Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tragic Star: Beautiful Olive Borden

2015 is the year of the Tragic Star at A Person in the Dark. January's Tragic Star is Olive Borden.

Beautiful Olive Borden had it all, but she ended up making beds, washing dishes and scrubbing floors at a mission for destitute women. How did this happen?

This striking beauty was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1906. Raised by her mother, Sibbie (her father had died when Olive was a baby), lovely Olive convinced her mama that she had the stuff to make it in Hollywood. Sibbie believed in her girl and Olive proved her right. By 1922 she was appearing as a bathing beauty in comedy shorts and by 1925 she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star. Signed by the Fox Studio, Olive quickly became one of the studio's highest paid stars and one if its most popular.

By all accounts, Olive loved being a star. She spent lavishly, loved to party and engaged in a 4-year affair with one of Hollywood's hunkiest stars, George O'Brien. She was renowned for her beauty, her form, her style and even her acting.  Between 1925 and 1927 she appeared in a string of successful films for Fox.

Beautiful in pearls and basic black

Fig Leaves: Directed by Howard Hawks with fashions by Adrian
and one of Olive's biggest hits

Olive Borden models Adrian's fashions in "Fig Leaves"

Olive and George O'Brien were one of Hollywood's most beautiful couples

The Joy Girl (1927)

In 1927 Fox starred Olive as "The Joy Girl," a successful comedy that gave Olive the same nickname. In 1927 Hollywood's Joy Girl was on top of the world.

The film that gave Olive her short-lived nickname

The Joy Girl looking lovely
And then, suddenly, it all went wrong. Apparently Fox, who had a lot of high-paid stars, began to experience financial difficulties. As a result, they attempted to reduce some of the highest salaries, including Olive's.  Olive refused and walked out on her contract. From there, things went from bad to worse. O'Brien, tired of her hard partying ways, ended their relationship. Talking pictures and the lack of studio support put the nail in the coffin. Her last film was 1934's "Chloe, Love is Calling You," directed by fellow alcoholic and former great, Marshall Neilan. It was not a success. She was 28 years old.

Olive made a couple of bad marriages and attempted some vaudeville work, but nothing seemed to click. In 1941 she was broke and finished. She worked as a nurses aid and an army chauffeur and served as a WAC during the war.

After the war she tried to reestablish herself in Hollywood, but all doors were closed. During the last years of her life she found religion and joined Mama Sibbie at the Sunshine Mission, a refuge for homeless and poverty stricken women. In 1947 she fled the mission and was found by her mother in a motel. Olive was close to death. Sibbie brought her back to the mission, but Olive died soon after from complications arising from pneumonia and alcoholism.

Olive as she should be remembered

For much more about the lovely Olive Borden, please check out these informative sites:

OLIVE BORDEN: Silent Star - a completely comprehensive site about all things Olive - you will learn a lot here.

Looking for Mabel: A stunning site about Mable Normand and her world.

There is also a well-reviewed bio by Michelle Vogel called Olive Borden: The Life and Films of Hollywood's "Joy Girl" that I just bought with one click at Amazon!


Inge Gregusch said...

Gorgeous, informative post. Loved the clip. Noticed the REAL Adrian sketch behind Olive... Beautiful as always.

Caftan Woman said...

I thought Olive and George were marvelous in "3 Bad Men", but didn't realize that chemistry extended off screen. She certainly had her moments.


For sure her face is familiar, but I knew nothing about her so-tragic story :(
Tragic Stars is a great theme for 2015! For sure I'll learn a lot in your blog this year. Now, up to look for Olive's movies!

The Lady Eve said...

Thanks for the introduction to Olive Borden. She was lovely to look at and, judging from the clip, had an equally fetching presence onscreen. Her "form" reminds me a bit of Ava Gardner's. How sad that things fell apart for her, and at such an early age. Too many of the screen stars of the silent era seem to have suffered shattering falls. And many of sound era, too. There is no shortage of "Tragic Stars" for your 2015 series. Looking forward to future installments.

Christian Esquevin said...

Beautiful post, and thanks for including the fashion show from Fig Leaves, that rare film with costume designs by Adrian. Olive's story reminds me of Betty Hutton's, but then there were so many tales of woe in Hollywood.

FlickChick said...

I knew you would notice that sketch, Inge - and that it would please you.

FlickChick said...

Hi CW - I now need to see some Olive films. Sadly, so many are lost. It is so much fun discovering someone new - even if they are 100 years old.

FlickChick said...

Hi Le - yes, I am going to be seeking out Olive, as well, this year.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Lady Eve. And you are right - there are more than enough Hollywood tragedies out there. The ones that are really sad, to me, are those who find fame early and then spiral downward. Such a shame.

FlickChick said...

Christian - yes, I remember when they found Betty working in a church and looking mighty sad. It's hard to fall so low - and even harder to stay on top. Makes you really admire folks like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis who managed to retain their star status for decades. Obviously, it aint easy!