Calabasas, CA

Gladys Brockwell: A Closer Look at the Tragic Life and Death of the Famed Silent Film Actress

Herbie J Pilato


On June 27, 1929, Gladys Brockwell and a friend, Los Angeles' advertising man Thomas Brennan, were involved in a horrific car accident near Calabasas, California. With Brennan at the wheel, Brockwell was crushed beneath the vehicle, which went over a 75-foot embankment on the Ventura Highway.

Brennan recovered after sustaining serious injuries, while a few particles of dust had blown into his eye, temporarily blinding him

Conversely, Brockwell was more seriously injured and received four blood transfusions to save her life, the last just prior to her demise. Following a second blood transfusion, she seemed to improve until peritonitis set in from her internal injuries, particularly a puncture of her large intestine. After two more transfusions, Brockwell died from significant injuries on July 2, 1929, at 7 p.m. at Osteopathic Hospital. No negligence was placed on Brennan, who was still recovering in the hospital.

A Closer Look

Smart and diverse, Gladys Brockwell was born to a struggling chorus girl Billie Brockwell in the 1890s. Onstage by the age of three, she made her film debut in The Rattlesnake, which was released in 1913. Brockwell later worked with the legendary D.W. Griffith, and by 1917, she was a regular fixture at Fox Studios, appearing exclusively in films for the studio. Her first leading role was in the movie, Lights of New York, which premiered in 1928.

Meanwhile, her personal life was littered with challenges. In 1918, Brockwell divorced her husband of three years, director Robert Broadwell, who apparently was not very social. For a short time, Gladys was also married to Harry Edwards, the former husband of Louise Glaum.


No matter the era, those who work in the entertainment industry, just as with any other industry, still have to contend with their share of tragedies.

[Note: Unless otherwise indicated, certain facts and information in this article were resourced from various entertainment news and media outlets including,,,,, and]

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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