Edit
Norma Talmadge Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (23) | Personal Quotes (4) | Salary (5)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 26 May 1894Jersey City, New Jersey, USA
Date of Death 24 December 1957Las Vegas, Nevada, USA  (stroke)
Height 5' 4" (1.63 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Norma Talmadge was born on May 26, 1895, in Jersey City, New Jersey. The daughter of an unemployed alcoholic and his wife, Norma did not have the idyllic childhood that most of us yearn for. Her father left the family on Christmas Day and his wife and three daughters had to fend for themselves. Her mother, Peggy, took in laundry to help make ends meet. By the time Norma was 14 she took up modeling. She was successful enough that she attracted the attention of studio chiefs in New York City (where the Vitagraph studio was located at the time). Norma landed a small role in The Household Pest (1910). With her mother's prodding, she landed other small roles with the studio in 1910, such as Uncle Tom's Cabin (1910), Love of Chrysanthemum (1910), A Dixie Mother (1910) and A Broken Spell (1910). By 1911 she was improving as an actress, so much so that she landed a good part in A Tale of Two Cities (1911). By 1913 she was Vitagraph's most promising young actress. In August of 1915 Norma and her mother left for California and the promise of success in the fledgling film industry there. Her first film in Hollywood was Captivating Mary Carstairs (1915). The film was not only a flop but the studio that made it, National Pictures, went out of business.

During this time her sister, Constance Talmadge, was working for legendary director D.W. Griffith. Constance managed to get Norma a contract with Griffith's company. Over the following eight months Norma made seven feature films and a few shorts. After the contract ran out, the family returned to the East Coast. In 1916 she met and married producer and businessman Joseph M. Schenck. With his backing they formed their own production company and turned out a number of films, the first of which was Panthea (1917). It was a tremendous hit, as was Norma. In 1920 the production company moved to Hollywood, where the big hits of the day were being produced. Her company produced hits such as The Wonderful Thing (1921), The Eternal Flame (1922) and The Song of Love (1923).

By 1928 Norma's popularity had begun to fade. Her film The Woman Disputed (1928) was a flop at the box-office. Her final film was Du Barry, Woman of Passion (1930). By that time "talkies" were all the rage, but Norma's voice did not lend itself to sound and she was out of work. She divorced Schenck and married George Jessel. Jessel had his own radio show and Norma was added to the cast to help its sagging ratings. She thought this might be the vehicle by which she would revive her stalled film career, but the show continued its decline and was ultimately canceled, and with it the hopes of rebuilding her shattered career. She was finished for good.

She divorced Jessel in 1939 and married Dr. Carvel James in 1946. She remained with him until she died of a stroke on Christmas Eve of 1957 in Las Vegas, Nevada. She was 62 and had been in a phenomenal 250+ motion pictures.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Spouse (3)

Dr. Carvel James (4 December 1946 - 24 December 1957) (her death)
George Jessel (23 April 1934 - 11 August 1939) (divorced)
Joseph M. Schenck (20 October 1916 - 4 April 1934) (divorced)

Trivia (23)

Daughter of Margaret Talmadge, the prototypical Hollywood stage mother.
Dark brown hair and eyes.
Fooprints of the stars started accidentally when, in 1927, she stepped into wet cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater.
In 1927, Norma and her sisters opened the Talmadge Park real estate development in San Diego, California, USA. Now known as the Talmadge district, the development contains streets named for each of the sisters. It is located about one mile southwest of the San Diego State University campus.
Talmadge Street in Hollywood, California, USA is named for Norma and her sister Constance Talmadge. It ran along the west side of Vitagraph's west coast studio where the Talmadges made some of their movies in the 1910s. The studio is now the ABC Television Center, west coast home of the American Broadcasting Company and its Los Angeles station, KABC-TV.
Another street, Norma Place in West Hollywood, California, is also named for her. The street was originally an easement road that led to the entrance of a tiny studio Norma's husband, Joseph M. Schenck, built for her when she joined his company, First National, in 1919. The studio was used solely to produce movies made by Norma's and Constance's production companies. It was abandoned in 1926 when the production company owned by Norma and her sister Constance Talmadge moved to First National's new home, the Burbank Studios (now home to Warner Brothers). The studio, too small to be properly converted to sound production, was torn down in the 1930s. Norma Place was lengthened, making it a through street, and houses were built where the old studio once stood. Dorothy Parker and her husband, Alan Campbell, lived on Norma Place for most of the years they worked in Hollywood.
Like her sisters, her grave marker gives a false date of birth (1897).
Even after they divorced, Joseph M. Schenck continued to act as her financial advisor and guide her business affairs.
Graduate of Erasmus Hall High School, Brooklyn, NY. Mae West was in the same graduating class (1911) as Talmadge.
According to historian Charles Lockwood, Talmadge kept her prized jewelry in brown paper bags in the kitchen ice box, next to the vegetables. She later switched to storing them in slippers, hiding rubies in red shoes, sapphires in blue shoes, emeralds in green shoes, and so on.
Ex-sister-in-law of Buster Keaton.
Talmadge was the inspiration for the film characters Lina Lemont and Norma Desmond during the advent of sound films. She was one of many whose career was destroyed by the microphone.
In her first five years at Vitagraph, Talmadge appeared in over 250 films.
Although Talmadge was born in Jersey City, both she and her mother thought it wold sound more glamorous if it was claimed she was born in Niagra Falls.
At age 13, Norma was given a letter of introduction to Harry Mayo, casting director at the Vitagraph Studio in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, where she then lived. After three weeks with no word she returned to the studio, where she was noticed by Beta Brueill, the studio's scenario head, who admired her beauty and had her placed in her first film, "The Household Pest.".
Talmadge attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, alma mater of many stars including Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Cowl, Mae West, Barbara Streisand, and Susan Hayward, among others.
Talmadge was plagued by severe arthritis in her later years.
During 1914 Talmadge was co-starred with the young Antonio Moreno, and they soon became one of the screen's most popular screen teams.
Another Los Angeles monument named for her is The Talmadge, a ten-story luxury apartment building located on the southeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and South Berendo Street in Koreatown. Built in 1923, the rose-brick building was designed by the architectural firm of Curlett and Beelman. Among the ornamental features they included in the design are large plaster cameos inlaid on the third-story corners that face the two streets. The cameos show three women - two seated and one standing between them - that represent the three Talmadge sisters. The building is one of the stops on the city's Angels Walk self-guided tour.
Made a film called "Herself," about an actress touched by the Armenian genocide. After the film was completed, she donated $1000 to Near East Relief.
According to the "In the World of the Movies" column in the New York Times of 31 May 1914, her movie characters had (as of that date) been married 200 times, divorced 187 times, deserted by their husbands 156 times, and had had 192 children. The blurb ended, "As it is, she is the most married, most divorced woman in the world". This was near the end of her third full year as a movie actress.

Personal Quotes (4)

[on the type of roles she would like to play] Women who have some definite meaning in their lives... fire in their souls and true, wholesome romance in their hearts... not the last word in nobility, nor steeped in scarlet sins, but good enough to be real.
Griffith was extraordinarily self-confident and never raised his voice on the set. his manner was easy and unobtrusive... he seemed like a kindly dean of a college, instructing his classes, yet firing them with his own enthusiasm. We were all in awe of him - all except Constance and Dorothy Gish.
No amount of dialogue can express the sweet, sincere and invariably speechless emotion we call love.
I like being shot on the screen. I don't mean shot by the camera, but by the revolver. In Smilin' Through (1922) I suffered quite painlessly. Thank heavens, we haven't yet reached the stage where the director insists upon actual bullets in order to gain realism!

Salary (5)

In Neighboring Kingdoms (1910) $25 a week
The Household Pest (1910) $2 .50 for one day
The Peacemaker (1914) $30 a week
A Daughter of Two Worlds (1920) $7,500 week
Within the Law (1923) $10,000 /week

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page