July 1st, 1919: Olive Thomas on the cover of Picture-Play Magazine

Olive Thomas on the cover of Picture-Play Magazine, June 1919.
Olive Thomas on the cover of Picture-Play Magazine, June 1919.

On July 1st, 1919, Picture-Play Magazine displayed Olive Thomas on its cover. The magazine also ran a story about her life presented in the format of a fictionalized drama, but using elements of her real life, called «Three acts and an epilogue» adorned with photographs of Miss Thomas taken by Maurice Goldberg:

Here’s an exclusive performance of a little life drama — with Olive Thomas as the star.

By Helen Ogden

She was a little girl — not more than five feet tall — and she had those dark-blue eyes, «Celtic blue, put in with a smudgy finger,» which are so lovely. Her hair was light brown in some lights and old gold in others, and she was very beautiful — much too beautiful to be selling ginghams in a Pittsburgh department store. But she wasn’t conscious of that; she just knew that she simply detested figuring up how much seven yards of gingham at thirty-seven and a half cents a yard would come to, and finally, when one customer changed her mind five times in succession, Olive Thomas — yes, she was the little salesgirl — shut up her sales book with a bang and went straight home without even handing in her resignation.


«Aha!» you’re saying about now. «She thinks she’s very clever, doesn’t she, pretending that this really happened to such a person as Olive Thomas, who has such heaps of money that she wouldn’t know a time clock if she met one on the street? Probably that’s a scene in her next picture.» Well, that’s where you’re wrong, for Olive Thomas — whose name was really Olive Duffy until she thought Thomas sounded better — was poor in those days. Of course that was some time ago, when Olive didn’t know any other way of earning money than being «The youngest saleslady in Horn’s

«Celtic blue eyes, rubbed in with a smudgy finger.«

That’s the first act of our playlet. In order to see the second you’ll have to imagine yourself in New York. You go to a dinner at some big, bright restaurant, and then you take a limousine over to Broadway with the rest of your box party, and see a problem play, and after the theater one of the men in the party says: «Oh, it’s too early to go home; let’s go some- where and see a good show !» And then you go over to the New Amsterdam Theater, up to the roof, and into a perfectly stunning restaurant, with a balcony at the back with a glass runway built along the front of it — and that’s the Midnight Frolic. And you sit down at a little table and order things to eat, and dance to wonderful music, and pretty soon the lights go down, a stage comes sliding out from the front wall across the dancing floor, and you are entertained by the cleverest people a clever manager has been able to get together, and by the prettiest girls he has been able to find anywhere. And one of these girls is Olive Thomas. That act was staged a couple of years ago, after she had met Opportunity and gone on the stage.

And now here’s the third act in a very up-to-date. A big motion-picture studio, with a director, two camera men, a dozen sight-seers, some extra men and women, and an apparently unlimited number of carpenters and electricians standing around, waiting for a set to be finished, while over at one side stands the prettiest girl — the sort of girl one might affectionately call a «little devil.» She has appropriated some of the carpenters’ tools, and is amusing herself by trying her hand at using a saw, while waiting. Of course you know that Olive Thomas was starred by Triangle for a while, and now is being featured in the new Myron Selznick productions, beginning with «Upstairs and Down.» Not long ago I met Olive Thomas at her studio and went to her pretty Los Angeles home with her. There was a frequently welcomed guest waiting for us — little Mary Pickford Rupp, Lottie Pickford’s daughter and the niece of Mary Pickford and Olive Thomas. Little Mary, who is just three, had the tiniest pair of white kid gloves you ever saw, which she could put on but couldn’t take off, and as she worked them onto her chubby little hands the instant «Aunt Tolly» had removed them our conversation was rather fragmentary. It was tea time and Olive suggested that we have — hash!

«Here they are, white gloves and all!«

«I know that isn’t at all the proper thing, but I love it — and I want you to see what a wonder my cook is,» she remarked. «Of course I’m supposed to be dieting just now. Oh, no, I don’t really need to, but everybody else is doing it, too ! You’re company, though, so I can have anything I want to, and I love hash, don’t you? Hash, and having a good time, and Sessue Hayakawa’s wife, and Frank Keenan — even though he is a grandfather! — little Mary, my young sister, Harriet — I love ‘em all. But I do not love dieting and having nothing but a sliver of toast and a cup of tea for breakfast — it simply isn’t worth waking up for!»

She was now prying small Mary out of the white gloves, while the beautiful Chow dog of which she is so fond snuggled up beside her. «I think that’s a very pretty girl, Aunt Tolly,» commented Mary critically, observing me and beginning to put the gloves on again. «Do you know, when I first went into pictures I was so discouraged,» Olive began promptly, trying to relieve my embarrassment by pretending not to notice it. «I was sure I was a failure, but I know now that almost everybody feels that way about a first appearance on the screen. It must be like seeing one’s first baby; it simply can’t be as pretty as you thought it would!»

«She wears gingham now instead of selling it

A telephone message came then — something about a trip to San Francisco — and Olive beamed on me as she received it just as I rose to go. «We’re going there to make some scenes,» she told me as I gathered up my belongings and little Mary presented her gloved hands with the request to «Take ‘em off, please!» «We’ll only be there two days, unless it rains, and of course I don’t wish the company any bad luck, but I hope it rains. The nicest thing about Hollywood is leaving for San Francisco.»

And as I descended the front steps I made up a parody on that remark. The nicest thing about leaving Olive Thomas’  house is the way she urges you to come again.