Olive Thomas: Everybody's Sweetheart 

by Sarah Baker

Olive Thomas was the first flapper, even though she died just as the Jazz Age was dawning. No star of the 'teens sparkled like her.  Her brief life embraced poverty and wealth, obscurity and fame, triumph and tragedy. 

Olive was born Oliva R. Duffy in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, on October 20, 1894. While still a teenager, Olive fled an abusive marriage and dire poverty for the bright lights of New York.  Within a year of her arrival, she was a sensation in the Ziegfeld Follies and the Midnight Frolic.

Olive left her Broadway career for a fling in films, and quickly became one of the silent screen's most adored ingénues. She married Jack Pickford, the younger brother of America’s Sweetheart Mary Pickford, and their love affair was marked by spectacular fights and passionate reconciliations.  The Pickford-Thomas ménage was as volatile and unpredictable as that of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.  It was also one of the first "Hollywood" marriages, where career pressures combined with the demands of stardom to wreck their relationship.

In September 1920, Olive and Jack sailed to Paris for a much needed honeymoon.  One night, after partying with friends in Montmartre, Olive drank a solution of bichloride of mercury and died an agonizing death just a few days later.  Rumors ran rampant--that she had been murdered, that she had overdosed on cocaine, or that she had committed suicide.  Olive's death continues to overshadow her joyous life and lasting contribution to film history.

All but forgotten for more than 80 years, Olive Thomas remains an enigma to fans and film historians. TIMELINE FILMS, in conjunction with producer SARAH BAKER, are pleased to announce OLIVE THOMAS: EVERYBODY'S SWEETHEART, an insightful and entertaining documentary on the captivating actress who won the heart of a generation. 

"Olive Thomas: Everybody's Sweetheart" features fascinating glimpses of rare newsreel footage and Olive's extant films, including:

Beatrice Fairfax Episode 10: Play Ball! (1916)

An Even Break (1917)

Betty Takes a Hand (1918)

Love's Prisoner (1919)

The Flapper (1920)

Everybody's Sweetheart (1920)

This documentary is the preeminent source for information on this fascinating star.

Narrated by Rosanna Arquette


Interviews include:

Dana Amendola, general manager of the New Amsterdam Theatre

Allison Anders, director

Doris Eaton Travis, former Ziegfeld showgirl

Patricia Erhardt, Olive Thomas's cousin

Nora Erhardt, Olive Thomas's great-niece

Eve Golden, author and film historian

Daniel Selznick, producer

Mark Wanamaker, film historian

Richard Ziegfeld, author


OLIVE THOMAS: EVERYBODY'S SWEETHEART is available on DVD and VHS by Milestone Films with the Selznick feature, The Flapper (1920), accompanied by a Robert Israel score. To order this item on DVD, follow the link below.



Copyright 2006 by Sarah Baker.  All Rights Reserved.