Sigrid Holmquist — Melisande of the North (1923) 🇺🇸

Sigrid  Holmquist — Melisande  of  the  North (1923) |

February 03, 2024

This is to be a sketch, not of a career, but of a personality. The background suggests the romance of the Eiffel Tower and Paris; in the foreground are the green valleys of Sweden, and in the center of the picture is a flaxen-haired Melisande, who is standing whimsically on the threshold of an adventure in the cinema. Her name is Sigrid Holmquist, and she comes from the Northland. She might even be a viking's daughter, were it not that her presence conjures rather the impression of a magic Maeterlinckian pool.

by Edwin Schallert

I speak for herself, not for her reflection on the screen. That is different. You may have seen her in “A Gentleman of Leisure,” for instance, and feel that she is naught that I have described. The vision of herself as there disclosed was undoubtedly a little resilient — perhaps even hard. The camera is sometimes peculiar, and she herself had little to do in the story, and mayhap was not exceedingly happy about it either.

But give her time.

She is bidding for the future, and she has the highlights of a remarkable past. I prophesy that if she ever does arrive, she will be set down as “copy” by the mob of scribes and Pharisees. For though she can be light-hearted even as she is blond headed, she offers more than mere laughter and sun-kissed attractions to the view. In fact, to one accustomed to gazing personally upon the stars in the flesh, she evokes not the lilies and languors of interviewing, but rather the raptures and roses thereof.

I caught her soft crackling Swedish accent, with its occasional lilt and lull, some months ago on a set. She was then playing, as she picturesquely said, in a picture With “Yack Holt.” [Jack Holt] It is the one I have mentioned. She flung at me a glance of inquiry out of a pair of eyes that were like two deep-blue fjords, and she opened her heart and mind like the “morning tulip that to the sun looks up.”

The first question that I asked her was whether or not she was engaged to Charlie Chaplin [Charles Chaplin]. That was quite in order, of course. She had but recently come to the coast, and it was mentioned that they had been seen together — at least once…

Had I not heard, too, how a rajah and a shah had paid her homage in Paris? How she had been affianced to a baron, and was contemplating marrying a count? Truly Charlie could not ask for better company; in fact he might well be flattered that, under the circumstances, she had smiled favorably upon him.

She has been admired in Piccadilly even as on the Champs Élysée, from her accounts, and she knows her Deauville and her Monte Carlo, even as she is acquainted with her Stockholm and her Nice.

Veritably, for a Melisande, she, has had her share of life and its experience, and if the fates are kind, and allow her the proper roles — mayhap… Who knows? … Ah well.

At any rate, she has not dreamed and slept and wasted. Her eyes and ears have been open, and her observations have ever gone on. Her lips bubble ever to overflowing with her recountings of the joy of living. Her accent is no fence either over which she has to climb. She leaps the familiar and the unfamiliar English words with easiest grace, and fetches, with the quaintness of her talk and glance, the smile.

“Yumping Yimminy!” she shouted one moment with excitement.

The next her voice twined caressingly around the verses of an Arthur Symons poem. It was fervid and haunting, and I vaguely sensed that the words were of love.

Young romance is ever in her eyes. Youth thrills through her heart. She is youth’s fulfillment, and youth ever venturing into the new.

“When I am nineteen years old I go to Paris,” she said. “But, when I am fifteen years old, I run away from home. We liv’ in country — beautiful! But I love beeg. city. I hav’ aunt in Stockholm, so one night I catch train.”

Imagine her if you can, abubble with her enterprise — a mere girl, very slight and with huge flaxen, braids of hair. (They are bobbed now.) See her — eager for the lights of the city, a European city, wise in its own sophistication, of which she had heard, which, she had perhaps visited a few times, something of whose spell she knew. Take into account, too, the whimsey, the wistfulness of her mind, the same, no doubt, then as now.

Her point of view, of course, was different from that of the American girl. She was perhaps more swayed by a highly sensitized emotion. She had vague dreams of ambition, maybe a glimmering hope of a career. Perhaps only she felt the beckoning gleam of the lights, naught more, and would or could not do aught but answer!

It was an impulse at any rate that caused this young dash for freedom and new life. It was impulse perhaps that subsequently carried her through. Her whole life, I think, may be summed up in that word, which has “proved her guiding theme, and has led her on like a witch light, sometimes mayhap false, sometimes true, through the highways of travel, and the paths of study and literature and life, until now — who can tell? — she may stand on the verge of an entry into film fame.

Somewhere along the way she acquired the title of the Swedish Mary Pickford. I don’t know just where she got it, and I know she is not entitled to it, but it seems to have helped in starting her in pictures here.

She had very little experience abroad, photographically speaking. She played in a few films in her own native land. I believe, and once when she was in London she came near to being engaged in a production tint Sydney Chaplin was at that time contemplating.

“One night I am in café with my friend, secretary of ambassador,” she told me. “That was yust befor’ I go to Paris the first time. Syd Chaplin in café too. He is going to mak’ picture in London. He see me sitting at table, and ask how he can meet me. By and by, he send card over to table, says he is cinema producer and want to give me work in picture. I talk with him about it, but I cannot accept because I am going to Paris.

“That’s why I first thought to mak’ picture, and why afterward I com’ to America.

“That’s why, too. you ask probably whether I am engage’ to Charlie Chaplin,” she ended up coyly. “Yust because I meet Syd in London.”

I declined to commit myself on this particular point, but let her explanation pass. After all, the prominence she might acquire by being engaged to Chaplin had faded somewhat into the background.

On her first trip to America, Sigrid played in the picture called “Just Around the Corner,” which Frances Marion produced. She also appeared in “My Old Kentucky Home” and one other. These have been released all of a year or two ago, and no doubt you have seen one or the other of the two I have mentioned by name.

It is difficult as yet to speak for her future. I am not impressed by all the stills of her that I have seen even in “The Light That Failed,” in which she plays the role of Maisie. It is her biggest opportunity since she has been signed with Famous Players-Lasky, to whom she is under contract.

Maisie, you know, was a rather mean, little gamin, who treated the blind artist of Kipling’s story shamefully. The character has been changed, however, to make her sympathetic and pave the boulevard for an inevitable happy finale.

Miss Holmquist relishes this “improvement” because she desires to play sympathetic types, and she told me how she has felt the emotion of some of her scenes. One, in particular, where she discovers that the artist is really blind, seemed to strike deeply at her feelings. She had no difficulty at any rate in crying, she declared, and even when she goes into the projection room and views Percy Marmont’s work in this particular episode she feels the tears well up again.

Really, for one who has perhaps seen many different phases of life, she is singularly responsive. She has never really grown up. She remains a Melisande, the Melisande of the North, and I wonder if perhaps, with time and tide, she will not fling across the silver sheet something of the blue fjord depths of her eyes, the glow of her flaxen hair, and the peculiar warmth and individuality that is hers in the real. At any rate, I hope she will.

Sigrid  Holmquist — Melisande  of  the  North (1923) |

Sigrid  Holmquist — Melisande  of  the  North (1923) |

Charles de Roche — Valentino’s Successor? Nonsense! | Sigrid  Holmquist — Melisande  of  the  North | 1923 |

Sigrid  Holmquist — Melisande  of  the  North (1923) |

The land of the midnight sun produces many beauties destined to bloom in American sunlight arcs, among them Sigrid Holmquist, who, on this visit to America, is playing in Paramount pictures.

Photo by: Edwin Bower Hesser (1893–1962)

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, December 1923