LATER LIFE

A Home in the Hills

In the late 1950s Norma Shearer and Marti Arrougé moved to a one-story home above Sunset Boulevard. Sierra Alta Way appeared to be beyond the Beverly Hills border but was actually in West Hollywood. If fans seeking autographs encountered Shearer watering her front garden, she usually invited them in and gave them a portrait of herself as Marie Antoinette.

Memoir Attempts

The 1950s saw the publication of numerous books on early Hollywood. These included The Lion’s Share, a detailed history of M-G-M by The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, and The Self Enchanted, a ghost-written autobiography of Mae Murray. Shearer was eager to join the parade, but her first manuscript was rejected by publisher Bennett Cerf as insubstantial because she had pointedly omitted anything controversial, and she had ended her autobiography abruptly in 1932. She revised her manuscript in the 1960s and again in the 1970s, but her refusal to recount her conflicts with Louis B. Mayer doomed the project to a file cabinet drawer.

Illness

Shearer’s parents both suffered from senile dementia, and her sister fought depression for most of her life. Shearer began to experience depressive symptoms in the 1970s, when treatment was not as advanced as it became in the twenty-first century. Her husband kept her isolated from friends and family. When her condition deteriorated to the point that full-time care was needed, she was admitted to the Motion Picture Country House.

Death

Norma Shearer died of pneumonia on June 12, 1983.