A Laguna Beach Silent Film Star's Story Sounds a Lot Like "The Artist"

George Beranger lived and died, sadly and tragically, in 1973.

Was the George Valentin character in the film The Artist inspired by the life of George Beranger, a real-life silent star who lived and died in Laguna Beach?

I've been Googling this and can't find any solid connection, but there's another similarity besides the shared first name: both fictional and non-fictional Georges had difficulty adjusting to the move from silent films to talkies in the 1920s, and both considered sound in movies to be a passing fad. (Spoiler alert: it wasn't.)

Things turned out alright for Valentin, not so much for Beranger, who, during his silent success, built a house in Laguna Beach overlooking the ocean. But when talkies hit, his career spiraled downward and, as this story by Bryony Cosgrove in the Brisbane Times (that's in Australia) points out, Beranger lived out his final days as a Laguna Beach recluse after he had to sell his house and move into a cottage on the same unnamed block. (We don't know where in the city this house or cottage is—or was—but we'd sure like to, so email us at Patch if you do.)

Beranger died in Laguna Beach in 1973 at age 79, sadly and tragically. From the story:

Beranger was found in his shack, behind locked gates and high walls. He had been dead for several days before a postman noticed mail spilling from the letterbox and called the police.

Beranger's body was surrounded by press cuttings, photographs, films and costumes—mementoes of a career long gone and mostly forgotten. Much of it was packed into trunks and sent to his family in Australia. Perhaps, one day, Beranger's life story will become a film, and he will return to the screen.

Beranger was also gay, one of the first to settle Laguna Beach in the early part of the century when the young film industry exploded.


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