Florence D Lee

Time Period


Subject Categories

Arts, Writers

Notable Facts

Worked in early film with directors and silent film stars. Biggest role, was her last, as the grandmother in Charlie Chaplin's iconic film "City Lights." Also starred on Broadway.

Personal Information

Date of Birth


Date of Death


Primary Residence






Historical Significance

Born in Vermont, Florence D. Lee began her career as an actress in New York and California in the early twentieth century. She was married to Canadian-born actor and director Dell Henderson, before joining D.W. Griffiths's Biograph players in 1909. Griffiths was famous for his groundbreaking work producing Biographs, an early experimental form of film. Lee performed in Biographs in 1911 and 1912. She starred with future silent film legend Mabel Normand in two films produced in New York entitled, "The Diving Girl" (1911) and "Mr. Grouch at the Seashore" (1912), the latter co-directed by her husband.

As film medium became more popular, Lee participated in both the acting and writing process. Between 1912 and 1914, she wrote seven separate short films, which her husband Dell Henderson directed. Not until 1914, with the film "A Natural Mistake", did Florence tackle both writing and acting, under her husband's direction.

Lee also performed as an extra in films directed by D.W. Griffiths and starred alongside future screen legends such as Mary Pickford, Mae Marsh and Fatty Arbuckle. Within two years, from 1912 to 1914, Lee played a mixture of roles within films solely directed or both written and directed by her husband. During those years she played more leading characters within the smaller casts of these films.

In the late 1920's, Lee worked under other directors and with larger casts. She performed her most famous role in "City Lights" by director and actor Charlie Chaplin, in which she played the grandmother to the female lead.

In addition to her film work, Lee acted on Broadway until the mid-1930's. She performed in eleven Broadway plays between 1913 and 1935. In her early plays from 1913-1918, Lee took smaller parts in the chorus. After 1918 she began taking on name roles, which brought her out of the background chorus. Her various performances are listed online at the Internet Broadway Database (www.ibdb.com).

After 1931 and her role in "City Lights," Florence Lee dropped off the Hollywood map at age forty-three, but she could still be seen for several more years on Broadway. She died in California at the age of 74.

Organizations or Movements

  • Actress in D.W. Griffith's early film group "Biograph Players"
  • Actress and Writer in film during its early stages and introduction into popular culture.


  • Early Film Actress
  • Screenwriter
  • Early Theater Actress

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Florence Lee's Full Filmography Link

  • Florence Lee's Broadway Credits Link

  • Dell Henderson, Florence Lee and the Biograph Players Link

Additional Images

Florence Lee as Grandmother in
Florence Lee as Grandmother in "City Lights"