Lina Basquette was an American actress noted as much for her more than 75 years in entertainment beginning in the silent film era, as her tumultuous personal life and nine marriages.
She was born Lena Copeland Baskette to shop owner Frank Baskette and Gladys Rosenberg in San Mateo, California. After the death of her father and subsequent marriage of her mother to dance director Ernest Belcher, she and half-sister Marge Champion got an early start in dance and entertaining. She danced in the Ziegfeld Follies in New York City, and secured her first film contract at the age of nine in 1916 with Universal Studios for the silent film series, Lena Baskette Featurettes.
In 1923, Ziegfeld Follies producers officially dubbed her “America’s Prima Ballerina.” Basquette was named one of thirteen WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1928 and the following year made The Younger Generation with Frank Capra.
In 1929, she also made The Godless Girl with Cecil B. DeMille, arguably the role for which she was best remembered, for she named her 1990 autobiography Lina: DeMille’s Godless Girl. In this film, made at the transition from the silent era to the talkies, she played the title character. Judith is based on Queen Silver, a child prodigy and socialist orator The character, leader of a high school atheist society, forces members to renounce The Bible while placing a hand on the head of a live monkey. In the climactic scene, DeMille insisted on realism in filming a last shot of the reformatory going up in flames.