Valeska Suratt was an American stage and silent film actress who became very popular during the early 1900s. During her career she appeared in over 11 silent films, garnering fans across the whole country. Incredibly despite being so popular, there is no known footage still in existence of her acting. Because in 1937 the infamous Fox vault fire destroyed all the tapes.
Beginning her career in Chicago on stage, she soon found herself working with the successful performer Billy Gould – who she later married. By 1908 Suratt was a regular on Broadway, singing, and dancing while wearing glamorous costumes. In fact, over the years her name became synonymous with high fashion. She was known for wearing lavish gowns all around the world. At the time, if you were having a conversation about fashion then you would have to talk about Suratt.
One of her prized items was a Cinderella cloak which cost $11,000 – an amount that at the time would have been considered a small fortune. It got to the point where newspapers would call her the Empress of Fashion. Sadly, we can’t enjoy seeing these times due to all the footage of her films being burnt. In 1915, she signed a contract with Fox and that is when her film career really took off.
Suratt usually played roles of seductive and exotic characters in the films. In a movie called The Soul of Broadway, it is thought she wore over 150 different types of dresses. And each one apparently cost $25,000! During her career she was featured in eleven different films, which are now thought to all be lost.
Her career started to decline by 1920 when she fell out of favor with casting directors and also audiences. No longer was the public crazed about the femme fatale image. In the 1930s, she was found living in a cheap motel and was financially completely broke. She never was able to revive her career, and not much is known about her later years in life.