“Endowed by nature with a pretty face and form, an uncommonly magnetic personality and a pleasing soprano voice, Flora Zabelle, one of the most attractive of Philadelphia's smart set..." - San Francisco Call, 1902
Who she was
Flora Zabelle (nee Mangasarian) was a Broadway actress and one of the first stars of American silent film.
Born Flora Mangasarian, she took the stage name Flora Zabelle. Her family had fled Constantinople (now Istanbul) as a result of the pre-Genocide Hamidian massacres in the Ottoman Empire. She attended Wellesley College and decided upon an acting career. After establishing herself on Broadway as a stage performer, she married famed actor Raymond Hitchcock. They appeared in several silent films together and although some of the movies remain, others have been lost.
Zabelle had several bizarre and unfortunate experiences in her personal life. Upon being accused of some crimes (which were later proved to have been fabricated), her husband disappeared for several days, Zabelle believing that he was kidnapped and possibly killed by Armenian revolutionaries. In another case, her father returned to Constantinople on a supposedly secret mission and was arrested by Turkish authorities. As a result, she led a fundraising campaign in the United States to help secure his freedom.
Following her husband’s death, Zabelle became progressively reclusive until she eventually stopped acting altogether.
At the height of her fame, Zabelle’s likeness was used on collectible cards to promote Fatima cigarettes.
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