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Olive Thomas: The Life and Death of a Silent Film Beauty [Kindle Edition]

Michelle Vogel
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Olive Thomas was one of Hollywood's first true movie stars. Born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, in 1894, she moved to New York at age sixteen and began to pursue an acting career. By 1915, she had landed a job as one of Ziegfeld's famous "Follies" girls. Before long her beauty was discovered by Hollywood, where she quickly became one of the biggest names in motion pictures. Her marriage to film star Jack Pickford further enhanced her popularity. Olive's death by poison on September 10, 1920, created a media circus. This biography begins with Olive's birth, follows her trip to stardom, and covers in detail the circumstances surrounding her mysterious death at age 25. Rare and beautiful photographs and a complete filmography are included.

Editorial Reviews


Full of beautiful photography and rare candids...this is the perfect tribute to a woman that many have long forgotten --The Midnight Palace

About the Author

Film historian Michelle Vogel is the author of Marjorie Main (2006), Children of Hollywood (2005) and Gene Tierney (2005). She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Product Details

  • File Size: 6158 KB
  • Print Length: 212 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company (March 21, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,999 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Worth the Price April 30, 2007
Olive Thomas is a mystery in modern times to those who are familiar with her story. She began on the Ziegfeld stage as one of the most talked about beauties. Her looks led her to the silver screen where she was hailed as the princess of Selznick Studios. She married into Hollywood royalty when she wed rambunctious Jack Pickford who eventually was the only source for clues to her demise. Thomas died at age 25 thanks to swallowing mercury bichloride pills in a Paris hotel during their second honeymoon. Whether this was a suicide, a murder, or an accident is left to history.

Also included at the end of Olive's story is a filmography for her career including synopsis, cast lists, and the status of the film today.

One major flaw with this book is that Vogel seems unfocused. There is a lot of information about Jack Pickford and Marilyn Miller, information that really has little to do with Thomas. The story jumps around chronologically and suggests many different conclusions to Thomas' death, but no solid explanation. Also, her early life is barely touched upon; her stage and screen career and early death are the focus. Granted, the information is valuable because so little is available, but the format of the book is disappointing, especially for its price. Vogel seemingly did not intend to create the definitive biography on Thomas as she often isolates her information to a time period. She references the "recent" release of The Flapper on DVD and has a fascination with translating dollar amounts into modern prices.

This book is certainly entertaining, though brief, but hardly stands as a worthy evaluation of Olive Thomas' career.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the investment! January 19, 2008
By Melissa
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was extremely disappointed in this biography. Little of Olive's early life and the development of her personality is touched on. Granted, there isn't much material out there to draw on, so I am sympathetic to the author's attempt to write a definitive biography of this interesting young woman. However, why this book is so expensive is beyond me. I was left with absolutely no new knowledge or insight into what made (and still makes) Olive such a fascinating study. It would have been more apt to title the book: The DEATH of a Silent Film Beauty. Building a biography around the mystique of her death is not my idea of time or money well spent.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing March 31, 2007
By Libris
While I agree that a book length biography of Olive Thomas was long overdue, I found myself disappointed with this book. I hoped that there would be a more in-depth look at Olive's early life, but it was quickly skimmed over while her career in the Ziegfeld Follies was barely discussed. Furthermore, the author arrived at the story of Olive's mysterious death before page 100.

Maybe it isn't possible to delve any further into Olive's story, but I don't think that's true. This book is a good start, but it's not the definitive biography of the tragic Olive Thomas. Since her death was the main focus of this book, it should have been titled "The Death of a Silent Screen Beauty."

However, if you are interested in the history of early Hollywood, check this book out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at an underrated actress March 19, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Michelle Vogel's biography of tragic actress Olive Thomas is very well researched. She found and excerpted dozens of movie magazine articles and interviews about Olive and bad-boy husband Jack Pickford. Unfortunately at this late date, is was probably difficult to find any information about her early life.

Ms. Vogel also has an extremely detailed filmography, with multiple trade magazine reviews. These are very helpful for films that no longer exist. The book is also filled with excellent photos.

My only quibble with this book is that it spends a little too much time on the reported sightings of Olive's spirit at the New Amsterdam theater in New York. It certainly deserved a mention in the book though.

The defining moment in Ms. Thomas' life was her death, and the book rightly spends a third of its length in discussing all of the different stories and scenarios about what caused her early death. Her investigation of the tragic event of Olive Thomas death makes for gripping reading, and you won't want to put this book down until Ms. Vogel reveals the likely scenario of what actually happened. I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in biographies of actresses, especially those from the silent film era.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful book, with tons of photos. It went along nicely with the DVD about Olive.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Leaves you Wanting More November 8, 2007
I was so thrilled to buy this book despite the price, but while it is well written, I wish there was more information on what she was really like. I can't fault the author because too too many years have passed and who could the author interview?

Every silent fan should have this book in their collection. It is a good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Despite the hefty price tag (which I'll address later), I enjoyed this book and appreciated the fact that someone decided to take on Olive Thomas who until recently had been pretty much abandoned by film historians.
My interest in Olive was the result of watching a DVD set of some of her films several months back. While Olive clearly predates her later sisters in the liberated, carefree woman mode she certainly got in on that franchise during her short career which only last about five years and ended permanently one month shy of her 26th birthday.
This book provides only the flimsiest of details regarding Olive's youth growing up in Charleroi PA, a mining town near Pittsburgh. Frankly, lack of details about her early life wasn't all that surprising. Olive's been dead for nine plus decades and I doubt that there is anyone around who would have first hand information in this area. This book supplies the basics, but truthfully Olive's story doesn't heat up until she divorces her first husband and moves to NYC and is recommended to Flo Ziegfeld who eventually features her in a somewhat risque version of his Follies known as the Midnight Frolics. Signed to a contract to make movies for Selznick Films (not to be confused with David L. Selznick's movie company as this company was owned by Selznick's father, Lewis), Olive goes through several movie contracts never really staying too long at any studio. Despite an early affair with the married Ziegfeld, Olive meets and marries silent screen phenomena Mary Pickford' s younger only brother Jack. Their marriage is an odd union to put it mildly. The comments of those who knew them offer consistency in the consensus view that they were more like playmates, or more aptly, two little petulant children hanging around with one another.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Expensive Book that is far to short!!
Having paid $40 for this book I expected much more...their is very little on her childhood and it mostly covers her death.The photographs are excellent.. Read more
Published on March 10, 2013 by MICHAEL
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very good
Some reviewers use this writer's lack of material to account for the way the book is structured. But how can that be, when all she seems to do is quote long, contemporary articles... Read more
Published on December 24, 2012 by desertwiffie
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Look at the Tragic Life of Silent Star Olive Thomas
A most amazing bio of silent film star Olive Thomas who is probably more well known today from her tragic death by drinking mercury (accidentally, on-purpose, or forced) than her... Read more
Published on April 7, 2012 by CJS
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth About Olive
I found out about Olive Thomas accidently, became interested in her story, got some of her movies and bought the book because I wanted to know more about her. Ms. Read more
Published on April 7, 2011 by Douglas E. Gambichler
5.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious Death of Olive Thomas
This worthwhile biography of the silent movie star Olive Thomas contains many scarce photographs and interesting information on her short and often sad life. Read more
Published on August 15, 2009 by Hagar the Horrible
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant answer to Who was Olive Thomas
Thank you Michelle Vogel for a concise primer of the life and death of the beautiful Olive Thomas, she was a true silent film beauty. Read more
Published on March 25, 2009 by Marilyn Slater
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Bio, Well-researched
Michelle Vogel has written a very well-researched biography on long-forgotten silent movie star Olive Thomas. Read more
Published on March 9, 2009 by Bill Cappello
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Read!
Well, I doubt that you could get a more comprehensive biography on long-forgotten silent film star, Olive Thomas. Read more
Published on March 9, 2009 by Craig Curtis
1.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful forgotten life, poorly researched book
Olive Thomas was a fascinating figure in Hollywood lore. Almost an early version of Marilyn Monroe...but with more twists and turns. Read more
Published on December 7, 2008 by Clara
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More About the Author

Michelle Vogel is an Australian-born author and noted Hollywood historian. Her book topics cover the lives and careers of silent actors as well as iconic stars of the Golden Age. Check out her popular blog for updated information on anything new on old Hollywood as well as upcoming book releases and interesting interviews. Personally signed bookplates ($5 including shipping anywhere in the world) are now being offered via her blog. Get one for your Michelle Vogel book today!

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