Sunday Style Icon: Billie Dove

OK, so many may have never heard of the subject of my Sunday Style Icon today, however believe me when I say she is a style icon – anyone in love with the 1920s, Silent Movies or Marcel Waves, as I am, will love her (and as I used to share her surname, she will forever be a favourite of mine)

Billie Dove 1920s Marcel Waves & Pin Curls Hair

Dubbed The American Beauty, the title of one of her films, Billie Dove was renowned for her physical perfection that made her a world-wide symbol of glamour and romance in the silent era. Her sensitive mouth and large, expressive hazel eyes communicated emotion with an electricity that made her one of the most popular silent film actresses of the 1920s and 1930s. Her complexion so flawless that she was a natural choice for some of the earliest films in Technicolor.

Billie Dove 1920s Bridal Dress and Headdress

Billie Dove 1920s Marcel Waves

I love love love this picture of her in a Juliet Cap Veil typical of the 1920s, adorned with flowers…… it is truly beautiful!

Billie Dove 1920s Veil

1920s Glamorous Flapper Outfit

(Images Source All Star Pics)

Billie Dove was born Lillian Bohny in1903 in New York City. At the age of 15 she had her first taste of stardom when she was hired by no other than Broadway Impresario Florenz Ziegfeld to star in his famed Ziegfeld Follies.

1920s Flapper Billie Dove

1920s Ziegfeld Follies

1920s Wedding Dress and Juliet Cap Veil

Billie Bohny changed her name to Dove in the early 1920s when she moved to Hollywood and began to appear in Silent Movies. It was opposite Douglas Fairbanks in his classic silent adventure The Black Pirate that Billie skyrocketed to superstardom. At the peak of her fame in the late 1920s Billie ranked as among the most popular actresses in cinema – for a time, she surpassed Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo at the box-office.

Billie Dove 1920s

1920s Pearl Flapper

1930s Bias Cut Dress

As (it seems to me) with many glamorous Hollywood stars  Billie Dove struggled to find love and happiness despite her fame and fortune. At just 20 years of age she married Irvin Willat  – the producer of her 1922 film All the Brothers Were Valiant. Their marriage lasted just 6 years.

Admired and courted (I love that word – why did men stop courting?) by a legion of male fans, she famously dated American Play Boy, Film Producer and Aviator Howard Hughes. It was love at first sight for both of them after meeting on the Starlight dance floor of the Biltmore Hotel Hollywood. For over 3 years they were the most talked of couple in Hollywood – as it was rumoured Hughes paid off their respective spouses at the time, so they could be together and marry. She starred in a number of films produced by Hughes, including “The Age For Love”, in which she starred alongside the dashing (and very square jawed!) Charles Starrett.

Howard Hughes and Billie Dove’s relationship however did not last, ended for reasons never named by Billie. Her fame, also ended prematurely, as she retired from the screen at the height of her popularity in 1932 – not even to be tempted back by the offer of the part of Belle Watling in Gone With The Wind (by far my favourite film EVER!)

Billie Dove with 1920s Finger/Marcel Waves

It was after her career in Hollywood that Billie did finally find happiness, for a while at least, when she married rancher and real estate investor Bob Kenaston in 1933 – with whom she went on to have a son and they added to their family with an adopted daughter, only divorcing some 37 years later. After Kenaston, Billie had a third short-lived marriage.

Billie Dove Pin Curls & Marcel Waves

Sadly almost all of Billie Dove’s films were lost in a studio fire, however she  possessed a radiance and transcendent quality that today still sees her as a lasting legend, a serene survivor….. one of silent cinemas true goddesses! And a real style icon – my favourite of her glamorous dresses is this divine rose gown


(Image source Doctor Macro)

These elegant wedding dresses are modern versions of the romantic design……

Rose Wedding Dress Addison

Monique Lhuillier Rose Wedding Dress Addison

Addison from Monique Lhuillier

Rose Full Skirt Wedding Dress

Aire Barcelona Nuria

Or for a slightly more abstract rose design……

Rose Skirt Wedding Dress

Aire Barcelona Naipe

I hope now you love and admire Billie Dove as much as I do!




1 Comment

Filed under Style Icon

One response to “Sunday Style Icon: Billie Dove

  1. Pingback: Bille Dove – The American Beauty | Photographs, film, literature & qoutes from the bygone era

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