Tag Archives: actress

Marion Davies- Empowered Women in History - Historical Fiction Author Kari Bovee

Flash Briefing: Marion Davies

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. <<

Most famously known as William Randolph Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies deserves credit in her own right as an actress, film producer, screenwriter and philanthropist.
In 1916, Broadway showman Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. signed Marion on as a featured player in his popular Ziegfeld Follies. That same year, she also made her screen debut modeling gowns made by Lady Duff Gordon in a fashion newsreel.
The following year, she appeared in her first feature film, Runaway Romany, directed by her brother-in-law, Broadway producer George Lederer. Marion not only contributed as the lead actress, she also wrote the screenplay.
Then she starred in two films—The Burden of Proof and Cecilia of the Pink Roses. Playing mainly light comic roles, she quickly became a popular film personality appearing in lead roles alongside major male stars. She earned a lot of money and spent much of it helping family and friends.

She soon caught the eye of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and took on the new role of “mistress.” Hearst, highly supportive of her film vocation, founded Cosmopolitan Pictures to produce her films. He also took over management of her career.

While Hearst kept his wife at bay, Marion filled the void as friend, lover, and hostess of Hearst’s lavish parties for the Hollywood elite held at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, and also aboard his luxury yacht, Oneida.

Linked with Hearst’s famous name and lifestyle, Marion’s name would also be linked to scandal when famous Hollywood film producer, Thomas Ince, died.
In November 1924, Marion was hosting a weekend party on the Oneida. It had been rumored around town that Marion had fallen victim to the charms of playboy and known philanderer Charlie Chaplin, who was also a guest aboard the yacht that fated weekend. One story has it that Hearst, jealous of Chaplin, took a gun and fired it into what he thought was Chaplin’s cabin. Instead, it was Thomas Ince who got the bullet. There has never been any evidence to support that story.
His autopsy showed that he suffered an attack of acute indigestion and the cause of death was actually a heart attack. But, people love to gossip. Especially about a wealthy business tycoon and his mistress.
Marion stayed with Hearst until his death in 1951. Eleven weeks and one day later, she married Horace Brown, but the marriage didn’t last. In her later years, Davies devoted herself to charity work. In 1952, she donated nearly two million dollars to establish a children’s clinic at UCLA which was named for her.

Marion was one of many well-known women in history who got her start with the Ziegfeld Follies. I was so fascinated with the Ziegfeld phenomenon, I wrote a historical mystery with the Follies as a backdrop called Grace in the Wings. If you liked this flash briefing, you might like my novel. You can find Grace in the Wings on Amazon.

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

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. 

 

Tragic Beauty – Olive Thomas

 

Olive Thomas
fanpix.famousfix.com

The ethereal Olive Thomas is the inspiration for one of the secondary characters in my novel, Grace in the Wings, the first book in a mystery series that is currently being shopped by my agent for purchase.

Sophia Michelle is the older sister of my protagonist, Grace.  Orphaned at 15, Sophia vowed that she and Grace would always have a roof over their heads, never go hungry and never live in an orphanage.  She relied on the only asset she possessed at the time, her captivating beauty. She spent many nights “out” but always provided for her sister until she was discovered by the famous show-man, Florenz Ziegfeld, who took the girls under his wing and made Sophia a star.

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Olive Thomas was born Olivia R. Duffy, October 20, 1894, to a working class Irish American family in Pennsylvania. At 15 years of age she was forced to leave school and help support the family.  At 16 she married Bernard Krush Thomas. The marriage lasted two years. After her divorce she moved to New York City, lived with a family member, and worked in a Harlem department store. In 1914, she won “The Most Beautiful Girl in New York City” contest and landed on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Having caught the public’s attention, and the eye of the famous Florenz Ziegfeld, Olive was hired to perform in his wildly popular Ziegfeld Follies. It wasn’t long before Olive had star billing in the Midnight Frolic, a show at one of Ziegfeld’s favored venues, the Roof Top Theater of the New Amsterdam Hotel. The Frolic catered primarily to well-known male patrons. The girls’ costumes, often just a few strategically arranged balloons, allowed amusement for the gentlemen who would pop the balloons with their cigars. The beauty of Olive Thomas became legendary and she was pursued by a number of wealthy men. She is said to have had “lovely violet-blue eyes, fringed with dark lashes that seemed darker because of the translucent pallor of her skin.”

Known for her beauty, Olive was also known for her wild ways. That free spiritedness became more pronounced when she became involved with Jack Pickford of the famous Pickford family. Alcohol and cocaine became part of her partying repertoire and it proved to be reckless. She had three automobile accidents in one year. After that, she hired a chauffeur.

Jack Pickford & Olive Thomas
Broadway Scene

Screenwriter Frances Marion later remarked, “…I had seen her often at the Pickford home, for she was engaged to Mary’s brother, Jack. Two innocent-looking children, they were the gayest, wildest brats who ever stirred the stardust on Broadway. Both were talented, but they were much more interested in playing the roulette of life than in concentrating on their careers.”

The marriage to Pickford caused much trouble for both parties. For Jack, his high-brow famous family did not approve of Olive’s work in the Frolics, and for Olive, her employer Florenz Ziegfeld accused Jack of taking her away from his entertainment dynasty. There were rumors that Flo and Olive were also romantically involved.

The relationship with Pickford could even have been said to contribute to her sudden death in 1920.  After a long night of dancing, drinking and drugs, Olive and Jack went back to their hotel room. Suddenly, from the bathroom, Jack heard Olive scream, “Oh God!”  According to Jack’s account, Olive had accidentally drunk from a bottle of something marked “poison”.  After a trip to the hospital and having her stomach pumped three times to no avail, Olive Thomas died. The autopsy stated that she died of a mixture of mercury bichloride and alcohol. Mercury bichloride was the prescribed tonic for Jack’s persistant and cronic syphyllis.

Olive Thomas had a short, but successful career. She worked for the Ziegfeld Follies and Midnight Frolic and she starred in over twenty motion pictures. She was also one of the first actresses to be termed “a flapper,” along with Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Joan Crawford.