relationship with Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States. However, in those days, any such scandal was covered up before it could be found out and Thanhouser Film Corporation had already announced that their star was engaged to Daniel Goodman, the man who survived the accident. Allegedly pregnant as a result of her liaison with the President, the truth died with Florence La Badie.
During her shortened career, Ms. La Badie appeared in many films, some of which are:
Getting Even - (1909)
In the Window Recess - (1909)
Enoch Arden - (1910)
Bobby, the Coward - (1910)
Paradise Lost - (1911)
Cinderella - (1911)
The Merchant of Venice - (1912)
Undine - (1913)
The Million Dollar Mystery - (1914-1915 serial)
The Adventures of Florence - (1915)
The Country Girl - (1915)
Monsieur Lecoq - (1915)
The Fear of Poverty - (1915)
The Return of Draw Egan - (1916)
Ward of the King - (1916)
Divorce and the Daughter - (1917)
War and the Woman (1917)