THE TALMADGE GIRLS: A Memoir by Anita Loos


Email this review


Poker-faced Norma (""the sob sister"") and clownish Constance (""the vamp,"" known to friends as ""Dutch"") were the beautiful, famous, much-married Talmadges--stars of silent films whose toneless voices couldn't make the transition into talkies. But there were two other Talmadge girls as well: caustic mother Peg and plain sister Nate, who married Buster Keaton. Anita Loos knew all four of them, wrote the scenarios that shaped Dutch's screen personality (1916-1925), and uses them here as a springboard for another merry-go-round of New York-to-Hollywood anecdotes and hard-boiled musings on love and sex. ""Loot, life, love, and sex--in that order."" That's how impoverished stage-mother Peg--who sounds like Dorothy in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes--raised her girls, dragging them off to Brooklyn film studios (""God grant me a toehold!""), using ""sheer force of derision"" to instill in them lots of skepticism about sex. She and Anita traded gossip while the girls slaved at the studio, but their friendship didn't affect Peg's candor: ""This script of Nita's treats Dutch as if she had smallpox, or a permanent case of Chinese rot!"" Norma, that ""full-blown laggard,"" married Anita's favorite person, filmland's Joe Schenck, and he took care of all the Talmadges even after Norma left him (""You'd be giving me bigger diamonds if I had never married you!"") for ill-fated romps with Gilbert Roland and Georgie Jessel. Dutch and Nate didn't do much better, love-wise, and all ended up rather sadly. But their 1920s heyday provides a wealth of comic material, including a Christmas tree unknowingly decorated with suppositories and contraceptives, and Loos fills in with her own so-so amours, testimonials to Eleanor Roosevelt's sex appeal, and the script of Dutch's big hit, The Virtuous Vamp. Hollywood's toughest, funniest, most highly preferred brunette from New York--fast and Loos as ever.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1978
Publisher: Viking