Holywood Mysteries, Olive Thomas Suicide or Murder?
Best Known For Her Horrific Death - Rather than her acting talent.
Born on October 20th 1898 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania - Oliveretta Elaine Duffy was best known for her horrific death rather than her incredible acting talents.
Initially she had a depressing life in industrial Pittsburgh with its smoky factories and hard living. But at the tender age of thirteen (which was quite common) she married Bernard Thomas, however the marriage ended in divorce several years later.
It is said that an extended visit to an Aunt in New York opened the door for her to pose for such famous artists as Harrison Fisher and Howard Chandler Christy. She was introduced to Florenze Siegfield by Fisher, this led to wide acclaim and notoriety on Broadway. Not surprisingly, this led to a movie contract in 1916 with an International Film Company.
At a dance at Nat Goodwin's on the Santa Monica pier in March of the same year she met Jack Pickford. It is reported that she said in an interview the following year “Jack is a beautiful dancer. He danced his way into my heart. We knew each other for eight months before marriage, and most of that time we gave to dancing. We got along so well on the dance floor that we just naturally decided that we would be able to get along together for the rest of our lives”. The couple were married in October 1916.
Olive continued to make pictures and signed with Triangle Film Corporation in 1917. Often parted by their careers, Olive and Jack appeared to spend as much time together as possible, although the marriage was 'rocky' at times. In May 1918 Pickford joined the Navy. It is thought he enlisted to impress Olive because he feared their marriage was on the rocks. It was also reported that Pickford was involved in a scandal where he supposedly provided young starlets for the officers' pleasure in exchange for a 'safe' job away from danger. Later he was discharged for medical reasons, however, it was suggested that his sister Mary pulled strings to get him out of the Navy without a court martial.
Olive and Pickford continued to make pictures in California for over a year. There were the usual separations brought about by going on location. As a second honeymoon, and much needed vacation they sailed from New York to Paris on 12th August 1920 where they checked into the Hotel Ritz. The couple seemed very happy which makes no sense of what was to follow.
On the evening of 9th September they went out on the town returning to their rooms in the early hours - around 3am. Within a couple of hours, Pickford called downstairs to say that his wife had taken an overdose of medicine and needed a doctor. Ten minutes later a doctor arrived to find Olive writhing in agony.
Apparently Olive took a large quantity of mercury ichloride which Pickford had been prescribed to treat his venereal disease which he had also passed on to her. Pickford's doctor admitted to prescribing the medicine for him in 1917 to treat his syphilis.
It was believed Olive's death was suicide because of the disease. However, ugly rumours were rife on both sides of the Atlantic; one that she had committed suicide because of her disease, another that Pickford had poisoned her for various infidelities.
Another rumour was that she had been murdered by Pickford for her money. This theory didn't hold up with his friends. After all, when Jack was broke he only had to contact his older sister or mother.
No matter what the rumours said the whole affair was very ugly indeed. A dark shadow hung over the death of this beautiful talented young actress. The death made worldwide headlines and was finally ruled as accidental. Had Olives death not occurred, she would have always been remembered as one of the finest actresses of the silent age. No doubt she would have continued with her dazzling career with the advent of sound movies.
Images Credit: Wikapedia