Olive Borden: “The Joy Girl”

“Almost any girl taken from obscurity and spot-lighted, highly paid and catered to, would go haywire. Precious few have escaped the stage of distorted viewpoint, unless they had very wise management.” ~ Olive Borden

 

Olive Borden was an American actress in silent and early talkies. Nicknamed “The Joy Girl”, she was known for her jet-black hair and was considered one of the most beautiful actresses of her era. Unfortunately many of her silent films have been lost and the lovely Olive Borden has almost become a “forgotten” star.

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Olive Borden

Olive Borden was born on July 14, 1906 in Richmond, Virginia. Borden’s father died when she was a baby and she was raised by her mother, Sibbie, in Norfolk and Baltimore, Maryland where she also attended Catholic boarding schools. As a teenager, she persuaded her mother to take her to Hollywood to pursue a career in show business. To support themselves they opened a candy store and Olive worked as a telephone operator. In 1922 at age 15 she was discovered by Mack Sennett and began her career as one of his bathing beauties and soon after began appearing as a vamp in Hal Roach comedy shorts. In 1925 she had her first role in a feature film in producer Paul Bern’s “The Dressmaker In Paris”. She was signed by Fox after being named a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1925. Borden quickly became one of their most popular and highest paid stars, starring in eleven films and earning a salary of $1,500 a week. When Fox cut her salary in 1927, she walked out on her contract. By this point she was a major star but she found it difficult to make the transition from silent films to “talkies”. She was still in demand as an actress and continued to work for Columbia and RKO. Borden cut her trademark hair into a short bob and turned herself into a modern flapper. She made several movies in the early 1930s but her career stalled. Her last screen credit came in 1934 in the film “Chloe, Love Is Calling You”. She moved to New York where she had a brief stage career and made a living on the vaudeville circuit. By the late 1930s she had filed for bankruptcy and took a job at Macy’s department store.

Olive Borden

 

Borden had two failed marriages. She married a stockbroker named Theodore Spector in March 1931. He was arrested for bigamy in 1932 when it was discovered he had married Borden before divorcing his first wife. The marriage was annulled. She married her second husband, electrician John Moeller, in 1934. That marriage ended in divorce seven years later. From 1926 until 1930 she had been romantically involved with actor George O’Brien and the press reported they were engaged. She also dated director Marshall Neilan, producer Paul Bern, and had a long affair with Arthur Benline, Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Construction Battalion. For most of her life Borden lived with her mother, Sibbie.

 

Olive Borden

 

In 1942, Borden joined the WAC where she has received an army citation for bravery in turning over an enemy ammunition truck. Her Army career ended after she was hospitalized in Walter Reed medical center with a severe foot injury. After her honorable discharge she attempted an unsuccessful comeback in films. She was now struggling with alcoholism and numerous health problems. Borden’s final years were spent in the skid row section of Los Angeles scrubbing floors at the Sunshine Mission, a home for destitute women. Borden died on October 1, 1947 from a stomach ailment and pneumonia at the age of 41. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Her mother Sibbie was interred in the grave next to her. The only possessions Borden had when she died was a scrapbook of her career and a small pansy ring made out of a stickpin that had belonged to her father.

 

Olive Borden Pictorial/Video Tribute
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For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Olive Borden has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. She was one of the first eight stars chosen to receive a star in 1958. Her name was drawn randomly from hundreds of nominees.

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