Talmadge in 1917
Constance Alice Talmadge
April 19, 1898
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||November 23, 1973 (aged 75)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
(m. 1920; div. 1922)
(m. 1926; div. 1927)
(m. 1929; div. 1939)
Walter Michael Giblin
(m. 1939; died 1964)
|Relatives||Natalie Talmadge (sister)|
Norma Talmadge (sister)
Talmadge was born on April 19, 1898 in Brooklyn, New York to poor parents, Fred and Peg Talmadge. Her father was an alcoholic, and left them when she was still very young. Her mother made a living by doing laundry. When a friend recommended that Talmadge's mother use older sister Norma as a model for title slides in flickers, which were shown in early nickelodeons, Peg decided to do so. This led all three sisters into an acting career.
Griffith re-edited Intolerance repeatedly after its initial release, and even shot new scenes long after it was in distribution. Grace Kingsley found Talmadge in her dressing room at the Fine Arts Studio, in Los Angeles, in the midst of making up for some new shots.
"Did you really drive those galloping brutes of horses?" asked Kingsley.
"Indeed I did," said Talmadge. "Two women sat behind me at the Auditorium the other night. They said, 'Of course she never really drove those horses herself. Somebody doubled for her.' Know what I did? I turned around and told them, 'I wish I could show you my knees, all black and blue even yet from being cracked up against the dashboard of that chariot!'"
So popular was Talmadge's portrayal of the tomboyish Mountain Girl, Griffith released in 1919 the Babylonian sequence from Intolerance as a new, separate film called The Fall of Babylon. He refilmed her death scene to allow for a happy ending.
Her friend Anita Loos, who wrote many screenplays for her, appreciated her "humour and her irresponsible way of life". Over the course of her career, Talmadge appeared in more than 80 films, often in comedies such as A Pair of Silk Stockings (film) (1918), Happiness à la Mode (1919), Romance and Arabella (1919), Wedding Bells (1921 film) (1921), and The Primitive Lover (1922).
Talmadge, along with her sisters, was heavily billed during her early career. According to her 1923 Blue Book of the Screen biography, she was "5'5" tall, 120 lbs, with blonde hair and brown eyes, ... an outdoor girl who loved activities."
When Talmadge was asked by a writer for Green Book magazine what sort of stories she wanted to do in 1920, she said: "Although no less than sixty manuscripts are submitted to me every week, it is exceedingly difficult to get exactly the kind of comedy I especially want. I want comedies of manners, comedies that are funny because they delight one's sense of what is ridiculously human in the way of little everyday commonplace foibles and frailties - subtle comedies, not comedies of the slap stick variety."
"I enjoy making people laugh. Secondly, because this type of work comes easiest and most naturally to me, I am not a highly emotional type. My sister could cry real tears over two sofa cushions stuffed into a long dress and white lace cap, to look like a dead baby, and she would do it so convincingly that 900 persons out front would weep with her. That is real art, but my kind of talent would lead me to bounce that padded baby up and down on my knee with absurd grimaces that would make the same 900 roar with laughter.
"You see, in my way, I take my work quite as seriously as my sister does hers - I would be just as in earnest about making the baby seem ridiculous as she would about making it seem real. I am not fitted to be a vamp type. There is nothing alluring, or exotic, or erotic, or neurotic about me. I could not pull the vamp stuff to save my life, but if I am assigned a vamp role in a comedy, and I had such a part in my fourth First National picture, In Search of a Sinner. I play it with all the seriousness and earnestness and sincerity with which a real vamp would play it, except that I, of course, over-emphasize all the characteristics of the vampire. I try to handle a comedy role much the same way that a cartoonist handles his pencils. If he is drawing the picture of the late Theodore Roosevelt, with a few strokes he emphasizes Teddy's eye-glasses and teeth, leaving his ears and nostrils and the lines of his face barely suggestive. One must leave a great deal to the imagination on the screen, because in the span of one short hour we sometimes have to develop a character from girlhood to womanhood through three marriages and two divorces, and perhaps travel half way round the world besides; so, like the cartoonist, I try to emphasize the salient characteristics, which, of course, in my particular work, bring out the humorous side of the person I am portraying."
With the advent of talkies in 1929, Talmadge left Hollywood. Her sister Norma did make a handful of appearances in talking films, but for the most part the three sisters retired all together, investing in real estate and other business ventures. Only a few of her films survive today.
She was married four times; all the unions were childless:
Talmadge's mother fostered the belief she might one day return to films. "Success and fame cast a spell that can never been quite shaken off," her mother pointed out in her autobiography. "A woman, because of her love, may say, and in the fervor of the moment believe, that she is ready to give up her chosen work. But there is sure to come a time when keen longing and strong regret for her lost career dominate over the more placid contentments of love and marriage. Then unhappiness and friction ensue."
She died of pneumonia. Along with her sister Norma, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Talmadge inaugurated the tradition of placing her footprints in concrete outside Grauman's Chinese Theater. She left a trail of five footprints in her slab.
|1914||Buddy's First Call||Grace Forster|
|The Maid from Sweden||Marie Cook|
|Our Fairy Play||Helen Payne - the Actress|
|The Moonstone of Fez||Winifred Osborne|
|Buddy's Downfall||Lily - the City Flirt|
|The Mysterious Lodger||Lucy Lane|
|Father's Timepiece||Marjorie Stillwell|
|The Peacemaker||Kitty Grey|
|The Evolution of Percival||Mildred|
|In Bridal Attire||Mary|
|Fixing Their Dads||Florence|
|The Egyptian Mummy||Florence Hicks|
|Forcing Dad's Consent||Connie Boggs|
|1915||In the Latin Quarter||Manon||Incomplete|
|The Green Cat||Constance|
|The Young Man Who 'Figgered||Nan Tubbs|
|A Study in Tramps||Mary Stretch|
|The Master of His House||Mrs. Greene|
|The Lady of Shalott||Minor Role|
|The Boarding House Feud||Connie Drexel|
|The Vanishing Vault||Connie|
|Spades Are Trumps||Ella Cunningham|
|Bertie's Stratagem||Letty Grey|
|Insuring Cutey||Cutey's Bride|
|Billy the Bear Tamer||Constance|
|A Keyboard Strategy||Mrs. Walter Gibson|
|Can You Beat It?||Dill - Pike's Wife|
|Beached and Bleached|
|The Little Puritan||Corinne|
|The Matrimaniac||Marna Lewis|
|1915||Captivating Mary Carstairs||Bit Part||Uncredited|
|1916||The Missing Links||Laura Haskins||Lost|
|Intolerance||Marguerite de Navarre / The Mountain Girl||Extant|
|The Microscope Mystery||Jessie Barton|
|1917||A Girl of the Timber Claims||Jessie West|
|Betsy's Burglar||Betsy Harlow|
|The Lesson||Helen Drayton|
|The Honeymoon||Helen Drayton|
|1918||The Studio Girl||Celia Laird|
|The Shuttle||Bettina Vandepoel|
|Up the Road with Sallie||Sallie Waters||Extant|
|Good Night, Paul||Mrs. Richard||Extant|
|A Pair of Silk Stockings||Mrs. Molly Thornhill||Extant|
|Sauce for the Goose||Kitty Constable|
|Mrs. Leffingwell's Boots||Mrs. Leffingwell|
|A Lady's Name||Mabel Vere||Incomplete|
|1919||Who Cares?||Joan Ludlow||Lost|
|Romance and Arabella||Arabella Cadenhouse|
|Experimental Marriage||Suzanne Ercoll|
|The Veiled Adventure||Geraldine Barker|
|Happiness a la Mode||Barbara Townsend|
|A Temperamental Wife||Billie Billings|
|A Virtuous Vamp||Gwendolyn Armitage / Nellie Jones||Also produced||Extant|
|1920||Two Weeks||Lillums Blair||Extant|
|In Search of a Sinner||Georgianna Chadbourne|
|The Love Expert||Babs||Also produced||Extant|
|The Perfect Woman||Mary Blake|
|Good References||Mary Wayne||Extant|
|Dangerous Business||Nancy Flavelle||Lost|
|1921||Mama's Affair||Eve Orrin||Extant|
|Lessons in Love||Leila Calthorpe|
|Wedding Bells||Rosalie Wayne||Lost|
|Woman's Place||Josephine Gerson||Extant|
|1922||Polly of the Follies||Polly Meacham||Also produced||Lost|
|The Primitive Lover||Phyllis Tomley||Also produced||Extant|
|East Is West||Ming Toy||Also produced||Extant|
|The Dangerous Maid||Barbara Winslow||Extant|
|1924||The Goldfish||Jennie Wetherby|
|Her Night of Romance||Dorothy Adams||Also produced||Extant|
|In Hollywood with Potash and Perlmutter||Herself|
|1925||Learning to Love||Patricia Stanhope|
|Seven Chances||Girl in Car||Uncredited||Extant|
|Her Sister from Paris||Helen Weyringer / La Perry||Extant|
|1926||The Duchess of Buffalo||Marian Duncan||Also produced||Extant|
|1927||Venus of Venice||Carlotta||Also produced||Incomplete|
|Breakfast at Sunrise||Madeleine||Also produced||Extant|
|1929||Venus||Princess Beatrice Doriani|