Silent film star, almost exclusively with Universal, a beauty contest runner-up invited to Hollywood by studio boss Carl Laemmle (the winner, Gertrude Olmstead, also enjoyed success in film). After two years in Hollywood Philbin played in her first important film, Erich von Stroheim's lavish "Merry-Go-Round" (1923), opposite Norman Kerry, with whom she would act in five films. Philbin's best-known role remains that of aspiring opera singer Christine Daae, tutored and beloved by the frightful "Phantom of the Opera" (1925), with Lon Chaney in the title role. She later gave a touching performance as the blind heroine who becomes enamored of another disfigured protagonist (Conrad Veidt) in Paul Leni's stunning adaptation of Victor Hugo's "The Man Who Laughs" (1928).
Although Philbin essayed the title role of "Stella Maris" (1926) in the remake of the 1918 Mary Pickford showcase, and worked with such important directors as William Beaudine, Frank Borzage, E.A. Dupont and D.W. Griffith, her career ran out of steam at the end of the silent era. Her standard ingenue role in her first all-talkie, "The Shannons of Broadway" (1929), was rather small, and after making a plodding low-budgeter, "After the Fog" (1930), she retired from the screen.
Cast (Feature Film)
Was the runner-up in a beauty contest at age 16; attracted the attention of Universal Pictures head Carl Laemmle (the winner, Gertrude Olmstead, also enjoyed success as a leading lady in Hollywood) (date approximate)
Film debut, "The Blazing Trail"
First leading role, "Danger Ahead"
First of five films opposite Norman Kerry, "Merry-Go-Round", directed by Erich von Stroheim; became established in leading roles
Last film opposite Kerry, E.A. Dupont's "Love Me and the World Is Mine"
Last silent film, "The Last Performance"
Played the leading role in the "5% talkie", "Girl Overboard"
First all-talking film, "The Shannons of Broadway"
Contract with Universal not renewed
Last film, "After the Fog"