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

Friday, March 2, 2012

Miss Naomi Childers

Another venture into the world of the lesser known silent film stars. AKA my favorites. I am still kind of in a fog since the bad news on Wednesday, but I am slowly becoming less and less like a zombie. I have some lovely Monkees fans friends who are great, so that always helps. And talking/blogging about my other passion helps as well.

Naomi had one of those pictures that when I first looked at it, I thought, "Wow!" She looked so perfect and beautiful and goddess-like. The silent film stars always seem a little mythical to me anyway, but she really looked like a Greek statue. I am not the only who thinks so either, because she was nicknamed, "The Girl with the Grecian Face." Great minds think alike, eh?

Naomi Weston Childers was born on November 15, 1892 in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. According to a 1900 Census record, she is listed as "Narma" or "Nanna" Childers. Not sure if this is just misspelling, bad handwriting, her real name, or a deaf Census worker.  She was the only child, and adopted daughter of John, a clerk for a railroad company, and Nora Childers. In the 1910 Census, Naomi is listed as their niece, so I am not completely sure what the relationship exacts were. What I do know is that Naomi was quite proud of her British roots.

She was educated in a convent, and became interested in acting when she was still a child. She was also a pianist.

In 1913, she made her film debut in a short called "Panic Days in Wall Street." 

Her early film years were mostly spent with the Vitagraph studios. And her most famous role there was a portrayal of Joan of Arc.

Naomi was doing pretty well in pictures, but the problem was she liked doing comedies, and she was good at the them! The studios however wanted her in more serious, dramatic roles. Kinda sounds like Marion Davies's situation, doesn't it?

As the 1910s and 20s came to an end, so did silent pictures. Naomi wasn't able to find much work in the talkies, and eventually fell on hard times. She was saved by none other than MGM head, Louis B. Mayer, who signed her to a lifetime contract. She played bit roles well into the 1950s. Kinda surprising to see Mayer be so generous.

Naomi Childers passed away on May 9, 1964 in Hollywood.

She was buried at the Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery.

Naomi was married...well, I think twice? Maybe once? I read that she was engaged to the head of a candy company (yummy!) named Harold Darling Shattuck, but that she postponed the wedding. Not sure if it actually went through. I do know that she did eventually marry again, but I don't know when. Her second husband was Luther Reed, who worked behind in the scenes in the film industry. She divorced him in 1929 citing desertion. She had one son...and I am not sure who the father was or his name. Sorry!

She was voted the most beautiful woman in Japan and was often compared to Sarah Bernhardt (I GUESS I can see that. Sarah to me has always had this weird intense look about her). 

I read that she was a member of the Ziegfeld Follies...but I don't think she ever was. She did appear in the movie though, as a dancer.

I found her in a 1920 Census Record, where is listed as living in Los Angeles. Some of her neighbors are listed as being actors or actresses, but I have never heard of them. See if you know them: Virginia Brown (first thought that came to mind was Virginia Brown Faire...maybe), Robert/Eva/Ella/Ida McKenzie, Wilbur Higby, Rita Huston, Frank Elliott, and Carl and Ethel Gerard. Anyone...? Anyone?

Who I did recognize was Anna Q. Nilsson and Lew Cody!