From Motion Picture Classic, February 1931: 38-39+
Her's a scan of the original article. Thanks to Jim Carper for providing these
|p. 1||p. 2.||p. 3.|
"The link must break ... and the Lamp must die ..."
And Norma Talmadge knows it.
Such a changed Norma Talmadge. With that heart-of-the-rose beauty not dimmed, but deepened, enhanced and made significant by a new compassion, a new consciousness of her fellow men and women and their problems and their pains.
Norma didn't use to care very much--about anything. She might know you today and forget you to-morrow. She lived in a brilliant, electrically lighted world and that world revolved around her and would continue to revolve ... She knows better now.
We sat by a wide long window facing a gray sea, in Norma's house on Santa Monica Beach. The sky was as gray as the water. Gulls winged and wheeled and cried, mournfully.
A pastel of the young Norma hung on one wall, smiling confidently. A portrait, silver framed, of Joseph Schenck dominated one corner. A little old organ, a hundred years old, brought from France, stood against a wall. It brought a thought of the more gentle, ivoried fingers that had played it and now play no more.
There was a sense of passing things ....
Norma and I reminisced ... about the old Vitagraph beginnings and the part chance plays .... The chance that had sent her, a small, unknown, inexperienced girl, to the old studio ... the chance that sent her on a week-end trip to Long Beach, Long Island, where she met Joseph Schenck ... The odd chance that took her out of her modest, Brooklyn sphere and set her among The Stars ....
"How can I say what I might have done if I hadn't happened to go to the Vitagraph Studio ... if I had had an office job, perhaps, and married the neighbor's boy? ... That wasn't my destiny. I believe in Destiny. We haven't a chance against the powerful scheme of things ... I've never really planned anything. Not anything. Ever in my life. Neither in my personal nor in my professional affairs. Things have just happened to me ..."
What is going to happen to her now?
To Norma Talmadge, who has been the very heart of the heart of movies. Norma, who means motion pictures to most of us over twenty or twenty-five. If Norma's link with the movies breaks, something will be severed, something will be gone that not all the Garbos and the Dietrichs in the world can ever replace.
We talked of Old Times and laughed a little to think that we, we should be able to speak of "another generation." We talked of Peg and of Constance and of the day she and Dorothy Gish staged their double elopement, Connie with John Pialaglo and Dorothy with James Rennie. Both marriages are now things of the past .... We talked of Natalie and her two boys, and of the days and parties in New York when there was, for us, no other generation. The famous Talmadge Teas, when the Talmadge girls came to town and Holiday set in for all of us ....
We talked, of courses, of the movies, of those who have skyrocketed up, only to crash again ... Poor Mabel Normand, whom Norma used to have stay with her at the beach, trying to take care of her, trying to keep her away from the things that killed her .... of Blanche Sweet and Anna Q. Nilsson and Mary Pickford and all those beginners who stand now--where?
And I thought of those New York days when Norma wouldn't sit still long enough to talk about anything, told funny stories, laughed, made cracks .. was a riot to be with, but punishment to interview .... No more. We talked of Garbo and the talkies and loyalty--and disloyalty--.
"It's a racket," Norma said, "and a bad one. It's one game where our own turn against us, where we rend one another, limb from limb. Nothing any of us has ever done matters when the day of doing draws to its inevitable close. Nothing we have counts for anything. If you write, you can keep writing as long as your hand can hold a pen. Your brain mellows and matures. The things you have to say become more worth while, more worth listening to. In business, experience counts. Gray hairs are signals of knowledge to be respected--and paid for. In this movie racket, once a second chin begins to appear, you go under and you do not come up again ....
"I wouldn't have missed it. In nothing else in the world could I have made the money, had the fun and thrill and excitement I have had in pictures. And I have now the only thing in the whole world that really matters--independence. And by that I mean, in one word--money.
"Money is the thing that has always counted with me. I never fooled myself--or anybody else--about that. I never went about goofing about my 'Art." I've played every part I had to play to the best of my ability, gave to each one all I had to give, and let it go at that. But I never kidded myself about 'Art for Art's sake.' I never discounted what I was getting out of it. I was in it for the money I made.
"Without money we are helpless. We can do nothing. We can be nothing. We can seldom be ourselves. When I think of the poses I was told to strike--the things I was prompted to say to interviewers and the things I was told not to say--the policy and the politics ... the whole manufactured fabric ... Now I can give interviews or not .. as I please. I can say what I think without fear of the devil. I can do with my life what I choose to do with it. Without money, we cannot even by pleasantly unhappy. For it is pleasanter to be unhappy among beautiful things, things of your own, than in a rented room, cold and hungry and afraid.
"As I grow older, things mean more to me. They begin to have personality, association, meaning of their own. I'm fond of them as I am fond of people. Chairs and books and pictures and things I have, without realizing it, collected and lived with. I never thought about my things a few years ago. They meant little more to me than the equipment of some hotel suite would mean. That has changed too ....
"I wish I had had a child when I was very young. I don't think, now, that I ever will. We come to drift after a time, to put things off, to shy from making decisions and alterations in our way of living. We learn to be careful, and you can't be too careful with life and the things you take from it, or life will be careful with the things it gives you. I realize now that children are the only things that matter. The only things that are your own. Even if they bring your heart-break, no matter what they bring, you have had them and they are yours.
"And friends--I'm beginning to believe that as we grow older, friends are the next most important thing in life. More important than family, or sweetheart or work. More important than anything, excepting money. Money, which means independence and--very often--friends, too.
"I used to be so callous when I was just beginning. Hard. Indifferent. The affairs of other people were no concern of mine. Nothing seemed to touch me very much. I didn't feel for people. The day was sufficient unto itself and I supposed, if I thought about it at all, that the day would continue forever. It doesn't. It's different now. It hurts me, physically, when I hear of some hardship, some failure or disappointment that has befallen someone I know, or even know of. I dwell on things that are sad more than I ever dreamed I could.
"We are, all of us, bound to grow old, to fade out of the picture--or Pictures! Those who have loved us may love others. That doesn't mean that we need stop loving them. I have never ceased to love anyone I once loved. And it is absurd to say that there is only one love in a lifetime. A mother can love four, five, or six children, equally, and differently. A woman can love one, two, or more men.
"I like men better than I do women. I am more at my ease with men, less apt to be self-conscious. I always have men about me, my friends.
"Everything changes ... and people should change with the years. There is nothing in human nature more hideous, more abnormal than a woman of middle years frantically and grotesquely striving to imitate the teens. And never succeeding.
"The movie game is, for me, drawing to a close. Very probably. I have two or more pictures to make on my present contract with United Artists--and then what? I don't know. Do you?
I didn't know. I only know what I have said before, that if Norma Talmadge's link with the movies breaks, something deeply familiar, warmly golden will be gone ...
It may have been all talk, such talk as women indulge in under a gray sky, beside a gray sea ....
Last revised, February 8, 2009