Olive Thomas: Everybody's Sweetheart

  • 2003
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

This long overdue documentary restores luster to the reputation of 1920s movie star Olive Thomas. At the height of her career, the 25-year-old Olive Thomas died from ingesting mercury chloride tablets while vacationing in Paris. Questions remain as to whether her death was a careless accident or an impulsive suicide. Born into poverty in Charleroi,...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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This long overdue documentary restores luster to the reputation of 1920s

movie star Olive Thomas.

At the height of her career, the 25-year-old Olive Thomas died from

ingesting mercury chloride tablets while vacationing in Paris. Questions remain as to whether her death was a careless accident or an impulsive suicide. Born into poverty in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, in 1904, Thomas escaped her surroundings via underage marriage to a factory time-keeper. When the appeal of domesticity curdled, the restless Thomas obtained a divorce and re-invented herself in Manhattan. Considered one of her era's great beauties, the shop girl attracted the eye of influential illustrators like James Flagg, Howard Chandler Christie and Vargas. She became a model, then a showgirl, and an affair with the married showman Flo Ziegfeld elevated her from the main Follies to a spot in his even more prestigious “Midnight Frolics.” In 1916, the ambitious Thomas started stepping out with bon vivant Jack Pickford. Although their relationship speeded up her entry into silent films, it didn't endear her to soon-to-be sister-in-law Mary Pickford. Thomas radiated with a translucence that the camera adored, and she made an instant impression as a supporting player, and though conflicting film schedules and Pickford’s military service separated the young couple, they remained devoted. In TOTON (1917), the fledgling actress assayed a dual role, and became an immediate audience favorite; she achieved stardom in 1919 with UPSTAIRS AND DOWN and THE SPITE BRIDE. Credited with launching a new screen type in THE FLAPPER (1920), Thomas seemed both sophisticated and unaware of her

behavior’s effect on others. The posthumous release of EVERYBODY’S SWEETHEART

consolidated her fame.

Given the paucity of extant off-camera footage, film historians like Andi Hicks sometimes stoop to using clips from a subject’s movies to illustrate a biographical point. But with the exception of this shortcut, Hicks and co-writer Sarah Baker cleverly compress historical material and recapture the evanescent appeal of this silent screen idol.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This long overdue documentary restores luster to the reputation of 1920s movie star Olive Thomas. At the height of her career, the 25-year-old Olive Thomas died from ingesting mercury chloride tablets while vacationing in Paris. Questions remain as to… (more)

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