I started out this post trying to find a good scan of some of the early film fan magazines like Picture Stories which basically retold the stories of films that were out in theatre, with stills from the production. As in, they told the whole story (with varying degrees of accuracy), not just part of it for review purposes. Anyway, I wanted that because a friend had told me that my blog reminds her of Television Without Pity and other recap sites. So I wanted to find something that showed the long history of ‘recaps’ as a way of engaging with media.
But instead I found this, and there was no way that I could post anything else:
“What Becomes of their Wedding Rings?: The Merry – and Otherwise – Widows of Hollywood Dispose of Them Variously” by Dorothy Manners, Motion Picture Magazine, 1928.
|Surprisingly, none of the stories involve throwing rings into the water.|
Oh My God! Celebrity Wedding Rings of the 1920s! Ex-Wedding Rings! None of them are actually widows, so far as I can tell - all divorcees. I love texts from the past which remind us that tabloid journalism, celebrity schadenfreude, and divorces didn’t just start happening with the downfall of society in the 1980s (or any recent decade to which is attributed the beginning of the end of the supposedly idyllic past).
And don’t you just love that picture? Stars of today – dump your rings in the pond!
So, you may ask, what did the stars of the past do with their wedding rings, “that little band of gold with which they once took vows to love, honor and obey? That little gold circlet that at one time stood for so much happiness, or unhappiness, or alimony, as the case may have been?” So many things!
Of course, “some of the Hollywood ladies refused to answer” – which is why you will probably not recognize any of the names of the film stars who did answer. Any publicity is good publicity if you're up and coming, I assume?
Priscilla Bonner (“the downtrodden damsel of the movies who has always been cast out in the snow with a baby in her arms – for publicity purposes” – of course) giggles as she reveals that she pawned her ring: “I needed the money a lot more than I did that solid gold reminder of a tinsel experience. Why shouldn’t I have sold it? I paid for it in the first place.”
Why not, indeed?
Still others, like Jacqueline Logan, give them to their chauffeurs! Jacqueline Logan’s story has a lot of great rhetoric in it: “peppy and red-headed,” Jacqueline “didn’t have much luck in her matrimonial flyer with Ralph Gillespie.” As Manners puts it, “as a husband, Mr. Gillespie was a great luxury. The girl has a lot of sweet memories – all of bills.” Ouch.
Anyway, her chauffeur, a “young coloured gentleman named Freddie” was about to get married, but couldn’t afford a ring. Instead of paying him a higher salary, Jacqueline gave him her ring, with the statement that it’s “just as good as new, and you can have the initials crossed out.” You could probably write an entire paper about race, gender and narrative in 1920s Hollywood just from that story...
Others are more “lavender and old lace,” as Manners puts it, and still wear their rings or keep them safe in a drawer. For example, “the separation of Virginia and Jack Daugherty is very recent. The imprint of the ring still shows on her finger.” A more poignant touch.
And then, of course, there is the art of making a story out of what is essentially ‘no comment.’
Leatrice Joy (yes, her name is Leatrice) ‘won’t tell’ about the whereabouts of the ring from her marriage to Jack Gilbert: “it’s too personal and too intimate.” And “Florence Vidor felt the same way. Only more so.”
Which is just to say that the rhetorical work of film fandom is endlessly fascinating. At least to me… Has anyone seen this kind of story in current magazines, or would it be too tacky for current tastes?
Back to romances next, a more recent one this time: The Sheik’s Christmas Bride.