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The Flapper (May 10, 1920)

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Olive Thomas in The Flapper

Released on May 10, 1920: Wild girl Ginger is sixteen going on 20, and when she chases an older man and the wild life, she gets much more than she bargained for.

Directed by Alan Crosland

The Actors: Olive Thomas (Ginger King), Warren Cook (Senator King), Theodore Westman Jr. (Bill Forbes), William P. Carleton (Richard Chenning), Katherine Johnston (Hortense), Arthur Housman (Tom Morran, aka the eel), Louise Lindroth (Elmina Buttons), Marcia Harris (Mrs. Paddles), Charles Craig (Reverend Cushil), Bobby Connelly (King Jr.), Maurice Steuart (schoolboy), Aleene Bergman (school girl), Norma Shearer (school girl), Barbara Butler (school girl), Mildred Cheshire (school girl), Russell Hewitt (school boy), Dorothy Kent (school girl), Eileen Percy (school girl), Anatole Shearer (school girl).


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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania isn't known as the cradle of movie stars, but in 1884 one of the brightest, if short-lived stars of the new motion picture era was born in Charleroi, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Oliveretta Elaine Duffy got married at 16 to escape the drudgery of a poor life in a smoky steel mill town. After two years she divorced and ran away to New York City, working as a store clerk. On a lark she entered a contest for the most beautiful girl in New York . . . and won. She was soon one of Florenz Ziegfeld's stage star show girls, and this wild child from Pittsburgh also posed nude for famed artist Alberto Vargas - you can still google and find copies of this painting. in 1916, at the age of 22, she started making motion pictures, and married Jack Pickford, the brother of famed silent star Mary Pickford. Flush with the success of this movie and several others that she made in 1920, she and husband Jack Pickford sailed for France and a vacation abroad. In the middle of the night she went to the medicine cabinet in the hotel bathroom and without turning on the lights reached for a bottle that she probably thought was headache medicine or something to soothe her stomach. In any case, what she grabbed and drank was poison, and she died horribly a few days later. All of her pictures have become collectible, and The Flapper is probably the most famous.

Little Ginger is sixteen, and the precocious daughter of a southern senator. She is already a wild child, and papa senator decides to send her to an all-girls boarding school in the snowy north. How could she get into trouble up there? Well, if there was an all-boys school right next door, there might be a way. Especially when she discovers that the major sport at the girls school is 'watching the boys go by.' Ginger meets an older man and tells him that she is twenty, and they step out at the country club dance. But the head of the school catches her at the dance and takes her away from her older man, causing her to have unbearable shame. A nice 'coming of age' plot is unfolding for Ginger, but wait . . . this plot isn't convoluted enough yet . . . we need to inject a wild left-turn in the action. How about a pair of cat-burglers, and they lure Ginger to wild New York City with the intentions of setting her up as the 'goat' - framing her for the thefts at the school. Oh, my . . . things are getting very complicated for a young girl who only wants to grow up and have a good time, like all the adult 'flapper' girls.

Pop your bowl of white kernel popcorn and put plenty of warm melted butter on it, because we are in for a bumpy ride that won't end until our journey has taken our little Ginger and the rest of us on an adventure of a lifetime!

Olive Thomas - 1920watching the men ride by
Olive Thomas - 1920The girls are watching the boys ride by
Ginger meets RichardOlive Thomas
Ginger meets RichardGinger gets flowers for the dance
At the dance with Olive ThomasHiding from the school marm
Olive at the Country Club DanceOlive hides from the school head mistress
Olive the flapper 
Olive in New York City