Norma Talmadge home

From Photoplay, August, 1915, p. 99-102 (incomplete, missing page 100)

Norma Talmadge

Post-Impression of a Girl of the Photoplays Who Has Enacted Every Sort of Feminine Role, from Childhood to Old Age

By Arthur Hornblow, Jr.

[Photo omitted: Talmadge pursing lips and raising eyebrows. Caption: "I've always loved to make faces!"]

She finished sifting all the sand in her vicinity through her hands and gazed idly at the white-capped surf before us.

"I love the sea," she said--"you see, I was born almost beneath the spray of Niagara, and perhaps that has something to do with it."

I turned to look at her as she leaned back easefully against the canvas rest. Her face, of gentle contour, was more child-like than woman-like in the formation of its features, but its expression and thoughtfulness gave token of a mind and character developed far beyond their years.

Norma Talmadge, considering the importance of her position in the movie world, is very young,--she was born as recently ago as May 2nd, 1895, in a little cottage just outside of Buffalo, where the booming of the mighty falls formed a regular part of one's life, and where wisteria climbed lovingly about the porch, a symbol of the peace within.

[Photo omitted: Profile of Talmadge in oval frame. Caption: Norma Talmadge]

Before she was old enough even to realize that she lived within calling distance of one of the world's greatest scenic splendors, she was whisked off to Brooklyn and has remained there ever since. She romped in the streets of Brooklyn with her two little sisters, Constance and Natalie, went to Public School 92 and later to Erasmus Hall High School, and then, when still in short skirts, obtained the position with the Vitagraph Company that, in very short time, placed her in the front ranks as a star.

Just how she obtained that position and what she did when she got it, is one of the most unusual stories of Filmland.

In her brief time she has played many parts, from young girl to old woman, from chorus girl to young wife, from nun to adventuress,-- she has run the gamut of human experience in the great world of "make believe."

"I take my work seriously," she suddenly said, bringing a stop to my meditations,--that's why I love to come down here to the shore sometimes and be lazy and do nothing but listen to the sea,-- and play with Honey."

As she said "Honey," there was a slight agitation in the sand behind our chairs, and a nondescript bunch of white fuzz, to large to be a germ and to small to be a dog, scampered through the sand into her lap.

"Isn't he cunning?" she asked enthusiastically.

"A thoroughly delightful animal," I ventured, neutrally.

"He's not an animal-- that is, I never think of him as an animal. He's more like a little lovable bundle of happy spirits that's come into the world just for the ...

[page 100 missing]

...denly mother was seized with a great idea. She had been reading about the growth of the movies, and she conceived the idea of my going into the picture game."

I looked up, a trifle surprised. Had she had no experience--?

"Oh, no, I had never really acted in my life.--never even in an amateur play. But, all the same, there was something in my that made me love the 'make-believe.' I had the--the dramatic instinct, I think you call it. When I was just out of baby clothes, I used to pay the kids in the neighborhood pins to come in and watch me perform on an inverted wash-tub. What did I do? Nothing,--Just made faces and kicked! I've always loved to make faces!"

Honey, disheartened by neglect, shook its four inch frame, and retired to its self-manufactured bunk behind us. Norma didn't see it go,--she was living in the past, and, as she spoke, her face made mobile by the art of her profession, seemed to express the thoughts that were playing through her mind. It would have been fascinating to watch her even though she didn't open her mouth.

"So dear little mamma thought she saw dramatic talent in me" she continued, "and came to the conclusion that it might as well be put to some use. I was crazy about the movies at the time. I used to go all the time to see them--stayed away from school to do it sometimes!--and I was especially fond of Florence Turner and Maurice Costello. We didn't know their names then, and we called them 'Dimples" and 'Curley,' and when mother made her suggestion, my first thought was to go where they were! So off we went to the Vitagraph Studio,--they had the old building then, and we scurried around in a terrible tangle of scenery and props, getting in everybody's way, and wondering what to do.

[Photo omitted: Full length of Talmadge made up as older woman with pearl choker. Caption: "In her brief time she has played many parts,--from young girl to old woman, from chorus girl to young wife, from nun to adventuress."]

'Nobody would pay the least attention to us, and, just as we were about to give it up, dear old Charles Kent, the famous Vitagraph director, walked by. I touched him on the arm, and the next moment was sorry I had, for he did seem so busy. But he turned around, and, with a kindly appraising look, he said, 'A job, eh? All right, you're engaged. Come around tomorrow morning,--we're just starting a new play with a fine part just your type.' And he said I'd get twenty-five dollars a week to start with! I almost fainted,-- I didn't think there was that much money in the world!

"If I had known anything at all about the business, I should have probably been frightened to death at the very thought of going on and trying to do what I had to do. But as it was, I just didn't care,-- it was another case of ignorance being bliss! I took things as they came and learned with experience. It all seems like a dream now,--a wonderful dream that is still going on."

[Photo omitted: small dog. Caption: "Too large to be a germ--to small to be a dog."]

A sea-gull was circling fantastically about in front of us, and, as it suddenly swooped down into the water for its prey, Norma gasped slightly, and leaned forward interestedly.

"Wouldn't that make a wonderful picture!" she exclaimed enthusiastically.

"I should think you would come down here often to make pictures."

"Oh, we do.--often. And I'm so fond of the sea that I always try to get into pictures that have it as a background. That's one great trouble--we players can never decide or choose the plays we are to be in. We're assigned to a part, and that's the end of it. Often I think that if we were allowed to select the roles we wanted we could play them much better."

The sun had crept well over into the Western sky, and I rose to shift the umbrella. Norma glanced at the little ribboned watch on her wrist--

"Oh!--snookums!" she exclaimed.

I confess to being taken back for the moment, but was immediately relieved by a renewed agitation behind us, and by the sandy figure of Honey scrambling to the side of its mistress. It looked at her wistfully.

Norma drew her legs up under her chin, and hugged her knees, as she looked seriously at the wool-hound, who was now wagging its tail violently.

"I really think we'd better start for home now,--but when will you get your interview?"

"Oh, that's quite all right," I replied--"I'll get that some other time."

Back to Bibliography
Back to Norma Talmadge Home

Last revised, Jun 28, 2002