Pauline Starke — Fine Feathers and Ambition (1921) 🇺🇸

Pauline Starke — Fine Feathers and Ambition (1921) |

January 27, 2024

When any one speaks of Pauline Starke, and she is often spoken about in the motion-picture world, you think at once of a demure little girl, with a shy, winsome personality, and a decided talent for acting.

by Aileen St. John Brenon

If you are not one of those date hounds with a tabulated mind, you might possibly fail to remember when she first began to appear upon the horizon, but you are sure to recall that her refinement and her simplicity have stood out on the screen like a good deed in a naughty world ever since the days of the old Fine Arts Productions.

Miss Starke recently came to New York for the first time to take part in the screen production of Salvation Nell, and I was told that she was to be found any day at any time working at the armory on Sixty-Seventh Street, where an ingenious set had been built for use in the Whitman Bennett production.

On the way up I met a girl who had just come from California. “Tell me something about Pauline Starke,” I asked. “The glittering gems of small talk which filter eastward from the Coast have failed to carry news of Pauline Starke. Her work has always been marked by sincerity and unaffectedness, and as such I am familiar with her past. But do tell me all you know about her.”

“I can tell you this,” she replied. “During my stay in Los Angeles, I discovered that Pauline Starke was the best-dressed girl in the town. There were flashier girls, and gaudier girls, and more flamboyant-looking girls to be sure. But there were no girls more tastefully or suitably gowned than Pauline Starke. I didn’t know who she was at first, but whenever I saw a particularly good-looking cloak or a hat or dancing frock, and asked a companion who the wearer was, the invariable answer was Pauline Starke.”

Miss Starke confessed to me that while she has had very little use for pretty clothes on the screen, she has a woman’s love of them in the home, and when she is not working in the studio much of her time is spent in her cozy house planning new sartorial feats for her dressmaker to perform.

And now that she has come to the city of beautiful women and beautiful gowns, she doffs her Salvation Army costume when the day’s work is over and slips off to Fifth Avenue to revel in the delights of Paris models.

That earnestness which is characteristic of Miss Starke’s work is characteristic of herself. She is seriousness itself. She explained that she went on the screen because there were just herself and her mother in the world, and she thought her mother had borne the burden long enough. Pauline and her mother are pals. They came to New York together, and when the time is ripe they plan to go to Europe together.

“We always longed to come to New York,” says Pauline, “and we never thought we would get here. So there’s no reason we shouldn’t get to Europe, too, if we keep on hoping. Hoping and wanting and keeping a thing in mind is sure to get you what you want in the end.” The gentle Pauline has worked out a philosophy!

Pauline was born in Joplin, Missouri, but she was brought up in Kansas.

There was an astute old landlady, Pauline’s mother relates, who used to watch the children at play in the courtyard, and who had her own notions as to the whys and wherefores of the naughtiness inherent in all young children.

“She used to wag her head sadly and hopelessly when little Pauline behaved badly,” says Mrs. Starke, “and say to me, ‘There’s no use trying to do anything with that child, she’s nothing but a little play actress, anyhow.’ Little did the landlady think what good fortune that would mean for us.”

Pauline Starke is a home body. You know there are two kinds of motion-picture actresses — those who keep themselves on view when the Cooper-Hewitts are dimmed, and those who don’t.

Pauline Starke doesn’t. A sensible mother with a level head and her share of common sense has seen to it that Pauline Starke is a girl that Toplin would be proud of. Joplin is. The whole city turns out when Pauline’s pictures come to town.

“When Pauline isn’t in the studio, she stays at home. Between pictures she allows herself to go to parties and to dance as late perhaps as midnight. But she doesn’t believe that a career of pleasure and a career of work jog along harmoniously. Pleasure has to be put very much in the background.

You remember perhaps the epigram which Channing Pollock wrote into his play, Roads of Destiny.

“When a woman comes between a man and his business, it is only a matter of time, till the man has no business and the woman has no man.”

Pauline voices very much the same sentiments about herself and her business, and she doesn’t care to play fast and loose with the good things that have come her way.

Not that she is in the least bit priggish about it. She has lots of friends and lots of pals who feel just the way she does, and they are all young actors and actresses, too, who prefer to get their cars and drive out into the country on a sunshiny day to spending their time teaing in the Alexandria. Playing Salvation Nell brought Pauline and one of these pals together again. He is Joe King. They used to play together in the old Triangle days when Pauline was just starting in.

Pauline made her debut under the sign of the Triangle. That was five years ago. She was only seventeen at the time, and she was allowed to march on the scene as an extra girl. Before long she was starring, always playing the roles of the sweet young thing who didn’t know the city and its perils. She always had to be simply gowned to match, and with insignificant exceptions she has been doing so ever since.

Whitman Bennett was so pleased with her work in Salvation Nell that he signed her to play the leading role in his next big production.

Pauline Starke goes on record as having made the following confessions:

  • She wants to play a part in which she is all dressed up and has some place definitely to go.
  • She wants to see Mildred Harris, her friend and chum, happy.
  • She wants to go to the opera before she goes back to the Coast.
  • She wants to give her mother everything her heart desires.
  • And she wants the young woman who remarked that she is the best-dressed girl in Los Angeles to keep on thinking so.

Pauline Starke — Fine Feathers and Ambition (1921) |

Away from the studio, Pauline Starke spends her time planning new sartorial feats for her dressmaker to perform.

Photo by: Nickolas Muray (1892–1965)

As Salvation Nell she has one of the most important roles of her career so far.

Photo by: Nickolas Muray (1892–1965)

Pauline Starke — Fine Feathers and Ambition (1921) |

Mary Thurman — From a Beacher to a Feature | Pauline Starke — Fine Feathers and Ambition | 1921 |

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, August 1921