Barbara Bedford was born, Violet Rose, in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and educated in Chicago, where she graduated from the Lake View High School.
She felt the urge to appear on the screen at this time and immediately set out for Hollywood, where she impressed Lambert Hillyer, William S. Hart's director, by her unusual beauty and charm, and despite the fact that she had no stage or screen experience he cast her for a leading role in Hart's The Cradle of Courage (1920) and the girl's reputation was made overnight.
Director Maurice Tourneur liked her and cast her later that year as Cora Munro in his beautiful version of The Last of the Mohicans. Cora's death scene made her a star. Hart used her again, this time as his leading lady in Tumbleweeds (1925), the great cowboy's last film, and there were several roles opposite the rising star John Gilbert.