Helen Jerome Eddy — The Agate Girl (1921) 🇺🇸
The nicest compliment I ever received.” said Helen Eddy, “was when a man wrote me in a fan letter that I always reminded him of the ‘girl around the corner’ in his home town.”
by Helen Ogden
And curiously enough I found by looking over her fan mail that she is thus regarded by her admirers — a sort of home-town girl — the girl you used to go skating with, the girl who helped you with your Latin declensions, the girl who slapped your face when you kissed her at the Sunday-school picnic.
But my impression of Helen Eddy was distinctly not “hometownish.”
At first glance I summed her up in one word, “cold.” A little later I changed the cold to “reserved,” and still later to “quietly intelligent”.
And now I’m not so sure. Even after a whole afternoon — and a delightful one at that — I cannot put Helen Eddy into a mental pigeonhole or catalogue her in any way.
When I think of her now she typifies an agate slab in the midst of a thousand pretty little pebbles. The brightness of the pebbles catch your eye, you run them through your fingers, admiring them briefly — and drop them. But here is a brown stone, vaguely grateful to the touch because of its coolness, but otherwise drab; then the sunlight catches it in just the right way — and instantly the eye is enraptured by the translucent beauty beneath its polished surface. There is not the brazen brilliancy of the diamond or the impish flickering of the opal, but there are dim tones of softness, there is a promise of steadfast beauty, a hint of mystery. That is the agate; and that to me is Helen Eddy.
There were three of us at luncheon — Helen Eddy, Carol Klapeau, a scenario writer at Lasky’s, and myself. Carol was outspokenly thrilled at the prospect of being “in” on an interview of her chum, and ever and anon I detected in Helen’s gray eyes a hint of worry because I hadn’t asked her what her favorite sport was and what she thought of the future of the cinema.
It must have been a relief when I ran true enough to form to ask her what type of picture she liked best and whether she had any idea of specializing on one particular characterization.
“I like the simple human type of picture best and I have in mind a very definite type of picture which I wish to do,” she said, answering both questions at once.
“I want to be” — she leaned forward to fix on me her steady gaze which might be altogether earnest or entirely humorous — one is never quite sure — “I want to be hyphen- woman!”
Friend Carol speared an olive with a triumphant thrust. If that wasn’t stuff to make an interviewer dizzy.
“A hyphen-woman!” I groped.
But Helen is not the kind to be needlessly sensational. She came to my rescue almost at once.
“I want to be the sweetheart-mother of the screen,” she explained. “You know, the woman who is devoted to her home and her children, but who is still her husband’s sweetheart and comrade. The mother idea is the biggest thing in pictures to-day.
“Sex stuff has had a tremendous vogue, but it has passed. To my mind it was but leading up to the mother motif, and I believe that the public will be interested in it for a long, long time. The big pictures of to-day are not the spectacles or lurid melodramas.
She likes to remind people of the “Girl Around the Corner” in their home town.
They are the pictures of human interest in which the element of unselfish love and self-sacrifice are the dominant notes. Mother love was the theme that made Humoresque the success that it was, and mother love in all its varying phases is what I want to portray on the screen. I have a big plan just ahead,” she went on, “and if it materializes, Carol will write my stories for me. Then I’ll know that they’re good.”
And Carol Klapeau, accepting the compliment with a bow, returned the bouquet with a statement that Helen’s acting would make any story good.
Helen was enthusiastic about her last picture with Allan Dwan, The Forbidden Thing, principally because it is a mother picture.
In my first half hour with her, I would have scoffed — to myself, of course — at the idea of Helen Eddy’s becoming the Madonna of the cinema.
She looked entirely too unmaternal, too much like a college girl at an antimarriage meeting. But when she showed me some stills of The Forbidden Thing, it was again like sunlight on the agate.
In the face of the young mother pictured before me was the brooding tenderness, the quiet happiness of the woman who has fulfilled her destiny. It is my honest belief that in time Helen Eddy’s characterizations of young motherhood will be placed in the same category as are Charles Ray’s impersonations of the smalltown boy or Mary Pickford’s delineations of ideal girlhood. Helen Eddy is almost a native daughter of California. She was born in New York, but came West at an early age and went through grammar school and high school in Los Angeles. She made her start in pictures almost at the same time that Carmel Myers made hers. Both she and Carmel were identified with high-school theatricals and were in plays together.
Her entrance into pictures was a mistake. What I mean is it was an accident. She was studying Greek mythology in high school and, having become saturated with Olympic atmosphere, wrote a scenario in which goddesses flitted hither and yon, mingled with mortals ad lib, and had a gorgeous time generally. She took the “masterpiece” to old Captain Melville, in charge of the Lubin studio in Los Angeles.
“He said it was a rotten story,” related Helen, “but that I looked as if I might be a good actress. He asked me if I’d like to go into pictures, and I said I would not. I explained loftily that I had been studying for the stage.’ He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said perhaps even that wouldn’t keep me from making a success in pictures, and offered me fifteen dollars a week to become a leading lady! But really, it wasn’t the idea of being leading lady as much as the fifteen dollars a week that made me accept. That was five years ago, and I’ve worked steadily ever since.”
It was more than time to go. Every one else had left Marcell’s, and I suggested that if we stayed much longer they’d be charging us for rent.
Helen looked at her watch and gave an exclamation of surprise. “I had no idea it was so late,” she said. “I have a lot of shopping to do this afternoon, and then I have to hurry home and go to a taffy-pull party this evening.”
A taffy-pull! Maybe the man who wrote about “the girl around the corner” was right, after all. But just the same, Helen Eddy to me will always be “The Agate Girl.”
The woman who is devoted to her home and children, but is still her husband’s sweetheart is her ideal role.
Collection: Picture Play Magazine, March 1921