Helen Gardner (September 2, 1884-November 20, 1968) was an American film actress, writer, editor, producer and costume designer.

An alumna of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Gardner began her acting career as a stage actress. She became a Vitagraph Studios player in 1911 and earned critical acclaim for Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair.[1] In 1912, she became the first film-actor, male or female, to form her own production company,[2] the Helen Gardner Picture Players in Tappan, New York with capital provided by her mother.[1] Hiring her lover Charles L. Gaskill as a director and scenarist, she produced eleven feature films before closing her studio in 1914.[2] In 1915, she returned to Vitagraph briefly but retired shortly afterwards, returning to the cinema for occasional small roles.

She was known for her portrayals of strong female characters. Her first production was Cleopatra (1912) which was one of the first American full-length films, playing for many years in the US and abroad.[3] She was considered the screen's first vamp and predated Theda Bara, Valeska Suratt and Louise Glaum in roles of this type.[4]


File:Charles L Gaskill 001.jpg

Gardner married socially prominent businessman Duncan Clarkson Pell, Sr., on 16 October 1902, in West Haven, Connecticut. [5] They had one child. He died in 1964.[6] In 1905 his divorce from his first wife, Anna Ogden Pell, was granted.[7][8]

Some sources state that Gardner married, as her second husband, Charles Gaskill, the director of many of her films, but Gardner's granddaughter and biographer, Dorin Gardner Schumacher, states that this is incorrect. Gardner never divorced Duncan C. Pell.[2][3]


  • Vanity Fair (1911) (short)
  • Cleopatra (1912)
  • A Sister to Carmen (1913)
  • A Princess of Bagdad (1913)
  • Fleur-de-Lys (1914)
  • Pieces of Silver: A Story of Hearts and Souls (1914)
  • The Strange Story of Sylvia Gray (1914)
  • The Sleep of Cyma Roget (1920)
  • Sandra (1924)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Robert Grau (1914) The Theatre of Science
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Letter from Dorin Schumacher to the New York Times (June 27, 1999)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Helen Gardner website
  4. Information about Helen Gardner and Cleopatra at Turner Classic Movies and
  5. "Marriage Announcement: Gardner-Pell", The New York Times, 26 October 1902
  6. "What's Doing in Society?", The New York Times, 26 January 1904
  7. "Divorce for Mrs. Pell", The New York Times, 5 February 1905
  8. "Pell's Divorce Upset", The New York Times, 1 December 1904

External links

it:Helen Gardner
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