Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Olive Thomas, My Latest le Belle Epoque Beauty

Olive Thomas was born October 20, 1894 into a working class Irish-American family in the Pittsburgh area steel town of Charleroi, Pennsylvania. When her father a steelworker died, 15 year old Olive was forced to leave school to earn a living and support her mother and 2 brothers. She worked in several department stores as a clerk. She married at age 16, living and working in a small mill town for 2 years when she divorced. At that time, Olive moved to New York City and found a job in a Harlem department store. A year later she answered an ad in the local newspaper and subsequently won, "The Most Beautiful Girl in New York City." She was soon modeling for well known commercial artists which landed her on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. All of that exposure brought her to the attention of Flo Ziegfeld and she became a member of the Ziegfeld Follies where she danced in the more risque Midnight Frolic, an after hours show staged in the rooftop garden of the New Amsterdam Theatre. Dancers in those shows were often clad only in balloons where the male patrons could burst the balloons with their cigars. The Midnight Frolics were staged mainly for famous male patrons with plenty of money to dole out to the beautiful performers! It wasn't long before Olive was the center of attention in those shows and frequently bestowed with expensive gifts.

Soon Olive was signed with the International Film Company as a leading lady. She appeared in over 20 Hollywood films in the next 4 years. Olive met the actor Jack Pickford, brother of the very famous and powerful actress, Mary Pickford, and they were soon wed to the consternation of the Pickford family.

In 1918, Olive signed with Selznick Pictures Company where her husband was also signed. She soon became Selznick's first movie star. In 1920 Olive starred in the film, The Flapper. She became the first actress to be called a "flapper" and soon became defined by the flapper role.  The formula worked since she was soon earning $3000.00 a week.

Olive and her husband Jack Pickford were known for their wild parties where alcohol became and ever increasing part. She had 3 automobile accidents in 2 years possibly with alcohol as a cause. Olive and Jack were much more interested in playing and partying so much so that the two together were known to be trouble. They eloped in October 1916 with none of their family members present.

By all accounts, Olive was the love of Pickford's life; however the two of them together led a stormy, conflict charged, drama fueled relationship which in the end always involved lavish making up sessions.

Because the couple were frequently separated with their conflicting movie work schedules, they decided to take a trip, a second honeymoon it was called. In August 1920 the pair headed for Paris. On the night of September 5, 1920 the couple went out for a night of partying at the famous Paris bistros. Events of that night have always been questionable due to alcohol and drug ingestion. The two returned to their room at the Hotel Ritz about 3:00 A.M. Pickford was either asleep or outside the room. Cocaine might have been an element in the tragedy. An intoxicated and exhausted Olive Thomas accidentally ingested a large dose of mercury bichloride liquid solution. It had been prescribed for Jack as a topical ointment but it was kept in a flask and the label was in French. Olive may have confused it for something to drink. When she realized what she had done she screamed "Oh my God!" and Jack ran to her side but it was too late. She had already ingested a lethal dose. Measures were taken to induce vomitting and her stomach was pumped 3 times to no avail. She was taken to the American Hospital in Paris where with Jack at her side Olive succumbed to the poison a week later. There were rumors of suicide and murder but an investigation ruled her death an accident. The truth of her death would never be known, except that it was too soon and too horrid!

Thanks to Wikipedia for the history of Olive Thomas.

1 comment:

  1. nice to meet you i love your blog im a bit of an olive thomas expert and collecter


Related Posts with Thumbnails