Table of Contents

Movie Extras

by Lynne Rosenberg

All Rights Reserved. Copyright May 2003.


My maternal Grandmother, Esther (Nastia) Bosoken, was born in Kherson, Russia (now the Ukraine) on October 31st, 1889. By the age of 19, my Grandmother, who was an avid reader, was aware of freedom in America, politically, religiously, and socially. She was not willing to accept an arranged marriage like her older sister was forced to. Esther made plans to flee her native country. A seamstress by trade, Grandma sewed rubles in the collar of her dress, left her parents and siblings a letter on the dining room table telling them that she was leaving for freedom in America.  Crossing the Transylvania border with the aid of friends, Esther made her way to Antwerp, Belgium.  Once in Antwerp, Grandma was hired from the ship's dock as a nanny and seamstress by a family with three daughters.  The family liked her so much, they wanted her to remain as part of their family. Grandma was single-minded in her goal to reach America. Both in Russia and Belgium, Esther had saved enough money to pay her passage on The Lapland, a British owned ship. Grandma left Antwerp on July 3, 1909, and arrived at Ellis Island, New York, on July 12, 1909.  So began her new life!

In Russia, my grandmother had met the young boy who was later to become her husband, David Beyer, also born in Kherson. Starting out August 27, 1907, he traveled from Russia via Glasgow, Scotland, and arrived at Ellis Island on August 27, 1907 on The Furnessia, a British ship. In New York, Esther and David were reacquainted through family friends, fell in love, and married on July 31, 1912. In that same year, they took a trip to Los Angeles, California, to see what kinds of opportunities were awaiting them in the west. They were an adventurous pair, those maternal Grandparents of mine.

David and Esther saved money to send for their families. Following the Beyers' return to New York in 1912, my Grandmother welcomed some of her family members newly arrived from Russia. Three of my maternal Great-Grandparents came to America. (My maternal Great-Grandfather, Joseph Boyarsky, was killed in an accident while on horseback when David was a young boy). David's Mother, Leah (for whom I'm named), raised six sons on her own, and moved to Los Angeles from New York, with her eldest son, Louis Beyer. Grandma bore her first two children, Mitchell and Florence, in New York, in 1913 and 1914, respectively.

Jobs were difficult to come by for my Grandfather, so the family packed up once again in 1916, and left New York by train for Los Angeles, where, on June 27, 1916, my Mother, Ruth, was born. Next came Uncle Bobby (Robert) in 1918, and Aunt Pearl, in 1924. After renting a few homes in various areas of Los Angeles and Hollywood, the Beyer family bought a lot at 3905 Fountain Avenue, Hollywood where my Grandfather built a house and a market in front of the house. There were times when all five children slept in the same bed!  When customers couldn't afford to pay for their purchases, Grandpa would have them sign a debit sheet. In many instances, Grandpa was not compensated for his "loans." A kind and giving man he was!

After settling in Los Angeles, in 1916, Grandma Esther contacted a friend from her hometown, who was an assistant director at MGM Studios in Culver City. When there were calls for adults and children as extras, he would call for Grandma Esther and the Beyer children. They worked in films with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Harold Lloyd. My Grandmother, Esther, and Uncles, Mitchell and Bobby, were in Ben Hur, and my Mom  and Aunt Pearl were in The Circus, with Dorothy and Lillian Gish. They each earned $5.00 a day as extras! The last movie that Grandma and the children made was Ben Hur, when Grandma Esther's shoulder was stomped by a horse, and Uncle Mitchell was mildly injured. Grandma was treated at a local hospital. That was it for the family "extras." After the accident, Grandma decided being an extra was a risky job, and so, for the young kids their big career ended.  They're all movie lovers to this day!

Grandpa Beyer worked as a painter on set decorations. According to a family story, Grandpa once brought home an Egyptian headpiece and costume worn by Rudolph Valentino that was enjoyed by the five young children. There are so many wonderful stories to share about my loving and courageous maternal Grandparents. My Grandfather died at age 77, in 1969, and my Grandmother lived to the beautiful age of 92. She died in 1981. Their memories live on!

Lynne Wallen Rosenberg is a second generation Angeleno, a product of Hamilton High School (1957), UCLA (BA 1960; Secondary Credential 1961); Cal State Northridge (MA English Lit. 1989). She taught high school English in the San Fernando Valley, and was a part-time composition and literature instructor at CSUN for nine years. Lynne resides in Los Angeles, of course!