Ben Lyon (February 6, 1901 – March 22, 1979) was an American
actor and a studio executive at 20th Century Fox.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Lyon entered films in 1918 after a
successful appearance on Broadway opposite Jeanne Eagels. He attracted
attention in the highly successful film Flaming Youth (1923), and steadily
developed into a leading man. He was most successfully paired with some of the
leading actresses of the silent era including Pola Negri, Gloria Swanson,
Colleen Moore, Barbara La Marr, Viola Dana, Anna Q. Nilsson, Mary Astor and
He had success as an actor in the 1930 film Hell's Angels.
The film was a major success and brought Jean Harlow to prominence, but Lyon's
performance as an heroic World War I aviator was also highly regarded. For the
next decade he was constantly in demand, but his popularity began to wane by
the early 1940s. By the mid-1940s he was working for 20th Century Fox. On July
17, 1946 he met a young aspiring actress named Norma Jeane Dougherty. After
his first meeting with her he stated that she was "Jean Harlow all over
again!". He organized a color screen test for the actress, renamed her,
and finally signed her as Marilyn Monroe to her first studio contract.
During World War II, Lyons and his wife, actress Bebe
Daniels, settled in London. The couple, along with the comedian Vic Oliver,
starred in the radio series Hi, Gang!, which ran from 1940 to 1949. Hi Gang was
succeeded in 1950 by Life with the Lyons, which also featured their real life
son Richard and daughter Barbara, and had a run on BBC and independent television
from 1954 until 1960.
Lyon married actress Bebe Daniels in June 1930. They had two
children: daughter Barbara in 1932 and a son Richard whom they adopted. Daniels
suffered a severe stroke in 1963 and withdrew from public life. She suffered a
second stroke in late 1970. She died at the couple's London home in March 1971.
In 1974, Lyon married the actress Marian Nixon whom he had
known since the 1920s.
On March 22, 1979, Lyon and his second wife Marian Nixon
were vacationing together on the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship near Honolulu,
Hawaii, when Lyon suffered a fatal heart attack. He is interred in the Chapel
Columbarium at Hollywood Forever Cemetery next to his first wife, Bebe.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ben
Lyon has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1724 Vine Street.