Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Other Marilyn

I just finished Marilyn Miller's biography the other day, and I loved it! I couldn't put it down! I love any book that I can't stop reading, but when it is about a Ziegfeld girl and filled with little diatribes about other celebrities I love...even better!

I learned some new stuff about her from reading this. A lot of it set the record straight on Marilyn's life, and I am grateful for that. So, I wanted to share some of the stuff I learned from her book and also some little anecdotes. I highly recommend picking up the book, The Other Marilyn by Warren G. Harris.

When she was a child, she joined her family's vaudeville act and went by the name of 'Mademoiselle Sugarlump.'

Her father, Edwin Reynolds did not want his children to perform. He threatened to leave his wife, Ada, if she put his children on stage. Well, she he did. He got a job promotion in Nashville, and left without his family. The family never saw him again, and Ada was granted a divorce.

She sometimes played on the same vaudeville stage as Buster Keaton and his family act.

Marilyn and her family lost several of their show business friends on the sinking of the Titanic. I am not sure who exactly though. The only show business person I know who was on the ship was actress Dorothy Gibson. I'm gonna look into that though!

The cause of the sinus problems that would later bring about her early death happened during rehearsals in 1916. Her dance partner/teacher, Theodore Kosloff slipped and someone hit Marilyn in the nose. It didn't hurt a lot at first, but apparently he hit her enough to where it splintered a bone. But after this, her sinus infections and migraines began.

And to finally put the rumors to rest, Marilyn did not have a affair with Florenz Ziegfeld, although God knows he tried. She thought he was too old and not that attractive, and he, well, he was known to take up with his Ziegfeld girls.

Ziegfeld was against Marilyn marrying anyone. He tried hard to stop her marriages to Frank Carter and Jack Pickford.

Jack Pickford and Marilyn

The diva herself, Anna Held (once Mrs. Ziegfeld) once asked for a private audience with Marilyn. By this time, Anna was dying from a rare bone disease and was slowly wasting away in her hotel room. She gave the young dancer advice on Ziegfeld. She told him he had ruined her life, and he would do it to Marilyn if she wasn't careful. Marilyn told her she had nothing to worry about, that Ziegfeld wasn't her type, and that she was in love with Frank Carter. Anna Held died two months later.

"I used to watch him going to his theater. I was too young for him to pay any attention to me, but I thought him wonderful. Frank was so handsome. I think he was the first fellow who ever really appealed to me. At that age girls are so romantic." ~ Marilyn Miller [on her first husband, Frank Carter]

Her first husband, Frank Carter was killed in a car accident less than a year after they married. He had just bought Marilyn a brand new royal blue Packard. He had their initials put on all the doors. But, when he was driving it back to Philadelphia to show her her new gift, he crashed into an embankment. His two friends who were in the car with him survived the crash with minor injuries, and another passenger suffered a broken collarbone and ribs,  but Frank was crushed between the seat and the steering wheel after the car flipped over.

"When I saw that stunning new Packard that he meant to surprise me with, I felt even worse. Frank was dead, but the car was little damaged except for a dented roof and cracked windshield...I couldn't get over the feeling that it all might not have happened if I'd never raved about that car to Frank in the first place. I should have realized that he'd rush out and buy it for me. He was always so impulsive and generous that way." ~ Marilyn Miller

She was the one behind the $35, 000 white marble mausoleum that Frank was to be entombed in. She left instructions in her will that when she died, she was to be interred next to him. And even though she was married twice after was beside him that she was buried.

Marilyn was good friends with fellow performers Mary Eaton and Marion Davies. How fun would it have been to hang out with these lovely ladies? I would have made the fourth blonde! Too bad I don't have an 'M' in my name.

In 1920, Marilyn took a trip to Paris with her mother-in-law, Carrie Carter. While there, she received a condolence note from her fellow Ziegfeld girl, Olive Thomas. Olive was in Paris for a second honeymoon with her husband, Jack Pickford. Marilyn was still feeling down about Frank's passing, so she declined Olive's offer of going out to dinner. It was a shortly after that Olive died. Marilyn did find out about her death until she had already returned to New York. She did not attend Olive's funeral because she was still feeling emotionally raw from her husband's death/funeral.

Marilyn first met Jack Pickford at a party at comedian Ed Wynn's house in New York in the summer of 1921. Her dog, Bolivar Brown, had taken off into the woods and Marilyn wanted to go searching for him, but it was dark, and she didn't want to go alone. Jack was the one who got to her first, and they took their sweet time out there looking for the dog.

"Jack is the only man I've met since my husband's death who reminds me of him. Jack is the same type physically, dark haired and slender, but his eyes are dark gray while Frank's were black. Jack is like Frank reincarnated, the same point of view and everything." ~ Marilyn Miller

"Millionaire or billionaire, I could have had them all, but I'm particular and I chose Jack Pickford. Ten thousand men have loved me, but I love only one, and that's Jack." ~ Marilyn Miller

Jack got the idea for Olive's tomb from the one that Marilyn had constructed for Frank Carter. Frank and Olive were buried in the same cemetery.

Ada Miller, Marilyn's mother, was not happy that she was left out of the planning for her daughter's upcoming wedding. She began getting into arguments with Charlotte Smith, THE stage mother to Mary, Jack, and Lottie Pickford. Ada swore she would not attend the wedding because she was so angry, and unfortunately, she kept her promise.

The night before the wedding, Mary Pickford invited the couple over to Pickfair to celebrate the upcoming nuptials. Apparently all the pomp and ceremony got to be too much for Jack that he ripped a fart right in the middle of dinner. What a charming man...

Jack Pickford and Marilyn

Mary's pet parrot greeted guests arriving for the wedding. Yeah, that would have gotten old REAL quick.

As the couple drove off, surrounded by a cavalcade of guards, guests were greeted by the sight of shoes attached to the bumper. Said shoes were 'donated' by  Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin.

When she was finally coerced into making a screen test, Mary Pickford stepped in to be a technical advisor. Problem is that Mary wanted to dress her and make her up, so Marilyn ended up looking like Mary on film! After all that, Marilyn bowed out of accepting a film offer from Samuel Goldwyn, which really pissed Mary off. You don't want to piss off a Pickford!

Jack Pickford once had an affair with Clara Kimball Young...while she was still married. This was before he met Marilyn, but Clara's divorce proceedings occurring during their marriage. The press had a field day with the news.

Marilyn and Jack once attended a party given in their honor at Buster Keaton's house. He had a hearse parked out front in the driveway that was filled with bootleg booze. I love that man. Side note though, the book said that Jack and Buster were best friends. I had never heard that before.

"Jack always wanted children, but for Marilyn a career came first. She was probably the most ambitious human being I have ever met. A baby, needless to say, had no place in a life of such unsparing professional drive." ~ Mary Pickford

Marilyn was offered a role on stage as Peter Pan, a role that had only so far been played by Maude Adams. Author J.M. Barrie hadn't wanted anyone but Adams to play the role, but he was such a fan of Marilyn's that he allowed the play to be performed. Marilyn received help for her stage movements and fencing skills from her new brother in law, Douglas Fairbanks. Mary Pickford was not a happy camper though because SHE had been wanting to play the role of Peter Pan on film and was not allowed. She refused to help her sister in law.

She was good friends with actor Clifton Webb. There were rumors that the two were romantically involved, but considering that Webb was gay...probably not. She often hung around town with Webb and his mother, Maybelle.

Marilyn and Clifton Webb
She dated Ben Lyon for quite awhile. She also gave Cary Grant a job in her show, Rosalie when he was still going by his real name, Archibald Leach. She was said to be delighted when she saw his face gracing the silver screen.

Marilyn hated film making. Why? Well, basically because she enjoyed her beauty sleep! While she was making films, she had to get up before dawn to get to the studio so that she could get her makeup done and so the filmmakers could get everything set up for the day's shoot. When she was dancing and acting on stage, she sometimes didn't get out of bed until the afternoon. I can't say I blame her.

Bebe Daniels became one of her close friends, and it is kind of a weird situation. Bebe had dated Jack, and repeatedly refused his marriage proposals. She was also the other woman while Jack and Marilyn were married. Later,  Bebe became the wife of Marilyn's ex, Ben Lyon. Marilyn didn't harbor any bad feelings toward Bebe though because she had lost interest in both Jack and Ben. She would even sometimes go out on the town with Ben and Bebe. Interesting...

In one evening, she sold $1, 250, 000 worth of WWI Liberty Bonds.

After sinus surgery, she kept having issues. Some quack doctor decided the cure would be insulin injections...yeah, seriously. These injections made her even sicker (no shit) and she would drift in and out of consciousness. On April 7, 1936, she opened her eyes and smiled at her new husband, Chet O'Brien, and her sister Claire. She closed her eyes again, and died.

Marilyn's sister Claire later went out to say that Marilyn died from incompetent medical treatment. She said that the doctor who performed her last surgery had cut to closely to the membranes that surround the brain, leaving it vulnerable to infection. The insulin injections only made it worse. The press of course chose to say she died of a broken heart.

"It may sound strange, but I never want to grow old. I never want to see the day when I cannot sing and dance as I can now." ~ Marilyn Miller


  1. I now have a new book on my list to read!

  2. Its incredible that doctors could be so incompetent. She was so young when she died and really pretty. What a shame to lose someone like that.

  3. thanks so much for turning me on to this chick. My God, she was beautiful! I didn't know too much about her. She certainly had an interesting life. I'm not a big fan of Jack Pickford. The only reason he worked and became a star was because of his mega-star sister. And every babe he was with seemed to end up on drugs and dead. Thanks

  4. You are welcome and you are welcome! I knew only a little about her from reading about the Ziegfeld Girls and about Jack Pickford, but that book was so good!

    Jack was an interesting boy. He was riding the coattails of his sister, mostly because of the persistance of his mother. He didn't really care if he acted in the movies. He would rather enjoy the riches of his sister's success and spend money, drink, and escort lovely ladies around. He married 3 Ziegfeld Girls all together, but ended up alone when he died young. He was just a boy living in the fast world of Hollywood. He does seem like a jackass, but maybe would have been fun to go out on the town with...minus the syphillis.

  5. This is a new book to get a hold of for me. I have an "M" in my name...Maria! I have heard about the broken heart to suicide to the sinus infection. It is a shame that quack Dr's can get so close to film stars too...not that it should surprise me but you think they have the money for the best but, back then, so little was known about infections. Good ole Jack. I agree with you...I think he would have been fun. I like to call him a real son of a bitch(sorry) but one can't help but like the jerk.

  6. Hi Jessica,
    I believe this article will provide some really useful info about Marylin Miller life. Here is the link:,3652149&dq=marilyn+miller+mother&hl=en

    Theresa G

  7. Hi Jessica,
    I hope you are doing well. Here is a article about Ziegfeld trying to stop Marilyn Miller's marriage to Jack Pickford: