“Natalie Marries Buster Keaton”–An Interesting Book Excerpt

So lately I’ve been investigating two of the most overlooked stars of the silent era, Norma and Constance Talmadge, and their sister Natalie (Buster Keaton’s first wife). While Norma and Constance were once wildly popular, critically praised, and well-liked by their Hollywood co-stars, they’ve become surprisingly obscure. And unfortunately, a kind of bizarre mythology has grown up around all three sisters–a mythology that’s painted them as cold, snobby, and somewhat scheming (mainly in pretty much every Buster Keaton book ever, unfortunately).

Clearly coming up with evil schemes. (Image credit: Wisconsin Historical Society)

From what I can see, much of this is due to Anita Loos’s gossipy, jumbled book The Talmadge Girls, published in 1978, otherwise known as “several years after all the Talmadges were safely dead.” It’s been decades since the silent era, many books have been written about every silent star imaginable, and yet this–this–is still the only book available on the Talmadges.

 …Or is it? Ah, my friends, there was one other book, published in 1924, called The Talmadge Sisters: Norma, Constance, Natalie, written by their mother Margaret “Peg” Talmadge. It’s difficult to find but well worth a read (I recommend doing an interlibrary loan). Whether it was ghostwritten under the family’s watchful eye or whether Peg did sit down at her typewriter is hard to tell, but it’s quite fascinating, released as it was during the heights of the girls’ careers and giving us their detailed story decades before folks like Loos got their hands on it. The style can be sentimental and romanticized (as all the 1920s “life stories of the stars” books are), but not to the point where I felt the whole thing was complete hokum (unpleasant details, like Peg’s husband abandoning the family, are simply not mentioned).

Image result for talmadge sisters

The Talmadge ladies travelling.

I’ll have to review it in near future (a double review with the Loos book may be in order), but thought I’d copy down the chapter that fascinated me the most. For such a “cold and snobby” family, as Keaton bios will state, Peg included an entire chapter on her son-in-law Buster and ended it with some pretty thoughtful and generous complements. It also includes much of the old “how Buster got his nickname” kind of lore, and it’s interesting to see how consistent certain stories were throughout his life.

Here it is–hope you enjoy! Any unusual spellings are original to the 1924 book.

CHAPTER XI

NATALIE MARRIES BUSTER KEATON

After our return from Europe, Natalie’s letters and telegrams from Buster became more and more frequent, so that none of us was surprised when, while we were at Palm Beach, where Norma was taking some scenes for one of her pictures, Buster wired Natalie that he would meet her in New York and that she had better be prepared to give an answer to an important question! Continue reading

Advertisements

Fan Magazine Fun: “If I Were a Man…”

1920s fan magazines are an endless source of trivia, fun anecdotes, touches of serious journalism, and of course, oodles of fluff pieces. Take the following irresistible article from Picture-Play Magazine, from the March 1927 issue:

If I Were a Man 1

Here’s the headline on the opposite page (as you can see, the article was compiled by Dorothy……………Wooldridge):

If I Were a Woman 2

A bunch of actors and actresses were asked what annoyed them about the opposite sex the most–and who knows if they were asked personally, or if their publicists responded. Either way, some of the answers are most amusingly 1920s.  Continue reading

“What’s the matter with the Talmadges?”–Some Fan Magazine Letter Drama

As I lovingly covered in a previous article, one of the best parts of sifting through early movie magazines is getting to see all those priceless letters to the editor. (And of course we have our dearest friend Lantern to thank for getting to see all those magazines in the first place!)

Lantern pic

We love thee, Lantern!

Month after month movie fans would send in their opinions on anything and everything relating to the film industry: which films they enjoyed, which films let them down, which stars they adored, and even, at times, which stars they didn’t adore at all. Continue reading