Hollywood’s First Femme Fatale: Olive Thomas

Hollywood's First Femme Fatale: Olive Thomas

Olive Thomas may have been the first, flapper girl, ever. But, she was gone by the dawn of the Jazz age. Her story is that of triumph and tragedy, straight out of Shakespeare. Olive was raised in dire poverty, in Charleroi, PA. married to an abusive man, when she was just a teen, Olive believed there was more to life than being beat and degraded. She ran away from being a personal punching bag, to become a bright, shining star, on the stage of, NYC. But first she paid her dues, which meant working in a department store and often posing nude, for artists. One artist was very fond, of Olive and wrote Flo Ziegfeld a letter of recommendation. Within a year after her escape, Olive was shining bright in the Ziegfeld Follies and in The Midnight Frolic. With her stardom came rumors of an affair with Flo, because women can’t get ahead unless the sleep their way up (~sarcastic groan~)..but, from some research, it looks like they did have an affair & Olive ended it when Flo wouldn’t leave Billie Burke, for her. For almost 4 years, Olive stayed with Ziegfeld. In 1917, she left the stage for the big-screen. Olive obtained a divorce from her first husband and put that life, far behind her. No more memories of steel sweat and smoke-filled, air. Olive had made it as a big star and found a new love, in Jack Pickford (Mary’s little bro). In late 1917, Olive signed with Triangle pictures as the news of the Pickford-Thomas union, grabbed headlines. They had married a year before, but kept the wedding a secret. Thomas didn’t want people to think she had “slept her way in to Hollywood” with the Pickfords, and have total relapse of the Flo Ziegfeld, rumor mill. The couple were madly, in love but being mad, has its downfalls. Mary Pickford described their relationship: “She and Jack were in love with one another but I always thought of them as a couple of children playing together.”. Not long after the honey moon, the marriage was on the rocks. In August 1920, the Pickfords took a second honeymoon to Paris. By the time they land in Paris, the legend of Olive Thomas and Hollywood’s first scandal, is already set in motion. “On the night of September 5, 1920, the couple went out for a night of entertainment and partying at the famous bistros in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris. Returning to their room in the Hotel Ritz around 3 a.m., Pickford either fell asleep or was outside the room. An intoxicated and tired Thomas ingested mercury liquid solution. It had been prescribed to Pickford to topically treat sores caused by his chronic syphilis.”. According to Jack Pickford, as soon as Olive drank the poison (which was labeled in French) she screamed, “Oh My God!” And Jack ran to her as she collapsed, in his arms. He rushes her to an American hospital, in Paris and is kept alive until the next day, when she whispers her last words, “I’ll be all right in a little while, don’t worry, darling”. Olive’s body was on a plane with Jack heading to NY, when rumors of suicide, murder, and wild partying started hitting the headlines. Jack denies any and all of the rumors. “All stories and rumors of wild parties and cocaine and domestic fights since we left New York are untrue.”, he says. An autopsy was performed and death ruled, “accidental”. This scandal predates, Fatty Arbuckle’s and Mabel Normand’s. Olive set the bar for gossip rags and tell-all, tabloids. Fans and Film Historians are still fascinated by, Olive Thomas. In 2004, Sarah J. Baker premiered her documentary on Olive Thomas’s life titled Olive Thomas: Everybody’s Sweetheart and in 2007, McFarland Publishing Company released a biography titled, Olive Thomas: The Life and Death of a Silent Film Beauty, written by Michelle Vogel. Olive’s life will always be outshined by her death. At 25, a beautiful starlet, dies for nothing and it continues to be great, Hollywood lure.


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