Olive Thomas Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (2)  | Family (1)  | Trade Mark (1)  | Trivia (9)  | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (4)

Born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, USA
Died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France  (accidental poisoning)
Birth NameOliva R. Duffy
Nickname Ollie

Mini Bio (2)

Oliva R. Duffy was born on October 20, 1894, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, the eldest of three children, with two younger brothers. Olive or Ollie, as she was known to family and friends, did not have much of a childhood. Life in industrial Pittsburgh was depressing and grim with its smoky factories and hard living. She married Bernard Krug Thomas at the age of 16 (which wasn't uncommon at the time), but the marriage wasn't happy and they divorced two years later.

By that time Olive had left Pittsburgh for New York, where she found work in a department store. On a lark, she entered a competition for the most beautiful girl in New York City and, unsurprisingly, won. With the ensuing publicity, she caught the eye of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. and immediately joined his famed Follies. An outstanding addition, men went wild over her beauty. She also posed nude for the famed Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas. As a result of her sudden fame, she was signed to a contract with Triangle Pictures. Her first film was Beatrice Fairfax (1916). Later that year, she married Jack Pickford, brother of screen star Mary Pickford.

The relationship was a stormy one. In 1917, she starred in four more films: Madcap Madge (1917), A Girl Like That (1917), Broadway Arizona (1917) and Indiscreet Corinne (1917). With five films on her resume, Olive was the toast of Hollywood. She made three films in 1918 and six in 1919. By 1920, Olive was at the top of the film world. She continued to make good pictures, most notably, Youthful Folly (1920) and The Flapper (1920), which was an overwhelming success. After finishing Everybody's Sweetheart (1920), Olive and Jack sailed to France for a much-needed vacation.

The couple finally seemed happy, which seems odd in light of what was to follow. Olive accidentally ingested bi-chloride of mercury from a French-labeled bottle in a darkened bathroom, believing it to be another medication. Found unconscious, she died five days later. The death made worldwide headlines. Olive was only 25 when she died.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson & MO840 (updated by Rms125a@hotmail.com)

Oliva R. Duffy was born on October 20, 1894, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. Ollie, as she was known to family and friends, did not have much of a childhood. Life in industrial Pittsburgh was depressing and grim, with its smoky factories and hard living. Olive's father, James Duffy died while she was still very young, forcing her to leave school to help earn her keep. In April 1911 at the age of 16 she married Bernard Krug Thomas in nearby McKees Rock. During this time she reportedly worked as a sales clerk. The marriage was an unhappy one, and after two years Olive filed for divorce. She soon moved to New York and stayed with relatives while again working in a department store. In 1914 she answered a newspaper ad and won the title of "The Most Beautiful Girl in New York City". The contest was run by the celebrated commercial artist Howard Chandler Christy. After winning, Thomas modeled for artist Harrison Fisher and eventually landed on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Either on a recommendation or her own brazen approach, Thomas impressed Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. and immediately went to work in his famed Ziegfeld Follies. Thomas would become a Follies favorite, working in The Midnight Frolic as well as many of the revues. Stunningly gorgeous, she soon found herself being pursued by a number of very wealthy and powerful men who frequented the follies. Thomas received expensive gifts from her admirers, with rumors that the German Ambassador had given her a $10,000 string of pearls. Her beauty would lead to a sitting with famed Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas.

Thomas' entry into films is slightly sketchy, as it is hard to trace when or why it happened. Her first contract was with International Film Company as the leading lady in the studio's Harry Fox movies, although this never resulted in any actual films. Her acting debut was a small yet key role in an episode of Beatrice Fairfax (1916). Oddly, she then made one film for Famous Players-Lasky before signing with Triangle Pictures to make a string of light comedies similar to those of Mabel Normand and Mary Pickford. Many of these films did well, including Madcap Madge (1917), A Girl Like That (1917), Broadway Arizona (1917) and Indiscreet Corinne (1917).

Thomas met Jack Pickford, brother of Mary, in 1916 while dancing at Nat Goodwin's Cafe located on the Santa Monica Pier. The relationship was rocky but very passionate. Thomas and Pickford claimed to have married in 1916, though they did not announce the "marriage" until 1917 when Thomas was already a film star in her own right. Recently found marriage records prove the couple did not marry until 1918. In 1918, she signed with Selznick Pictures, where her star grew. During her Triangle days she had played teenager types, causing people to term her a "baby vamp". Selznick capitalized on this image, which would eventually give way to the flapper, Thomas being the first to portray a flapper in The Flapper (1920). It was so successful that Thomas' follow-up films followed a similar pattern, including Youthful Folly (1920) and Everybody's Sweetheart (1920).

Thomas had never been fully accepted by the Pickford family, with Mary resenting her. However, Lottie Pickford befriended her. Despite the stormy relationship, Olive and Jack married in 1918. In 1919 they began proceedings to adopt her nephew, as his mother had passed away (a common practice at the time). Thomas adored children and could not wait to be a mother. Making what is seen as a last-ditch effort to fix her relationship with Jack, she and Pickford went on a "second honeymoon" in August 1920.

In Paris, following a heavy night of drinking and partying, they returned to their hotel at 3:00 a.m. Pickford headed for bed, and Thomas wrote a letter to her mother. After concocting what she thought was a sleeping potion (sleeping medicine at the time was in a powder form, to be mixed with a liquid for consumption) and starting to drink it, Thomas screamed violently. Pickford ran in to see what was wrong and discovered that she had misunderstood the French labels and drank a solution of mercury bichloride instead (which, when mixed in that fashion, was used as bathroom cleaner). She was immediately rushed to a hospital. Blinded and unable to talk due to burned vocal chords, it was hard for her to communicate with the French police, who were investigating the incident. In any case, the police left satisfied the event was an accident. Thomas passed away a day later, with her husband and brother-in-law Owen Moore at her side. She was 25 years old.

Thomas' death was the first big celebrity scandal, and the first death of a star at the height of her fame and youth (only one other major film star had died unexpectedly at the height of fame, the elderly comedian John Bunny in 1915). Rumors swirled that she had killed herself, or was poisoned by a crazed American captain or murdered by Pickford himself. After an autopsy and an American and French investigation, her death was ruled accidental. Thomas was buried in New York in a tiny mausoleum marked "Pickford". Though the relationship had been rocky most agree she was the love of Jack's life, so much so that he was said to have contemplated suicide upon returning to America. Two marriages later (both to Ziegfeld Girls), Jack was said to call out for Olive while in the midst of his drunken stupors.

Olive's final film, Everybody's Sweetheart (1920), was released after her death. Her name lives on, steeped in her scandal, enhanced by fabrications in Hollywood Babylon. Many of her films still reportedly exist (about 12 complete and some in fragments), though they have not as of yet been released on DVD or home video. In 2005 a documentary, "Everybody's Sweetheart" was released, along with "The Flapper".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Hala Pickford (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous and R. Sieger)

Family (1)

Spouse Jack Pickford (25 October 1916 - 10 September 1920)  (her death)
Bernard Krug Thomas (1 April 1911 - 25 September 1915)  (divorced)

Trade Mark (1)

Playing teenage types, first as a baby vamp and later as a flapper

Trivia (9)

Found poisoned in her room after consuming mercury bichloride tablets dissolved in alcohol. The circumstances around this event were mysterious but were officially determined to be accidental. She died five days later in the American Hospital in Neuilly.
Sister-in-law of Mary Pickford and Lottie Pickford.
Daughter-in-law of Charlotte Smith.
Her personal belongings were sold at auction in New York for $26,931. Fellow screen star Mabel Normand bought a 14-karet gold cigarette case for $50, a 20-piece toilet set for $1,425, a diamond pearl brooch and sapphire pin for $500 and a platinum set with star sapphire for $425 (22 November 1920).
Her ghost has been said to haunt the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City.
Discovered by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. for his "Follies of 1915". He also cast her in the "Ziegfeld Midnight Frolics", which was a racier, after-hours show atop the New Amsterdam Theater for mostly male audiences. She often wore nothing but balloons, which the gents would eagerly burst with their cigars. She also became Ziegfeld's mistress.
Only daughter in a family of three. Her brothers were Michael James (born February 1893) and William L. (born May 1898).
Was the first actress to play a 'Flapper' which would become a huge fad in the coming years.
Is the subject of the musical "Ghostlight" by Matthew Martin and Tim Realbuto. Actresses who have played Olive Thomas in past productions of the musical include Tony Award nominated and Grammy Award winning "Hamilton" star Phillipa Soo, "That's So Raven" star Anneliese van der Pol, Rachael Fogle, and Leigh Martha Klinger.

Personal Quotes (2)

I think that you die when your time comes and not until then. I feel the same about other things as I do about death. I don't think you can change anything that is going to happen to you any more than you can change anything that has happened to you. That's why I never worry, and that is why I don't think people should get conceited and think themselves better than others
Life's too short and fate too funny to get upstage, Today they may be showering us with roses on Broadway and tomorrow some fool director who used to be a waiter may be rejecting us as atmosphere in a five reel five cent feature...

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