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Constance Talmadge

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Also Known As: Constance Alice Talmadge Died: November 23, 1973
Born: April 19, 1898 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA Profession: actor, nurse

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Though not as famous as her big sister Norma, silent era actress Constance Talmadge was a star in her own right who made her name and her fortune as a leading performer in a number of successful films. While Norma fared better in dramatic roles, Talmadge displayed adept skill and timing in scores of comedies. After making her debut in 1914, she made a number of comedies every year, but ironically had her big breakthrough in D.W. Griffith's epic drama, "Intolerance" (1916), in which she played the plucky Mountain Girl. The role proved popular enough that Griffith featured her again in another film, "The Fall of Babylon" (1919). Talmadge became a big star in the 1920s with films like "In Search of a Sinner" (1920), "East is West" (1922) and "Her Night of Romance" (1924). By the time she starred in "Her Sister from Paris" (1925), Talmadge was one of the most popular comedic actresses in Hollywood. She went on to make "The Duchess of Buffalo" (1926) and "Venus of Venice" (1927), only to abruptly retire before the talkie era came into bloom following her last silent picture, "Venus" (1929). Talmadge lived quietly as a wealthy woman until her death in 1973, only to see her stature as one of Hollywood's top...

Though not as famous as her big sister Norma, silent era actress Constance Talmadge was a star in her own right who made her name and her fortune as a leading performer in a number of successful films. While Norma fared better in dramatic roles, Talmadge displayed adept skill and timing in scores of comedies. After making her debut in 1914, she made a number of comedies every year, but ironically had her big breakthrough in D.W. Griffith's epic drama, "Intolerance" (1916), in which she played the plucky Mountain Girl. The role proved popular enough that Griffith featured her again in another film, "The Fall of Babylon" (1919). Talmadge became a big star in the 1920s with films like "In Search of a Sinner" (1920), "East is West" (1922) and "Her Night of Romance" (1924). By the time she starred in "Her Sister from Paris" (1925), Talmadge was one of the most popular comedic actresses in Hollywood. She went on to make "The Duchess of Buffalo" (1926) and "Venus of Venice" (1927), only to abruptly retire before the talkie era came into bloom following her last silent picture, "Venus" (1929). Talmadge lived quietly as a wealthy woman until her death in 1973, only to see her stature as one of Hollywood's top performers vanish along with most of the 80-plus films she made.

Born on April 19, 1898 in Brooklyn, NY, Talmadge was raise with her two sisters, Norma and Natalie, by her father Fred, an advertising salesman who worked sporadically but was more fond of drink, and her domineering mother, Peg, who operated as a pseudo-manager for her daughters' careers. Her father left the family when she was young, forcing her mother to do laundry and other odd jobs for a living. In fact, it was her mother who pushed all her daughters into acting, though it was Constance who appeared to be the most natural of the three. Big sister Norma was the first to enter films, with Constance following in 1914, when she made her debut for Vitagraph in the comedy short "In Bridal Attire" (1914). Unlike Norma, who was more adept at drama, Talmadge was more at ease in comedy; her timing, even at an early age, was impeccable. Following her debut, she churned out a number of comedic shorts, including "Buddy's First Call" (1914), "Forcing Dad's Consent" (1914), "Our Fairy Play" (1914), "The Evolution of Percival" (1914) and "The Peacemaker" (1914), which also starred Norma.

Talmadge continued churning out comedy shorts like "Burglarious Billy" (1915), "Can You Beat It?" (1915) and "The Boarding House Feud" (1915). But it was not until she played the raucous Mountain Girl in D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" (1916) that Talmadge became a star. Her scene-stealing performance prompted Griffith to reshoot the scene and to feature Talmadge's plucky Mountain Girl in a more happily-ever-after feature, "The Fall of Babylon" (1919). Meanwhile, she established her own production company, much like her sister, when Norma married producer and manager Nicholas Schenck, which allowed her complete control over her film's production and profits, making her a wealthy woman for the rest of her life. She later went under contract with United Artists, and churned out a number of comedy hits like "In Search of a Sinner" (1920), "Mama's Affair" (1921), "East is West" (1922), in which she played an Asian woman, "Dulcy" (1923), where she portrayed a ditzy wife, and "Her Night of Romance" (1924), a typical Talmadge farce where she played the daughter of a millionaire (Albert Gran) who dressed down as a disguise, only to attract the amorous attention of British nobleman (Ronald Colman).

Nary a year went by without a hit comedy starring Talmadge. In fact, she was to comedy what her sister was to drama, though both were strangely forgotten by later generations despite their enormous popularity. She was also something of a party girl, dating untold numbers of men while marrying four times and living the life of a real-life flapper. Talmadge's most significant relationship came at the height of her career when she dated high-flying studio mogul Irving Thalberg from 1924-26, right before he married actress Norma Shearer. Meanwhile, Talmadge continued her string of hits with "Her Sister from Paris" (1925), a comedy of errors involving mistaken identity that was made at the height of her powers. Little did she know, however, that her career would soon be over. Talmadge made only a few more films, including "Learning to Love" (1925), "The Duchess of Buffalo" (1926), "Breakfast at Sunrise" (1927) and "Venus of Venice" (1927). After making her last-ever film, the silent "Venus" (1929), Talmadge declined to continue her career in the talkie era and retired a rich woman who increased her wealth through real estate and other business ventures. Her fourth and final marriage was with stockbroker Walter M. Giblin, whom she married in 1939 until his death in 1964. Talmadge, who suffered from substance abuse and alcoholism later in life, died on Nov. 23, 1973 in Los Angeles at the age of 75.

By Shawn Dwyer

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 TBD (2005)
2.
 Venus of Venice (1927) Carlotta
3.
 Breakfast at Sunrise (1927) Madeleine
4.
 The Duchess of Buffalo (1926) Marian Duncan
5.
 Learning To Love (1925) Patricia Stanhope
6.
 Her Sister From Paris (1925) Helen Weyringer/Lola
7.
 Her Night of Romance (1924) Dorothy Adams
9.
 The Goldfish (1924) Jennie Wetherby
10.
 Dulcy (1923) Dulcy
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1914:
Film debut, "Buddy's First Call"
1916:
Breakthrough role in D W Griffith's "Intolerance"
1917:
Under contract with United Artists
1929:
Final film, "Venus"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"Leave them while you're looking good and thank God for the trust funds Momma set up." --wire supposedly sent by Constance to Norma Talmadge when talking pictures arrived.

"I try to handle a comedy role in much the same way a cartoonist handles his pencils. If he is drawing a picture of the late Theodore Roosevelt, he emphasizes Teddy's eyeglasses and teeth, and leaves the ears and nostrils and the lines of the face barely suggested. One must leave a great deal to the imagination of the audience." --Constance Talmadge, quoted in early 1920s fan magazine.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
John Pialoglou. Businessman. Married 1920-21.
companion:
Irving Thalberg. Dated 1924-26.
husband:
Alistair MacIntosh. Married 1926; divorced.
husband:
Townsend Netcher. Businessman. Married 1929; divorced.
husband:
Walter M Giblin. Stockbroker. Married 1939 until his death in 1964.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Fred Talmadge. Advertising salesman. Died 1925.
mother:
Peg Talmadge. Died 1934.
sister:
Norma Talmadge. Actor. Born 1895; died 1957; married to Nicholas Schenck, George Jessel and Carvel James.
sister:
Natalie Talmadge. Actor. Born 1899, died June 19, 1969; married to Buster Keaton 1921-32.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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