Sunday, August 15, 2010

1919 Movy-Dols of the Silent Screen: Mary Pickford, Norma Talmadge, Charlie Chaplin, Geraldine Farrar

After lots of practice with estate sale treasure hunting, I have learned that it can pay huge dividends to take the extra bit of time to unzip suitcases, unsnap purses, and open up boxes - no matter how nondescript the packaging is. 

Imagine my surprise when I found these old paper dolls dating from the end of World War I to the 1930's...

...hiding inside this 1960's Christmas Card box!

The box was filled with an assortment of Dolly Dingles and other adorable 1920's boy and girl paper dolls with tons of clothes...and long-legged scantily dressed flapper girls with Betty Boop hair styles cut from the comics section of the newspaper.

But my favorites are the movie star paper dolls from the silent era.

Thankfully, the previous owner - her name was Bonnie - had written on the backs of the clothes which belonged to each star.

Here's Norma Talmadge and some of her clothes - presumably costumes from her films:

It's a little hard to see in this photo, but each paper doll is labeled with the star's name and "Herself" or "Himself"

A photograph of Norma Talmadge, Herself...from a post on Norma in the Silent Film Festival blog

Here's the Charlie Chaplin doll with his wardrobe:

And a photo of Mr. Chaplin pulled from an article in Flicks and Bits on The Top 10 Moustaches in Film.

Here are a few stars you may not be familiar with...

Paper doll of Geraldine Farrar (above) and photograph (below) from Faery Tales,  a Russian blog.

And this is actress Marguerite Clark as a paper doll (above) and in a photograph (below) from  "Glamorous Ghost [Marguerite Clark] Haunts Louisiana Library" article in the Book Patrol blog.

You're probably far more familiar with these last two paper doll stars.  Here's Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., known for his swashbuckling roles in silent films like the Thief of Baghdad and Mark of Zorro.

Photograph of Douglas, Sr. courtesy of Dr. Macro's Movie Scans.

When he married "America's Sweetheart" Mary Pickford in 1920, the two became "royalty."

Photo courtesy of The Sunrise Silents

Unfortunately, although Mary Pickford's clothes were in the box - the paper doll was missing.  However there was another version of a Pickford doll there, colored with crayons.

Mary Pickford wasn't the only crayon colored doll in the lot.  I also found two of Marguerite Clark, two of Charlie Chaplin and one of Elsie Ferguson.  A mystery that needed to be solved!

In my research, I learned that these paper dolls were called "Movy-Dols" and were illustrated by Percy Reeves.  The Movy-Dols were included in issues of Photoplay magazine in 1919.

Stevemcg recently sold this September 1919 issue of Photoplay on eBay... 

...and look what was uncut page of Charlie Chaplin Movy-Dols!

Next I found an example of the Douglas Fairbanks Movy-Dol in the Paper Collector, a wonderful blog that often features articles on old paper dolls. 

But I was still stumped by the mysterious  hand-colored paper dolls.  Where did those come from?

Finally I stumbled across this auction item listed in a 2003 Skinner's Auction of the Maurine Popp Collection of Dolls -
Lot 580: Movy-Dols Paper Dolls and Painting Book, eight stars include Norma Talmadge, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, May Allison, Geraldine Farrar, Maugureite Clark, and Elsie Ferguson; paper dolls present, (the ones to color are missing).

Mystery solved!  Apparently all of the paper dolls from the Photoplay series were gathered into one book, which also included blank paper dolls to paint or color.

Auction estimate: $300-$400
Sold for: $275.

I thought I'd take you back for one final look at 1919 and the world of the silent film stars, with this original footage of Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith signing the contract to form their own film company, United Artists - in May 1919. 

Be sure to watch it to the end.  After the signing, the four celebrities — with Chaplin in his Tramp garb and makeup — pose and clown around for the press cameras.

Courtesy of YouTube's TokyoDinosaur

And now, on this lovely, windy Sunday afternoon, I will leave silence.


  1. Wow I didn't know Douglas Fairbanks could look so handsome! ;)

  2. Lexy - Thanks for your comment. I just realized that I made a mistake and posted a picture of his son, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who was also an actor. I've taken that one down and replaced it with a nice (but not quite as handsome) photo of Douglas Fairbanks, SR.

  3. What a FIND!! These are so wonderful and I just love how you paired the dolls with the real-life photos.

  4. These are stunning, you must have been delighted to find them.

  5. I love paper dolls! What a find! It was so much fun to see the real life photos as well!

  6. Welcome back, Sarsaparilla, and many thanks for the nice comments you wrote :)

    I can't stop smiling reading this post! And I will certainly NOT forget the eyes of Norma Talmadge... My dear, what an aura on that girl!

    Thanks for sharing, S! And have a wonderful remainence of the day!

    Love, Luna

  7. What a wonderful find! I just love paper dolls. I can't believe they were hidden in an old Christmas box. It goes to show that you can't judge a "box" by its cover!

  8. Baroness, Foxglove, Debi, Luna & Stacey...thanks for stopping by. Glad to know that there are a few more fans of paper dolls out there. (Stacey - you're right, can't judge a box by its cover - wish I had thought of that line. :-)

    Initially, I was going to try to find a real life photo that matched the look of the paper doll - but there were so many gorgeous photos of these stars out there, that I decided to just pick those that were included on an interesting website or blog.

    Luna, I agree about Norma Talmadge and her "aura" - but I think I'm more fascinated with her polka dot blouse than with her eyes. :-)

  9. OMG! What an awesome find! I would have flipped out if I'd found that! I am so glad I've found your blog. It's rapidly becoming my favorite....I feel we have very similar tastes, but I'm learning a lot here too. Keep up the great posts!

  10. Very cool paper dolls!!! Check out this site...way cool Marilee's Paper Doll Page.

  11. What a great find! I only have bits and pieces of Movy Dolls, in addition to the Fairbanks sheet you found on my blog. The Maurine Popp collection and auction is legendary.

  12. Mitzi - Thanks for the encouragement. I agree, I think we're both drawn to the same types of things. Maybe that's why I love your blog too! :-)

    Messy Missy - Glad you stopped by. I'll have to check out Marilee's site. Have you stopped by Linda's Paper Collector blog yet?

    Linda - I was really glad that I discovered your blog - not just because it helped with my research, but because I love paper dolls and anything paper. I should take a peek at the Skinner auction site again to see what else was sold in the Maurine Popp auction.

  13. Mary Pickford looks so awesome in that video - I like her sleeves very much..
    I don't know about ohter countries but in Germany you can still buy Joan Crawford-, Ginger Rogers- and other paperdolls. I saw them in some big bookstores.. hm.. Maybe I should look again.. ;")
    Anyway thank you for that lovely post. It was a great pleasure to see that dolls AND the photos.

  14. I think those paper dolls are one of the most amazing finds I've ever seen! I just love that era of movie stars, and I had a little obsession with Charlie Chaplin at one time. And I loved playing with paper dolls when I was little. If I had these, I know I would play with them now. ALOT!

  15. A Charlie Chaplin paper doll!! That's so cute!

  16. I love it! I just bought myself one of Betty Grable :)

  17. Frl. Irene - I agree about Mary Pickford - I didn't realize how adorable she is. No wonder she was nicknamed "America's Sweetheart."

    Pandora - Thanks for stopping by. I really enjoyed your blog. I think that I found you through Miss K or her sister.

    Carol - I loved to play with paper dolls when I was a little girl - and I still DO!

  18. I love paper dolls! Your collection of movy dolls is so fun! I had never heard of these before.


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