Norma Talmadge — As She Is (1928) 🇺🇸

Norma Talmadge — As She Is (1928) |

February 27, 2024

In a business where success is built upon personal politics, Norma Talmadge does exactly as she pleases. If people like it, or if they don’t like it, is of no consequence to her. She puts herself out to please no one but Norma. She is supremely self-sufficient, which sounds uncomplimentary only because it is nearly unique. It is her method of living. A method so starkly devoid of any pretense that it is inevitably misunderstood. Particularly in Hollywood, where the best acting of all is done outside the studios.

by Margaret Reid

She is sometimes accused of hauteur, of snobbishness — even of rudeness. That is because she likes comparatively few people, and is too honest to pretend that she likes every one. She forms friendships with caution, and once formed they are never relinquished. Her loyalty is unswerving at all times. Her friends range from obscure nobodies, to Sid Grauman, Mrs. Leslie Carter, Fannie Brice, Marion Davies, Bebe Daniels, Diana Fitzmaurice, Roland West.

Her sister Constance [Constance Talmadge] is her dearest friend; she loves to have her stay overnight with her. They talk and giggle and exchange confidences far into the night. She admires Constance fervently.

She doesn’t like to go to parties. She sits in a corner and enjoys looking on, but escapes in a panic should she find herself becoming the center of a group.

She prefers to entertain at home, her parties nearly always being informal. An instinctive hostess, she throws the house open, provides plenty to eat and drink, and’ doesn’t bother about her guests after greeting them.

She is happiest when entertaining a few intimates. Then her reserve and diffidence disappear and she is a frolicsome schoolgirl. She adores charades, but would rather watch others — particularly Chaplin [Charles Chaplin] — do them, than perform herself. She loves fun, but not practical jokes. She has a droll humor that spices all her conversation.

She dislikes cafés and first nights. Terrified at being recognized and pointed out, she goes into a theater late and slips out before the lights go up. It embarrasses her to be approached by effusive fans. She is resentful of adulation and wants to be met on an equal level.

Extravagant fan letters do not interest her. Letters of intelligent admiration or constructive criticism she usually answers.

An exceedingly wealthy woman, money is now simply a commodity to exchange for lovely things — the making of it means nothing. She has reached the point where picture work is not her business, but her pleasure. The only time she is complete, happy is in the middle of a production. She works with every ounce of her nervous, emotional, and physical energy.

Unlike Pickford [Mary Pickford] and Gish [Lillian Gish or Dorothy Gish], she does not act as much from the mind as from the heart. Rather than thinking her roles, she really — pardon the abused phrase — lives them. During Kiki she was a laughing, kidding gamin, both at home and at the studio. During The Lady her friends often found her unconsciously walking with the bent, uncertain step of an old woman. During Camille she was habitually wistful and at times a little sad.

She reads all reviews of her pictures. Critical praise of her work gives her a businesslike satisfaction. She studies a justified disparagement carefully, saying, “Oh, why couldn’t I have thought of that when I was working!”

Being of a shy, sensitive nature she often requires the escape and peace found in solitude. She goes for long walks, through quiet streets, along the beach, or through the nearest thing to woods that Hollywood boasts. She has the pleasure in walking that other people find in driving. Usually Scottie, her West Highland terrier, is with her. Dinky, a Pekingese she had had for thirteen years, died a short time ago. She cried inconsolably for days over his minute grave in the back garden.

She takes up any new enthusiasm impulsively, usually losing interest midway for something else. Deciding to become an expert driver, she took lessons. On the fourth day she demolished her car with a telephone pole and frightened herself; so she has never touched the wheel since.

She rushed ardently into the study of French, became bored and went as enthusiastically into Italian, deserting it for tennis, then golf, then singing. The singing lessons, however, continue with surprising persistence. She has a sweet, throaty contralto voice.

She doesn’t care for modern fiction and the present sophisticated trend, preferring the crinoline grace and rustle of eighteenth century romance. Dumas, père, Balzac, Ibañez, and Tolstoi she likes. Also the poetry of Verlaine; in fact, romance in almost any form of literature.

On the other hand, her tastes in music and painting are more for the bizarre and exotic, although whenever she goes to Europe she explores for seventeenth century tapestries. She likes etchings and sketches of the modern school, and the startling fashion designs of Erté and other Parisians.

She has excellent and conservative taste in clothes, preferring sports things. She never bothers to primp and, although meticulous about details, she likes best to run out of the house in a slip-on sweater and a comfortable, pleated skirt. It would bore her to wear the chiffons and laces of most of her pictures, comfort being the main requisite of her personal wardrobe.

She collects dolls of every known nationality, design, fabric, and handiwork. But her main delight is black opals. She searches everywhere for new additions to her collection, finding them lovelier than diamonds or emeralds. She also loves crystal, in necklaces, bracelets, earrings — anything. A man in Paris makes exquisite articles for her dressing table out of crystal.

She has a magnificent house on Hollywood Boulevard. A great pile of white stucco and red tile set among spacious lawns and gardens, formerly owned by the packing Cudahys. She also has a beach house at Santa Monica, done on a more simple scale. She loves to have people around her — until they suddenly bore her and, becoming restive, she retires into herself again.

She asks, above all things, complete and honest sincerity of her friends. In return she gives a warm understanding and the beautiful, unchanging loyalty which is perhaps the keynote of her character.

Norma Talmadge — As She Is (1928) |

Talmadge forms friendships with extreme caution, and rarely relinquishes them.

Photo by: Walter Fredrick Seely (1886–1959)

Norma Talmadge — As She Is (1928) |

Norma Talmadge — As She Is (1928) |

The character of Norma Talmadge, based on her preferences and prejudices, was placed under the microscope by Margaret Reid, and the result, on the opposite page, is one of the most revealing articles ever written about the emotional star.

Photo by: Studio G.-L. Manuel Frères (Gaston Manuel and Lucien Manuel)

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, April 1928