Talmadge’s unique Hollywood historyAround the City, This Week Monday, November 28th, 2011
Talmadge is one of San Diego’s older neighborhoods. It is a beautifully maintained community, just east of Kensington, that was originally developed back in the 1920s. But what you may not know is that Talmadge has a very unique history.
Talmadge was named after three sisters, Norma, Constance and Natalie Talmadge, who were all silent screen stars in the early years of the last century. The sisters and their husbands raised the capital to start developing the Talmadge neighborhood, which was originally called Talmadge Park Estates. There were eight beautiful gates installed around Talmadge, which have since all been restored to their original glory. Each gate was made of iron with cast iron lanterns and weighed about 450 pounds. The gates are very ornate and were originally installed back in the mid 1920s, before any of the homes were built. They were named historic sites by the San Diego Historical Resources Board in 2000.
All three sisters were major film stars in their day. Each sister had a street in Talmadge named after them, which are still the names of the streets today. There was a dedication back in the day for the new subdivision, at which all three glamorous sisters were present to promote the development and to plant a tree to commemorate the occasion. Talmadge Park Estates got the nickname of “Movie Girl Subdivision” and had a glamorous Hollywood image.
Norma was one of the greatest stars of the silent era. She began her film work as a teenager in 1910 at the Vitagraph Studios in Flatbush, N.Y., just a streetcar ride from her home. In 1916 she met and married exhibitor Joseph M. Schenck, and together they formed the Norma Talmadge Film Corporation, one of the most lucrative partnerships in film history. Norma Talmadge became one of the top box office attractions for the rest of the silent era, evolving from a spunky teenager into one of the finest dramatic actresses on the screen. One of the wealthiest women in Hollywood, she retired after her first two movies with sound proved disappointing at the box office. She died Christmas Eve, 1957.
Natalie was the middle daughter who married Buster Keaton, a famous Hollywood comic actor, producer and film maker. After Natalie married Buster in 1921, she only played one further film role – Virginia Canfield in Keaton’s Our Hospitality. She spent a lot of time signing autographs and living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Anita Loos, author of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, wrote a book called The Talmadge Girls which is mainly about Constance and Norma. Loos based the philosophy of Lorelei Lee on the philosophy of Peg Talmadge, who was the mother of the three sisters. Natalie ended her days after her divorce from Keaton in her home in Santa Monica, Calif.
Constance began making films in 1914, with a comedy called In Bridal Attire. Her first major role was as The Mountain Girl and Marguerite de Valois in D.W. in 1916.
Over the course of her career, she appeared in more than 80 films. Constance, along with her sisters, was heavily billed during her early career. According to her 1923 biography, she stated that she was in so much demand that she received no less than 60 manuscripts each week.
She was married four times, but her early relationships rarely lasted more than a total of three years. Her first marriage was to John Pialoglou, and occurred in 1920. She divorced Pialoglou two years later. Her second marriage was to Alastair McIntosh in February 1926, divorcing in 1927. Her third marriage was with Townsend Netcher in May 1929, divorcing in 1931. Finally she married Walter Michael Giblon in 1939. This marriage lasted until his death May 1, 1964.
Along with her sister Norma, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Constance had her footprints in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. She left a trail of five footprints in her slab. Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6300 Hollywood Blvd.
The Talmadge sisters were born into a poor family, and all became rich and famous. A true rags to riches story, times three. Their mother worked doing laundry in the early days as she struggled to raise the girls on her own, after her husband left them. She had the idea and vision to get the young girls into showbusiness and was known to be a “stage mother”. All three sisters lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous throughout their adult lives and they all retired at the same time, around 1929, after the silent film era ended; at which time they focused on their investments in real estate and other business ventures.
So, the next time you are in Talmadge, you will know of its glamorous Hollywood past and its rich history!
Trent St. Louis is a licensed Real Estate Agent
and a member of the National, California and
San Diego Association of Realtors. You can reach Trent at email@example.com or at his office in Hillcrest, The Metropolitan Group. DRE#01273643.
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