Colleen Moore

Original Flapper, Dollhouse Builder & Smart Investor

Hi, I'm Kate!
What I am most passionate about is to inspire you to see that your life is your own and biggest masterpiece.

Colleen Moore was one of the defining style icons and actresses of the roaring twenties, defining the persona of the flapper and making a bobbed hairdo fashionable. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of Flaming Youth, one of Moore’s greatest successes said about her: “I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble.“ So, who is Colleen Moore?

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Beginnings

Colleen Moore was actually born Kathleen Morrison on August 19, 1899 in Port Huron, Michigan. During the first 12 years of Kathleen’s life, the family moved several times. First, to Hillsdale, Michigan, for two years, then to Atlanta, Georgia, Warren, Pennsylvania, and finally, by 1911, they had settled in Tampa, Florida. 

But, the family often visited Chicago, where her aunt Lib and Lib’s husband, managing editor of the Chicago Examiner and an important editor in the publishing empire of William Randolph Hearst, Walter Howey, resided. 

Start in the Movies

Essanay Studios resided in Chicago and was just around the corner of the Howey residence. Both to Moore’s accounts and that of Helen Ferguson’s of Essay fame, Moore had appeared in several productions as an unbilled extra. 

At age 15, young Kathleen had set her eyes on Hollywood. It was her uncle who arranged a screen-test with famed director D.W. Griffith as Griffith owed Howey a big favor as Howey had helped him to get The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance through the Chicago censorship board. A screentest was done to make sure that Moore’s heterochromia didn’t distract too much when being filmed. Heterochromia means that Moore had two different eye-colors, she had one brown eye and one blue eye. She passed the test and journeyed to Hollywood together with her mother and aunt. In Moore’s own words: “I was being sent to Hollywood – not because anybody out there thought I was any good, but simply to pay off a favor“. She started on a six month contract for Triangle Films. 

Moore’s first credited appearance was in 1917 at age 18 in The Bad Boy in a supporting role. She would continue to appear in small and supporting roles for a couple of years, in movies like An Old-Fashioned Young Man and the Western Hands Up! Funny fact: Moore didn’t even know how to mount, lest to ride horses – and did not feel the need mention that fact during the casting for Hands Up!. It was fellow actor Monte Blue who realized her problems and gave her a quick lesson, enabling her to at least mount a horse and stay on top of it. The critics were very positive about her role in the movie.

Triangle, Selig & Christie

Although her contract was extended for another six months, Triangle went bankrupt and Moore needed to find a new job, which she luckily found with Selig Polyscope. She filmed A Hoosier Romance and Little Orphant Annie for Selig before this studio also folded. These two movies, which were based on poems by James Whitcomb Riley were hugely successful and garnered Moore lots of publicity and popularity. She was on her way to be somebody in Hollywood. Thus, although Selig folded, Moore was able to film several successful movies with Fox Film Corporation, Universal and Famous Players-Lasky, including The Wilderness Trail, The Busher, the Man in the Moonlight and The Egg Crate Wallop. 

In 1920, 21 year-old Moore signed a new contract with Christie Film Company. Moore had decided on the studio because she wanted comic training, something she had not been provided with so far. She filmed five movies for the studio before she got lured away from Christie by none other than Marshall Neilan. As you might remember from the Gloria Swanson episode, Marshall Neilan was the golden boy of Hollywood back then. He made two movies with Moore, Dinty and When Dawn Came, before loaning her out to other studios.

Success

In 1922, Colleen Moore was named one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars, filmed Come On Over and The Wallflower as well as Forsaking All Others, The Ninety Nine and Broken Chains. She followed these successes up the following year with Look Your Best and The Nth Commandment. It was in the first half of 1923 that Moore signed a new contract with First National Pictures and immediately filmed four movies for them in quick succession: The Huntress, Flaming Youth, Slippy McGee and Broken Hearts of Broadway. 

Flaming Youth became an instant and gigantic hit. It placed Moore opposite the other famous flapper of Hollywood – Clara Bow. In fact, Bow kind of won this battle as Black Oxen, which also came out in 1923 cemented her status as the ultimate Hollywood flapper. When Moore’s flapper themed movie The Perfect Flapper did not catch on with audiences, Moore would simply state: “No more flappers…people are tired of soda-pop love affairs.“ Years later Moore would admit that Clara Bow had been her „chief rival“. But, apart from her on-screen flapper image, Colleen Moore also did live the flapper live IRL, in real life. Her Melina Marrison-Cox said about her aunt that Colleen was the life of the party and lived life to the fullest. Moore held great parties which were attended by the likes of Harol Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Gloria Swanson. 

Colleen Moore was busy filming back to back movies: So Big, Sally,The Desert Flower, Irene, It Must Be Love, Twinkletoes, for which Moore went blonde, Orchids and Ermine and Lilac Time. Lilac Time in particular is of interest: This movie was one of the bigger productions of that time and cost more than $1m to make, but a s Colleen Moore was one of the most popular actresses during the 1920s, the studio was willing to invest the money. But, it had been just before the filming that Moore had split from First National right after her first husband, producer John McCormick left the studio as well. Rumor has it that McCormick struggled with a drinking problem and would have been fired anyways. Moore threw her status and popularity  into the discussion to get McCormick rehired. She succeeded and got a new contract that made McCormick Moore’s sole producer. But then Warner Bros. took over First National and of course the big guys were not interested in paying Colleen Moore that much money – they waited until  the box office results for Lilac Time rolled in. As the movie was a massive hit that made back every single penny invested, Moore retained her generous terms of contract as well as her husband as producer. 

Sound Movies and Career End

McCormick initially was sceptic about sound movies and did not place Moore into one. He changed his tune only in 1929 and Moore starred in Smiling Irish Eyes, which was a flop. She then took a hiatus from Hollywood, focused on other endeavors, like her new marriage, socialising and sports events. She returned to the movies in 1934, appearing in three movies that all proved unsuccessful, before she retired from acting for good.

The Dollhouse

But Colleen Moore was not done with creating extraordinary things yet. Because under that sleek bob was a great mind. She invested early and wisely, amassed great wealth, wrote a book about investments called „How Women Can Make Money in the Stock Market“,  and became an early partner in the investment firm Merrill Lynch. She would penned her autobiography „Silent Star: Colleen Moore Talks About Her Hollywood“ in 1968. But, from 1928 onwards, Colleen would mostly dedicate her time, money and effort onto her „Colleen Moore Fairy Castle“. 

Her father inspired the idea and with his help as well as the help of Hollywood set designers, the 9 square feet and 12 ft tall structure was brought into existence. The interior was completely designed by Hollywood art director Harold Grieves. It included miniature artworks, miniature furniture of the greatest detail, miniature bear skin rugs, running water and electricity and cost $435,000 to build. In 1949, the miniature house became a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. But Moore worked on and contributed to it until her death from cancer on January 25, 1988 at the age of 88. 

Friends

Adela Rogers St. Johns – Adela Rogers St. Johns wrote one of the most defining movies of Colleen Moore’s career, Lilac Times, as well as ghostwrote Colleen Moore’s autobiography. These two were close friends throughout their lives. 

Mary Pickford – Colleen Moore and Mary Pickford had a close friendship and Moore often came to see Mary Pickford. 

Romantic Relationships

King Vidor – Colleen Moore and famed director King Vidor met in 1921, when Marshall Neilan loaned Moore to him for The Sky Pilot. They began a three-year relationship, which they would take back up again after the death of Colleen Moore’s third husband. At that time, they also founded a television production company together. They stayed close friends until Vidor’s death in 1982, after which Moore married her final husband. As Durgnat and Simmon write in their 1988 biography: “King Vidor died of a heart attack on November 1, 1982. The previous weekend he and his longtime friend [and former lover in their early careers] Colleen Moore had driven up to San Simeon, William Randolph Hearst’s “Castle”, to watch home movies made when they had been Hearst’s guests there, sixty years before.”[231]

John McCormick (husband #1) – Colleen Moore and John McCormick, publicist and producer with First National Pictures, were introduced to each other by Marshall Neilan in 1922. McCormick apparently had been smitten by Moore from the first time he had seen a photograph of her. They liked each other immediately, got engaged quickly and married during the production of Flaming Youth in the beginning of 1923, when Moore was 23 years old and McCormick 29. In 1927, the year of the Jazz Singer, the first feature length sound movie, McCormick would become Moore’s sole producer. Initially, he was against sound movies and prohibited Moore to star in one, but changed his mind in 1929. When Moore finally starred in Smiling Irish Eyes, it proved to be a failure. He also started turning down projects without consulting Moore. Allegedly, McCormick was a heavy drinker, which might have also prompted his dismissal from First National. When drunk, he was verbally absuvie to Moore. Their marriage suffered from this dynamic and the couple divorced in 1930. As McCormick took advantage of Moore’s money, fame and career liberally, she was left with hardly anything when she was a free woman once again. 

Albert Parker Scott (husband #2) – Two years later, Moore married stockbroker Albert Parker Scott. But after two years, this marriage also ended in divorce. 

Homer Hargrave (husband #3) – In 1936, Colleen Moore married Homer Hargrave, another stockbroker who brought two kids into the marriage from a previous relationships: Homer Hargrave Jr. and Judy Hargrave. Moore adopted both ot them as she never had children of her own. They stayed married for 28 years until Hargrave’s death in 1964. Moore’s niece described the couple as „a match made in heaven“. 

Paul Magenot (husband #4) – In 1982, 83 year-old Moore married builder Paul Magenot and they remained together for six years until Moore’s death in 1988.

Style

Of course, when it comes to style, Colleen Moore almost single-handedly set off the flapper craze with her short bobbed hair, her zest for life and comedic talents. She lived life to the fullest and was a smart and quick-witted businesswoman. This combination of beauty, humor, brains and success is just astonishing and absolutely captivating. 

With all my love!

xx

Kate

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