n the heyday of silent films, a winsome ingenue named Olive Thomas had a seemingly charmed life. Born in the mining town of Charleroi, Pennsylvania, her beauty and spirit carried her to New York where she found fame and fo... more »rtune.« less
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 04/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Unless you are a silent film enthusiast (and if you're reading this review you most likely are) then you've probably never heard of Olive Thomas. Her death in 1920 at the age of only 25 under mysterious circumstances has kept her name from being totally forgotten but this DVD is the first opportunity for us to see first hand what made her "everybody's sweetheart".
Judging from the film THE FLAPPER which makes up more than half this disc, Olive Thomas was a gifted performer who combined the madcap qualities of Mabel Normand with the affable sincerity of Mary Pickford. The film is an occasionally witty somewhat clever comedy about a naive young girl at boarding school who gets mixed up with thieves. It was written by Frances Marion (the top screen writer of the silent era), directed by Alan Crosland (THE JAZZ SINGER), and produced by Lewis Selznick (father 0f Myron and David O.). That's a pretty good pedigree and shows how highly Olive was regarded by her contemporaries. It would be her penultimate film.
At this time Olive had been married to Jack Pickford (Mary's brother) for a few years. It was on a second honeymoon trip to Paris that she suddenly died after taking bichloride of mercury. Was it suicide, murder, or just a horrible accident? We will never know although the Timeline Films documentary OLIVE THOMAS: EVERYBODY'S SWEETHEART that fills out the DVD does draw its own conclusion. It is informative and well produced although a little shallow. There are a wealth of clips and photos and it features narration from Rosanna Arquette.
But back to THE FLAPPER. The print from the George Eastman House is absolutely first rate with hardly a blemish and it's even color tinted and has the original illustrated title cards. It's one of the best silent film prints I have ever seen. The piano accompaniment from Robert Israel compliments the action quite nicely. It's great to have this truly talented actress available once again. Hopefully some more of her films can be reissued (very few have survived) so that she can continue to cast her spell on a whole new generation of moviegoers. Thanks again Milestone Films for another job well done."
Great entertainment and a high quality DVD
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 04/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is yet another excellent DVD by Milestone Films, this time putting together all the available material on Olive Thomas, a popular actress of the mid to late 1910s who has been almost forgotten in our day. This collection contains one very entertaining feature film from 1920, "The Flapper", an interesting and nice hour-long documentary about Olive, and other delightful bits of bonus material to round out the picture. I was impressed by "The Flapper", first of all for its perfect picture quality, and for the high standard of the film in general. One thing that caught my attention was the unusually good art work accompanying the intertitles, and which adds a special touch to the film. But the main focus is, of course, on Olive Thomas and her bubbly personality as she plays a sprightly 16-year-old whose typically-teenage desire to be more grown-up lands her in trouble. With a script by famed screenwriter, Frances Marion, and direction by Alan Crosland, "The Flapper" was a sure hit, and after 85 years it is still as entertaining as ever. There are no complex plots or deep issues; simply a fun, charming and also interesting ride through society of 1920. Olive's peformance is the highlight of the film, and she often reminded me of her famous sister-in-law, Mary Pickford, and it's a shame that hardly any other Olive Thomas films have survived. Judging by snippets from her other films presented in the documentary, her performances were always entertaining, and no doubt she was very popular for both her pesonality and her attractiveness. The documentary helps us to understand Olive better as it covers her entire life, including her start in showbusiness in the Ziegfeld Follies and her tragic death at barely 26 - just when her film career seemed to be really taking off. I enjoyed this documentary for its use of much footage from Olive's other films besides "The Flapper", and the other bonus material and stills complete this collection perfectly. All up, a great DVD and a feature film almost anyone is sure to enjoy, even if you're not too familiar with silent films. "
Olive Thomas: A New Discovery!
Dennis Lee Cleven | Madison, WI | 05/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had only seen photographs of the beautiful Olive Thomas prior to seeing this delightful film. Olive had more than beauty; she was a marvelous actress and she definitely had star quality. The documentary is a marvelous added bonus which shows clips from what remains intact of her all too brief film legacy. I'd very much love to see her other films whether they are in pristine condition or not. Olive had a definite knack for comedy. It doesn't matter that she was not a virtuous little girl in real life. What is important is that, had she lived, she may have gone on to be one of the biggest stars in the 1920s and I feel that she would have succeeded. When she is on screen, she dominates every scene she is in and that is star quality. I do hope Milestone will release more of the existing Olive Thomas films. Her talent is on the level of Mary Pickford, Marion Davies, and Clara Bow. It is time for Olive Thomas to receive the credit she deserves. I have become an Olive Thomas fan after seeing only one film of hers. That says a lot. It is tragic that she died just prior to her 26th birthday. Before stars were truly stars, seeing Olive in this superbly directed comedy leaves one wondering, "What if she had lived longer?" It made me think of the great Jean Harlow who died near Olive's age. Both had a great deal more to offer and both had great talent. I am very glad I have "discovered" Olive Thomas and may more of her films be released on DVD and may more that are "presumed lost" be found. I am ready to see more of this actress' work!"
Jery Tillotson | New York, NY United States | 07/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've read about Olive Thomas in movie history books but couldn't get a full grasp on her importance to movies. Everyone agreed she was beautiful, fascinating, charismatic. Like so many of the old stars, none of her movies are available for viewing or have been lost over the decades. She's been totally forgotten over the decades except among a small band of film buffs and movie historians. She died mysteriously in a Parisian hotel room in l920 and her death was shrouded in mystery. Now we have The Olive Thomas Collection and it's a fascinating revelation of this long forgotten star. "The Flapper" is revealed to us in a beautiful restoration, complete with tinted scenes and wonderful intertitles. You can finally appreciate what all the excitement was all about. Thomas shows us a personality who has fully grasped the art of film acting. While many of her female cohorts were still using exaggerated gestures and bulging their eyes, Thomas was much like Pickford in using subtle gestures and facial expressions. It's not going too far to speculate that if Olive had endured into the l920s, she could have become one of the greatest of silent screen stars. She had that indefinable charisma and personality that comes through the camera lenses. The documentary, "Everybody's Sweetheart" is also a total revelation as we follow Olive's amazing ascendancy from her poor Wisconsin background to the celebrated star of the Zeigfeld Follies and later of Selznick films. She was way ahead of her time in using her personal gifts for climbing upwards, becoming mistress to both Florenz Zeigfeld and then later Myron Selznick. We'll never know how she came to ingest poison that night in l920. It's fascinating to know that even today, her ghost is reported to haunt a Broadway theater. The cast and crew there touch a huge portrait of Olive as a good luck gesture. Now, if we can only get a collection out on Mae Murray and the Talmadge Sisters."
Samantha Kelley | USA | 10/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is exciting to see such an unknown actress of the silent era presented with a "collection." Olive Thomas had a short career first as a Ziegfeld Girl and then as a silent movie star. Her life was cut short when she ingested mercury pills, rendering her blind and mute before she died. Perhaps her tragic end is the reason for this release, but her fans are given quite a nice tribute to the star.
The Flapper is the only one of Olive's films on the disk, an innocent, sweet film. Olive plays a feisty girl who is quick to impress her schoolmates by pretending to be a flapper, or a girl who gets around. She sets her sights on an older, sophisticated man who is interested when he hears she is older, but scorns her when he is told her real age. He worries about her still when her flapper antics begin to get her into trouble. The film shows Olive in a very early example of the flapper, a more innocent and toned down version. She seems more like a southern belle than a sex symbol. However, Olive exudes plenty of personality. In some cases, she is reminiscent of Clara Bow who became a highly charged flapper in the late 20s in her dancing scenes and when she cuts up a dress to go out with a sophisticated man. There is one scene that is somewhat disturbing because of Olive's death. Her character contemplates hanging herself because the man she is infatuated with dismisses her. It turns comical, but only brings up the fact that no one knows for sure if Olive meant to take the mercury pills or if it was only an accident. The picture is amazingly clear. The scenery is amazing whether it be the snowy country setting or the city life. The title cards are rather artistic and fun especially for 1920. Robert Israel's score is average and accommodates the film well enough.
The documentary on this disk is a real treat. It is not even an hour long, but it contains much information that has never been compiled together and some that is new. The choice in narrator is rather strange, much as it normally is for these types of documentaries, but Rosanna Arquette does a good job. Fans and distant relatives provide commentaries. There are some annoying reenactments and some fake accents used when reading quotes, but on the whole, Olive Thomas: Everybody's Sweetheart is wonderful. It begins by telling that Olive's ghost is said to haunt the New Amsterdam Theater where the Ziegfeld Follies were held, an interesting claim that could drive tourists to the theater. It details Olive's early life and her success on the stage. Many of her films look interesting and will hopefully be released to the public. One story should have been detailed further because it is so unique; a few of Olive's films were found under a swimming pool in Alaska. Olive's relationship with Jack Pickford is discussed in detail including Mary Pickford's stance on the two. It ends with a great epilogue telling about Olive's contribution to the film industry, including speculation on whether David O. Selznik's middle initial is a tribute to Thomas.
There are a few interesting extra features on this DVD as well. There are many Thomas stills, several of them quite rare. There is an audio presentation of a newspaper article written by Olive's first husband that is illustrated by stills and film clips. There are two reenactments of stories told by Billy Bitzer and Lenora Coffee which are silly and fun. Finally, there are two songs played that were written for Olive.
Overall, this collection is a gem and a must-have for fans of silent films."