From Film Flashes, 1916?
"I wonder if she will be changed."
A slender, pretty girl in a smart blue gown, who was waiting in the gray and pink room for Norma Talmadge, turned to the girl with her as she spoke. They had not seen their friend for several years, and they had dropped in from a visit to the Allied Bazaar to meet her again.
"Changed!" The girl in gray smiled cheerfully. "Let me tell you something, dearie. Norma will be just exactly the same sweet old thing she used to be when she was only getting twenty-five a week. Watch her."
She was right. Norma Talmadge has a sensible, level head, thanks to the careful training of her mother, who is her dearest chum. She was just as glad to see her old friends as in the old days when they were all glad to find a good looking street hat marked town to $3.97. Miss Talmadge had just come in from a hard day's work--a good, hard day's work, too--and she was glad to find a comfortable chair and a cup of tea from the quaint old Chinese teapot awaiting her.
Just between you and me and the gatepost, the only fad she has is her love for Chinese embroideries. She has them everywhere about her room, and gorgeous affairs they are, too. There is one wonderful strip of embroidery on the wall that--but this is the story of Norma Talmadge, the charming Triangle star, who was sent all the way to New York to head a new company of her own, and not of Chinese embroidery. Otherwise I would tell you of the marvelous mandarin's coat that she sometimes slips on when she has a moment to herself, long enough to take three minutes' rest in a chaise longue.
She smiled wearily when she saw a visitor with a pencil. The poor thing has been interviewed so often that it scares her to death. Not but what she is perfectly charming about it; but she says she never can remember what to say or what they want her to say.
"Hurray!" beamed Miss Talmadge, trying to smile between telephone rings. Everybody in New York was calling her up, judging from the constant jingling of the 'phone bell. Mrs. Talmadge answered it until she was exhausted, and then Ethel Cozzens poured her charmingly vibrant voice into the mouthpiece in answer to questions.
There was one voice that was heartily welcomed. It was none other than Toby. Everybody knows who Toby is. Toby was the first gentleman to call up Miss Talmadge when she arrived in New York. He assured her that everything in New York was hers, and that when she gave the word, he would head a phalanx of newspaper and magazine people marching down to her hotel.
"They gotta know you're here, Miss Talmadge," he informed her earnestly. "I've been around to every newspaper office in the place and hustled out reporters to see you."
And so he had. For within half an hour of her arrival, a languid young man from a city daily appeared and said that Toby had haunted his corner of the city room until he had seen him depart for an interview with Miss Talmadge.
"Bless your soul, Toby!" said Miss Talmadge, into the 'phone. "I certainly am glad to hear your voice again."
Then the story of the dog came out. It seems Miss Talmadge has a fluffy white dog, silky and beautiful. They carried him carefully to the baggage car, when stern rules decreed that he must travel. He was laundered beautifully, and the brakeman respectfully informed Miss Talmadge that he would take the best of care of Fluffy Ruffles.
"Do you know," said Miss Talmadge, "I never knew there were so many brakemen in the whole wide world! Seems to me every hour or so the porter would step softly to my side and whisper confidentially,
"'Mis' Talmadge, that brakeman, he says he would sure like to speak a word wid you.'
"And away mother and I would hie to the baggage car. I changed a twenty-dollar bill into fifty-cent pieces, and by the time we arrived in New York, there wasn't a fifty cents left of that twenty. Those brakemen were so ingratiating and so anxious to take good care of little doggy. But, oh, what a dog they handed out to me at the New York station! I had stowed away a happy, plump, snowy little creature, and I received a dirty, ragged, barking canine that I would never have recognized in the world. He was disreputably cocksure of himself and tried to swagger up and down the platform like a sure-enough brakeman. He barked at me defiantly and seemed so fond of the car that he really didn't want to come out. They had a lot of fun with my poor little Fluffy Ruffles, but it took six baths to get him clean again, poor dear."
Miss Talmadge, like all her family, possesses a sense of humor that is a regular floating buoy to her. She and her mother are like a pair of happy girls together, and in spite of her boost to stardom, with its consequent salary, Miss Talmadge does not waste her money in feverish purchases. She gets full value for every dollar she spends. Maybe she won't like it if I tell this story, but it is too good to keep. The mother told it on her.
Some of the screen stars are good pickings to the shops, especially when the modish gowns and smart hats are displayed for their benefit. Miss Talmadge wandered through the shopping district just before she came East, and an insistent young woman wanted her to buy out the shop, having recognized her immediately.
"Here's a smart little model for you, Miss Talmadge," she said. "Just the thing for you. See what wonderful lines it has!"
Miss Talmadge looked at the simply made house frock with interest. Her maid could have duplicated it for fifty dollars easily, but she would have been willing to pay sixty for it.
"Very pretty," she said. "What is the price?"
The clerk glanced quickly at the price tag and held it in her hand.
"only one hundred and ninety-six dollars." she said easily. "And so charming on you!"
Miss Talmadge store a glance at her mother, who returned the glance with interest.
"What do you think of it, mother?" she said, refusing to allow her knowledge of the real figures on the price tag to slip out. "Do you think I ought to take it?"
"Just as you please, dear," murmured Mrs. Talmadge, with an aside, "If you take that thing at that price, I'll murder you!"
"Of course it is very pretty," said Miss Talmadge to the clerk, and "Don't worry, old dear. I'm not utterly mad yet." to her mother. "But I have so little time to-day. I'll drop in some other time, and thank you so much for showing them to us." And in the elevator she fell up against her sympathetic mother with a gasp.
"One hundred and ninety-six dollars for that gown! It would have been dear at sixty. I wonder why they try it on that way. I saw that price tag, and she added one hundred dollars to the first price."
So, you see, the sharks will never get Miss Talmadge. She learned what values were early in life, and her success as a screen star has not at all turned her pretty head.
"I see the recent federation of club women called for better films for children," she said, sipping her welcome cup of tea. "I'm for that. I enjoyed those kiddies out at the Triangle studio so much, and I was with them so constantly that I gained a new idea of what children want on the screen. They don't want the inane stuff that some of the older ones seem to think they need. Children like just what we like. They want action on the screen and virility and comedy. They catch the comedy bits long before the adults do, and they scream with laughter at them. Children think a lot more than we realize, and they have been pretty well fed up with this fairy-tale stuff. You know, I sometimes think we waste a lot of good sympathy over their likes and dislikes. They understand a good comedy as much as any adult, and if the people who are getting up children's programs would hold this thought in mind, they would be mighty popular with the children. They get so much enforced education at school that they are rather afraid of a film if it is labeled 'educational'; but they'll take on anything in the way of instruction on the screen if it is rightly presented. A visualized scene is printed on their minds immediately, whereas it takes a lot of time and effort to memorize it as a dry lesson. I'm strong for good films for the children. And while we are about it, I'm just as strong for good films for the adults. I believe the ones who need the special attention are the youth of the country. We don't seem to pay attention to them. Why not have a campaign on good films for the young people from twelve to eighteen--just in the formative period?"
Well, why not?
The telephone jangled considerably out of tune, and Mrs. Talmadge hurried back and forth with messages and requests for interviews and offers of theater tickets and boxes of flowers and bonbons Miss Talmadge drank her tea and smiled her relief at not having to answer questions and be interviewed--always a wearisome job for her, however willing she may be. She smiled at her mother when the third offer of dinner and theater came in.
"Dearie," she said, "I'll tell you what we'll do. You and I will have a bite of dinner together, and then we'll slip out and see a good picture show. How about this new Rialto? I hear it is well worth seeing. Suppose we just run over there all by ourselves."
This is her idea of recreation. After working hard all day in a new studio, she slips out with her best chum for a picture show.
"It's a long ride out to Fort Lee," she said, when the visitors rose in a body to bid adieu. "In California, you know, the studio was only a few blocks, so this long trip twice a day is new to me. But isn't it grand to get back to this nice weather?"
Mrs. Talmadge groaned.
"Imagine!" she said. "When everybody else is oozing moisture from every tiny cell in the skin, and drooping around trying to keep their hair in a curl and to keep from fighting with their best friends, Norma is blooming with health and energy. She likes this kind of weather--nice and warm and damp and sticky. What do you think of such a girl?"
Same as everybody else thinks, Mrs. Talmadge--that she is a darling and that you ought to be mighty proud of being the mother of two such charming screen stars. Not but what they have a lot to be proud of in having you for a mother, too. And there is Natalie Talmadge, the "middle" sister. We haven't had a chance to get around to her year. There are three of them, you know--Norma and Natalie and Constance--a trio of talented sisters.
Last revised, June 28, 2002