Tag Archives: Florenz Ziegfeld

Olive Thomas: Her high powered life and mysterious death

After winning The Most Beautiful Girl in New York City contest in 1914, Olive Thomas’ life would change forever. Her win led her to become a popular artists and illustrators model and she appeared on numerous magazine covers including The Saturday Evening Post.

Her beauty captured the eye of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., and he hired her to perform in his wildly popular Ziegfeld Follies, and later his more risqué show The Midnight Frolic.

In 1916, she began a career in silent films. She also met and married Jack Pickford, the younger brother of silent film star Mary Pickford. Four years later, she died while on a second honeymoon with Pickford in Paris, France. News of her hospitalization and death were the subject of speculation in the press, and has been cited as one of the first publicized Hollywood scandals.

Was her death an accident? Suicide? Or Murder? The world may never know!


Fanny Brice – Ziegfeld’s Funniest Lady

Famous funny lady, Fanny Brice, was one of the many stars who got her start in the Ziegfeld Follies.

Born with a gift for comedy, an excellent singing voice, and plenty of acting chops, Fanny Brice took the world by storm.

From humble beginnings and a less-than enviable love life, Fanny rose to mega-stardom. She will forever be remembered through two films made about her, Funny Girl and Funny Lady, starring the incomparable, Barbara Streisand.

You can learn more about this early 20th century dynamo in the video below. You can also read about her in this post I wrote in May! Enjoy!

 

historical mystery book Grace in the wings Kari Bovee

Are you a historical fiction fan? Do you love the Roaring Twenties and a strong female lead? Check out my latest novel, Grace in the Wings!


 

Olive Thomas

Women in Show Business History – Olive Thomas, Tragic Beauty

Olive Thomas was born Olivia R. Duffy, October 20, 1894, to a working class Irish American family in Pennsylvania. To help support her family, she left school at 15 years of age.  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, Jr., 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.”

Olive ThomasKnown 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.

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 drank 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.

 

Repost from March 14, 2017

 

historical mystery book Grace in the wings Kari Bovee

Are you a historical fiction fan? Do you love the Roaring Twenties and a strong female lead? Check out my latest novel, Grace in the Wings!

 

 

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.

Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. – It’s Show Time

The next series of blog posts I will write will be about the real life personalities from the Ziegfeld Follies who inspired my characters for Saving Grace.  The first is about Franz Sigrid, my antagonist, who was inspired by the All-Time Greatest Showman on Earth, Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.

Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., (Flo)  born of a German father and Belgian mother in Chicago, March 1867, was one of the first and ultimately most successful Broadway producers of his time.  Known for “the Ziegfeld Touch” he was an expert at turning plebian dramas and comedies into art without losing their mass appeal.

Many have said that Ziegfeld Jr. was foolish, extravagant, and cruel, which may be true, but, above all, he was an artist driven by the pursuit of beauty.

His career started in 1893 with a vaudeville act headlining German strongman Eugene Sandow.  Sandow, a perfect male specimen, would perform daring feats of strength .  He would set a man on the palm of his hand and lift him up, wrestle three men at one time, and once let three horses walk across a plank on his chest.  He was wildly popular with the women in the audience and Flo would charge money for them to come backstage and feel Sandow’s muscles.

Ziegfeld’s career was long and varied and produced many stars such as Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Marion Davies, Irene Dunn,  W.C. Fields and Olive Thomas among others.  He hired some of the most talented musicians and composers for his musical scores, among them George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.

Flo had extravagant tastes and would often shower his stars with expensive baubles and gifts.  With some shows, he would amass a fortune, only to spend it all on women or the gaming tables.   There were times in his career that he would be so in debt, the banks would no longer lend him money, but he always found it somewhere.  He was extremely adept at publicity and would often orchestrate elaborate ruses to get his name and his stars names in the papers.  The beauty and grandeur of his shows never suffered.

Ziegfeld was married twice, first to the beautiful French actress Anna Held.   It is said that they never were actually married but were together long enough to constitute a common law arrangement.  She left him years later because of his affair with starlet Lillian Lorraine.  He then married actress Billie Burke of Wizard of OZ fame (Glenda the Witch of the North) and was with her until his death in 1932.

My character, Franz Sigrid is the antagonist in Saving Grace.  While possessing the same charm and brilliance with his artistry and publicity stunts as Flo Ziegfeld, Franz is a bit more humble, but a lot more devious!  His affairs and money problems are exacerbated by his constant strive for publicity and the limelight for his stars.  I hope you enjoy him as much as I did!