There’s been some changes around here since my last Flappers & Jelly Beans post. Most notably, the February 23rd cover reveal for my 1920 romantic mystery, It Had to Be You. It now has its very own page with buy links HERE.
I also ventured (tentatively) into the world of pinning on PINTEREST and instantly lost a day of my life. (That is one seriously fun distraction. Seriously fun.) So, Pin People–and you know who you are–please stop by to visit my lonely fledgling newbie boards. One is devoted to the Jazz Age, of course!
Now on to today’s post, a look back at some fads and entertainment trends of that fabulous frivolous decade, the 1920s!
One wildly popular form of entertainment back then, of course, is one we still love today…
In the 1920s, more movies were being churned out by Hollywood than at any other time in history. Somewhere between 600 and 800 American feature films were played on 20,500 movie screens across the country each year. By some estimates, half the U.S. population attended the movies once a week.
So, who were the stars that kept 1920s audiences packing the movie palaces? Last month, we met three top leading men—Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, and John Gilbert. Now, meet their leading ladies…
The It Girls – Hollywood’s Leading Ladies
#1 GLORIA SWANSON … Most Sought After Actress in Hollywood
By 1922, Gloria Swanson was already a star and, by the end of the decade, the highest paid actress in Hollywood. Audiences flocked to see her movies not only to watch her performances but to see what she wore. Her extravagant style was emulated all over the world.
In 1927, she turned down a million dollar contract to join the newly formed United Artists, a move that gave her freedom to produce her own films. In 1928, she produced and starred as a “fallen woman” in one of the most controversial films of the decade, Sadie Thompson.
Miss Swanson handily survived the transition from silent films to talkies and enjoyed an entertainment career that spanned more than half a century.
#2 GRETA GARBO … Woman of Mystery
It was Louis B. Mayer who brought the 20-year old Greta Garbo to Hollywood from Sweden in 1925. She proved his instincts correct when she became an instant hit in her first Hollywood film, Torrent. In 1927, she appeared opposite popular leading man John Gilbert in Flesh and the Devil and became an international star.
Garbo starred in eleven films from 1925 to 1929. Audiences were mesmerized not only by her beauty but by each nuance of her subtle style of acting—the quirk of an eyebrow, the angle of a look…
Garbo transitioned smoothly to sound and enjoyed a stellar career through the 1930s. She retired in 1941, after which she became a real life “woman of mystery” known as widely for her reclusive lifestyle as her remarkable film career.
#3 CLARA BOW … The “It” Girl
Star quality. Charisma. It. In 1920s slang, “it” meant sex appeal.
Whatever you call it, Clara Bow had it. Beauty, brains, sass and an uninhibited youthful vitality that spilled out all over the silent movie screen.
The Brooklyn born Bow first caught the attention of Hollywood and American audiences by playing flappers in films like Daughters of Paradise and Wine. Her star caught fire in 1926 when she appeared in Mantrap.
In 1927, she starred in six more pictures, one of which—It—gave her the nickname she’s still known for today–The It Girl. By 1928, Clara Bow was the number one box office draw–she was just 23.
Bow survived the transition to talkies in 1929, but by the early 30s, had begun to withdraw from Hollywood. In 1933, she retired from films.
What do you think? How do these ladies stack up to our “It” girls of today?
Remember, no cosmetic plastic surgery, implants or computer magic back then… Can their charisma and beauty compare?
Photo credit: Russell Patterson [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Gloria Swanson by unknown studio photographer (RR Auction) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Flesh and the Devil Publicity Still By Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (work for hire) () [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By trailer screenshot (Wings trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons