While having some much needed R&R with our family over the holidays, we engaged in a favorite pastime: watching old movies together. By old, we mean really old – before the advent of talkies. Seeing a few legendary silent film actors and actresses inspired a bit of research on some of the most notable names and we thought to share some interesting historical tidbits here!
While Valentino is still a household name (and perhaps the most famous of the silent-era film stars,) much of his filmography is lost to history.
Despite being typecast as “exotic” and “the Latin lover,” Valentino held progressive, humanist ideas about foreign cultures, and did his best to humanize the characters he was cast as. For example, when interviewed about his role as “The Sheik” and asked if his love interest would have fallen for a ‘savage’ in real life, Valentino stated that “People are not savages because they have dark skins. The Arabian civilization is one of the oldest in the world…the Arabs are dignified and keen brained.” This frustration plagued Valentino for most of his short career and it was only with the guarantee that he be allowed great latitudes in costuming and scripting that he agreed to reprise the sheik role in Son of The Sheik, his final film.
Valentino also was keen to be involved in other elements of the film business besides just acting. While earning today’s equivalent of $130,000 per week, Valentino created an award for acting that preceded the existence of the Academy Awards. The Rudolph Valentino Medal was given for artistic accomplishment in film and determined by Valentino, two judges and a vote of 75 critics.
Valentino died in 1926 at the age of 31 from complications related to appendicitis, gastric ulcers and an abdominal infection. His death caused pandemonium as much of America fell into chaotic, despondent mourning for the star.
Canadian-born Mary Pickford is perhaps the most famous silent-era film actress. Known as “the girl with the golden curls” and “Blondilocks,” she enjoyed unprecedented popularity with American audiences. Despite her waning popularity as an actress following the advent of “talkies,” Pickford continued to be instrumental in the film industry, helping found United Artist pictures as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Pickford’s marriage to actor Douglas Fairbanks cemented their position as the first “Hollywood Royalty” – she was once described as “the best known woman who has ever lived, the woman who was known to more people and loved by more people than any other woman that has been in all history” and when she and Fairbanks returned from their honeymoon abroad, people clamored in the streets to see them. Pickford used her fame to garner support for the military during World War I by selling liberty bonds, raising an estimated five million dollars and being named by the Army as an honorary colonel.
After her divorce from Fairbanks (who went on to wed Sylvia, Lady Ashley,) Pickford became a bit of a recluse, seldom leaving her estate (nicknamed Pickfair during the time of her marriage.) When she was given an honorary Oscar in 1976, a film crew set up inside Pickfair to record her statement of thanks and provided American audiences with a glimpse of the legendary abode.
One of the most prominent silent film actresses, Gloria Swanson enjoyed a career which spanned beyond silent film and is best known for her role as fallen silent film star, Norma Desmond in David O. Selznick’s Sunset Boulevard.
Though she began work as an extra, Swanson rocketed to movie star status within a few years of working at Paramount. Working under directors such as Cecil B. DeMille, Swanson gained an incredible amount of artistic authority and leverage with the studio, though films she had a hand in making had varying rates of success. Following Sunset Boulevard (which was made when Swanson was only 51,) she toured through talk and variety shows discussing her silent and sound film career.
Married six times, Swanson notably had a famous affair with business partner Joseph P. Kennedy, father of future president John F. Kennedy. Throughout her life, Swanson advocated for a healthy diet, including encouraging others to try macrobiotic diets and vegetarianism (Swanson became a vegetarian in her late twenties.)
Clara Bow garnered the title of the original “It” girl after appearing as a spunky shopgirl in silent film It. Cartoon character Betty Boop was also modeled after Bow, who embodied the sex appeal of the 1920s with her bob haircut and flapper style. This style helped the young star rise to tremendous fame, becoming one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars and receiving 45,000 fan letters in January of 1929.
Bow became known for her frank behavior and bohemian lifestyle. It was said of her, “Clara is the total nonconformist. What she wants she gets, if she can. What she desires to do she does. She has a big heart, a remarkable brain, and the most utter contempt for the world in general. Time doesn’t exist for her, except that she thinks it will stop tomorrow. She has real courage, because she lives boldly.” She said of herself, “They yell at me to be dignified. But what are the dignified people like? The people who are held up as examples of me? They are snobs. Frightful snobs … I’m a curiosity in Hollywood. I’m a big freak, because I’m myself!”
At the age of 28, Bow retired and became a rancher with husband Rex Bell, a cowboy actor. They had two sons. Bow later suffered chronic insomnia and abdominal pains. Upon examination, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her poor health and heart conditions could have been genetic – it is suspected that Bow’s mother was also a schizophrenic, who unfortunately never received treatment. Bow died at age 60 of a heart attack.
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Love the silent film style? Eden can help you incorporate a glamorous Art Deco influence into your home and wardrobe.
Found image post cards, $2 each (call 503 222 2285 for details) • Ostrich feathers, $12 each (call 503 222 2285 for details) • Vintage silk scarves, $24 each • Serge Lutens Arabie perfume, $120.Art Deco Textiles book, $29.95 • Jan Michaels cuff, $92 • Vintage shawl, $210 • Lily Lambert No. 33 perfume oil, $42.
We’re continuing our holiday gift giving guide this week (click to see parts 1 and 2) with a selection of thoughtful presents that would be ideal for coworkers or extended family who you’re really close to.
For your favorite in-law:
Seaworthy “Time Stopped” necklace – A hand cut brass square is imprinted with a design inspired by textiles from the 30′s and 40′s. The brass square is then accented with links of vintage chains and new brass chain.
Filles de Iles Flower Chic perfume – This flirtatious French scent carries notes of Brazilian orange, ginger of the indies, tequila sunrise, passionfruit, hibiscus, cedar and Virginia praline.
Maria Evora soap – Maria Evora’s famous black soap features notes of myrtle and carob, invoking the salt of the sea and sand of the Spanish coast.
Truffles – Delicious single chocolate truffles wrapped in decadent paper and sealed with a gold foil and tissue bow.
For your friend at the office:
Leather Traveler’s notebook – With an imprinted leather bound cover, the Traveler’s Notebook is made with blank, handmade paper that offers the perfect vista for any memory, adventure or creative thought.
Geisha Green perfume oil – The key aroma of this fragrance is absinthe – the tart, licorice-flavored liqueur, gently sweetened with black currant, mandarin, and violet, and softened with amber and tonka bean. Famed as an aphrodisiac, absinthe is also a legendary creativity enhancer.
Hand of Wisdom – Symbolic of the wheel of law and intellectual discussion, the Hand of Wisdom is a Buddist gesture connecting the thumb and index finger of both hands into a circle pattern.
The Cloud Collector’s Handbook – The perfect incentive for keeping your head in the clouds, The Cloud Collector’s Handbook is a whimsical guide to the wonders of the sky.
Our next gift guide will feature present selections for new parents and new homeowners. Check back for it next Tuesday!
Day-after-Thanksgiving holiday shopping can be a stressful endeavor, even when you do your part to avoid the big box stores with their crazy door-busting deals by shopping at local businesses. Eden is participating in the Little Boxes event this year, joining forces with over 70 Portland businesses to present a better model for Black Friday.
The perks of participating in Little Boxes are many-fold: a raffle for dozens of primo prizes (you can enter at every Little Box you visit,) plus get 10% off if you show a receipt from a Little Box while making a purchase at a second Little Box.
To simplify shopping and inspire original gift-giving, we’re issuing a seven-part gift guide for everyone on your list.
First up: members of your immediate, nuclear family.
The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Art of Alan Aldridge – This volume charts notorious design guru Alan Aldridge’s 40-year career, including some of his best and most famous artwork.
Read on for answers…
As anyone who attempts to pass by the Rose Quarter or across the Burnside Bridge will indubitably notice, today marks the Grand Floral Parade and the coronation of the Portland Rose Festival Queen.
A visit to the Rose Garden last week and announcements promoting today’s Festival inspired us to dig up some images of past festivals, floats and Rose Queens. Although perhaps some of the grandeur of these early celebrations has vanished, those of us who love old things and get nostalgic over the past are heartened by the idea that this tradition is still a strong and important one for our city.
One can hardly walk down any Portland city street this time of year without encountering a rose bush in bloom or about to flower and today’s festivities guarantee your chances of encountering the blossoms our city is known for are that much higher.
For those feeling floral on this balmy June day, Eden offers a subtler way to announce an affection for the City of Roses. Here is an offering of some of our favorite Rose Festival memorabilia and a few lovely rose-based scents from our garden.
Clockwise from top left: Crazylibellule le Bâton de Bon Matin solid perfume stick • Crazylibellule le Bâton Ensemble ce Soir solid perfume stick • Image of past festival • Serge Lutens Sa Majete la Rose perfume • Image of past festival • MOR Essentials Sugar Rose Tiger Lily hand cream • Claus Porto Tuberose Soap • Former Rose Queen • Vintage postcard of Rose Court • Vintage Rose Festival promotional ad • Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion perfume • Voluspa Tuberosa di Notte room and body spray • Lily Lambert U roll-on perfume (from the SPECTRUM series) • Vintage Rose Festival program • Image of 1963 Rose Float featuring Queen Linda.