She was a multi-talented dynamo who packed a lot of living into her 88-plus years. Leah Baird, without question, lived her life her way.
She was born on June 20, 1883, in Chicago, Illinois. On stage from her early teens (with the Morton Snow Stock Company, in Troy, NY), Baird appeared with Douglas Fairbanks on Broadway in “The Gentleman from Mississippi” (from 1908-1910) before entering films with the Vitagraph company in New York. Her film debut, most likely (but, perhaps, never to be definitively known), was Wooing Winifred (1911).
She was in the employ of many of the most important early film companies, including Vitagraph, Universal-Imp, Pathe, Artcraft, Associated Exhibitors, Warner Bros., and United Artists. She appeared in some noteworthy films, including Adam and Eve (1912), Ivanhoe (1913, as Rebecca), Absinthe (1914, opposite the first publicized leading man in America, King Baggot), Neptune’s Daughter (1914, the film depiction of the life of famed swimmer Annette Kellermann), Wolves of Kultur (an important 1918 serial), and Cynthia of the Minute (1920). She took to scenario writing in 1922, and wrote many of the films in which she starred in the 1920s.
Her specialty laid in the domestic melodrama – she wrote excellent stories for this kind of film, and used her expressive face and, in particular, her hands, to bring these scenarios to life on the screen. She was aided by an industry marriage: on November 25, 1914, she wed producer Arthur F. Beck, and he guided many of her dramatic cinematic triumphs. After an absence of almost 15 years from the screen, Baird returned to acting in 1941, rounding out her career in small roles, yet continued screenwriting, most notably a credit in the Academy Award winner Mildred Pierce (1945).
Leah Baird, stage and film actress, scenarist, and producer, died on October 3, 1971, in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 88. She will forever be remembered, not only for her legendary association with some of the pioneers of the acting trade, but for her ability to branch out her talents, and make each of her chosen hats fit, perfectly. Hers is a continuing example for us all.