One hundred years ago this month, Grace Kingsley reported on another aspiring actress coming to Hollywood – but this one had a unique skill:
The latest athletic lady to enter the film players’ ranks is Mlle. Andrée Peyre, French aviatrix and stunt flier, who is practically a refugee from her own country because the Paris police compelled her to quit her dangerous exploits in the air, and who has arrived in Los Angeles to play an important role in the Ruth Roland serial, The Riddle of the Range, which will go into production at United studios April 3.
In addition to being an accomplished air pilot, Mlle. Peyre is an actress of considerable ability. Before she came to this country her screen engagements included six productions made at the Pathe studios at Vincennes, France. Her work before the camera, however, has so far been confined to purely dramatic efforts that did not include her abilities as a flier. The forthcoming serial will mark her debut as actress and aviatrix combined. She has been cast for the role of the heavy in the production and has been allotted a part that is intensely dramatic.
Mlle. Peyre is 22 years old and is a graduate of La Dame Blanche College in Paris, a fashionable private school for girls. Toward the end of the war, after three of her four brothers had been killed in action while serving with the French air forces, she took up flying with Capt. Poulet, the French ace, as her instructor. She is licensed as an air pilot in both France and this country. She was engaged for the serial by President Paul Brunet of Pathé, which company will release the production.
Some of that might have even been true! It was certainly part of what other newspapers mentioned when they wrote about her, when they called her “the most daring girl in the world.” Andrée Suzanne Elisabeth Peyre was born November 19, 1899 in Calviac, France. According to her October 1919 immigration papers, she’d been hired by the Fox Film Corporation as an actress and she was going to New York City. She didn’t appear in any cast lists then, but in 1921 newspapers started to write about her aerial stunts; in April she was over Paterson, New Jersey, doing things like climbing from the lower to the upper wing of a plane in flight (New York Tribune, April 17, 1921). In late 1921, she reportedly signed a contract to be in The Leather Pushers serial, however she’s not in the credits for it.
So the opportunity to come to Los Angeles was a big movie career advance for Peyre. She did get to play a villain named Judith in the re-named Ruth of the Range, a fifteen-part serial that debuted October 14, 1923-24. It’s a lost film in which Ruth Roland played a young woman who rescues her coal substitute inventor father from kidnappers.
It was Roland’s last serial for Pathé; she moved on to making feature films. Film Daily called it a “good, fast-moving serial” that “should easily satisfy a serial-loving audience. It has all the usual thrills, rescues and mysteries.” (“Short Subjects,” Film Daily, September 16, 1923).
Meanwhile, Peyre worked to keep her name in the paper and her career going. In March 1923 she distributed fliers from the air to help the Studio Club raise money for their building fund and in April 1923 she performed stunts at the dedication of Clover Field in Santa Monica. On May 27, 1923 she set a new women’s altitude record of 15,000 feet over Rogers Airport in Los Angeles,* breaking Amelia Earhart’s record of 14,000 feet.** She was in the air for one hour and ten minutes.
She hadn’t abandoned her screen ambitions; in June 1923 she had an interview with Tod Browning about being in his upcoming film The Day of Faith. The interview wasn’t a success: she’s not in the cast list. However, the newspaper reported that she was accompanied by her fiancé, Cyril Turner and that was much more sucessful.
Cyril Charles Teesdale Turner was first to use skywriting in advertising. He was baptized on November 25, 1897 in Haringey, England and he’d served in the Royal Flying Corps as an officer during the war. On November 28, 1922 Turner introduced sky advertising in New York City with the words “Hello USA” over City Hall Park. He worked for the Skywriting Corporation of America. In July 1923 the couple went to Seattle where he spent two weeks demonstrating skywriting with 12 performances. He got paid $1,000 per performance. In the first he wrote “Lucky Strike” for the American Tobacco Company.
They got married on September 22, 1923 in Los Angeles. They stayed in the United States for a while; in July 1924 she was performing stunts at Mitchel Field, on Long Island. However, by November 6, 1926 she gave her profession as housewife on a ship’s manifest and he was listed as an author. When he died in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England in September 1967 he was the chairman of the Irving Air Chute company, which designed and made parachutes. She stayed in Hitchin, where she died on July 20, 1994.
*Rogers Airport was at Wilshire and Fairfax – now it’s hard to imagine that as an open field!
** Peyre’s altitude record was broken by Bertha Horchem on July 5, 1923 when she reached 16,399 feet.
“Aviatrix May Become Motion Picture Star,” Los Angeles Times, June 22, 1923.
“Aviatrix Sets New Altitude Record,” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1923.
“Defies Death in Acrobatic Antics,” Bridgeport Times, May 2, 1921.
“Famous French Flier,” Evening Star (Washington D.C.), April 2, 1922.
“Fliers to Chat Over City Today,” Los Angeles Times, March 9, 1923.
“Kansas Aviatrix Breaks Women’s Altitude Record,” Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1923.
“Nation Accepts Airplane Field,” Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1923.
“New Ad-Type is Mile Long,” Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1922.
“Obituaries,” Xenia Daily Gazette, September 26, 1967.
“Skywriter is in Seattle,” Seattle Star, July 3, 1923.
Von Kettler, Wanda. “Skywriter to Scribble on Seattle’s Horizon,” Seattle Star, July 4, 1923.
“Which is More Daring?” Bismarck Tribune, September 19, 1921.