Flash Briefing: Olive Thomas

Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.

>> Listen to Flash briefing HERE. <<

In 1914, Olive Thomas won “the most beautiful girl in New York City” contest. With that win under her cap, she started modeling for commercial artists in New York City, and it wasn’t long before she caught the eye of famed Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. 

Ziegfeld offered her a job in his renown Broadway Shows, the Ziegfeld Follies and the Midnight Frolic. While the Follies was entertainment for the entire family, the Frolic was a more risqué show that catered primarily to wealthy gentlemen. 

While Thomas loved her work on Broadway, the lure of silent films drew her to Hollywood. Olive Thomas - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari BoveeShe met and married Jack Pickford, the ne’er-do-well brother of Mary Pickford, the biggest and most successful actress of the silent film era. While Thomas was known for her beauty, she was also known for her wild, ways. The couple partied day and night, despite Thomas’s punishing work schedule. Within six years she appeared in over twenty films.

Her husband Jack was just as prolific. He played bit parts in 95 shorts and films. Though he was considered a pretty good actor, he never quite lived up to his potential. He preferred drinking, drugs, and womanizing.

With their marriage on the skids, the couple decided to take a second honeymoon in Paris in 1920. After a night of binge drinking, dancing, and drug use, they returned to their hotel room at around 3:00 am. Pickford flopped onto the bed, while Thomas went into the bathroom. Moments later, she woke Pickford by screaming, “Oh my God!” He found her holding a container of mercury bichloride, a substance used to treat Jack’s syphilis, and that also served a dual purpose as bathroom clearer. In her drunken stupor, Thomas had used the toxic liquid to wash down some sleeping pills.

Olive Thomas - Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

She was rushed to the hospital where she succumbed to the poison three days later.

Rumors abounded that she either committed suicide because of Jack’s constant philandering, or that she was murdered by her nutty, inebriated husband. A police investigation and autopsy followed. The coroner ruled the death accidental, but the stigma never left Pickford.

The character of Sophia Michelle in my novel Grace in the Wings was inspired by the beautiful and tragic Olive Thomas. If you are intrigued, you can find the book on Amazon You can also learn more about me and my books on my website at Karibovee.com. 


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