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Posted March 17, 2012
Do not let this be your introduction to silent films. Start with the more talented actresses of the time, such as Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Corrine Griffith, Alice Joyce, Clara Kimbel Young, Margarite Clark, and (my favorite) Clara Bow. Norma Talmadge had little success in movies until she married a wealthy and powerful movie producer. He gave her a movie studio as a wedding present and hired the most talented writers, directors, and supporting actors of the day to help his wife succeed as an actress. They were successful for a time, but their subsequent divorce in 1927 all but ended her career. He continued to advise her and her sisters on business matters after the divorce. He went on to become the first president of United Artists. In 1933 he partnered with Darryl F. Zanuck to create 20th Century Pictures and merged with Fox Film Corporation in 1935. She went on to become a drug addict and alcoholic. (Her performance in these movies makes me think her drug and alcohol problems may have started before the divorce). Her erratic behavior as a result of those addictions made her the primary inspiration for the character Norma Desmond is Sunset Boulevard. She was able to live comfortably the rest of her life off of her divorce settlement from her multi-millionaire ex-husband, as well as, alimony and a trust fund set up for the Talmadge sisters by their mother. How could a woman whose only job was as a laundress set up a trust fund for her daughters? It is now believed that Peg Talmadge embezzled money from the Norma Talmadge Production Company and took money from Natalie Talmadge’s husband (Natalie had complete control of the couple’s bank account). Nice family.
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