Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Saturday, February 19, 2011

With Friends Like Peggy....

There's a very funny 1933 Paramount pre-coder called "International House" (Franklin Pangborn is in it, so of course I know about it.)  It is always thought of as a great W.C. Fields movie but, fact is, he was second billed.  The vaunted 'Cast No. 1' spot is claimed by Peggy Hopkins Joyce.  Peggy don't get much play these days, but believe me when I say, she was some dame!

Let's get a little 'P.H.J. 101' out of the way so I can get to the part I want to tell you about.

* She was born in 1893, in the Norfolk, VA area.

* She ran away at age 15, joined a vaudeville act, and by 1910 she married the first of her six husbands.

* They were all very rich men.

* She would spend a lot of their money and grab a lot more in each divorce.

* A marriage vow to Peggy had nothing to do with monogamy.

* She was a Ziegfeld Follies girl.

* She was an Earl Carroll Vanities girl.

* Not a very good actress or dancer, she was not without talent.  As she once said to a reporter:  "I may be expensive, but I deliver the goods."

* In the spring of 1920, and drunk with her new husband's money, the new Mrs. Stanley Joyce went on a shopping blackout and spent $1 million in a single week. Her trinkets included,  $300,000 worth of pearls, a $65,000 Russian sable coat and a $30,000 chinchilla.

* During her affair with Chaplin he collected stories she told him - they became the basis for his 1923 picture "A Woman Of Paris".

PHJ and Chaplin on a yacht off of Catalina Island 1922

* She once owned The Portuguese Diamond.  It now resides in The Smithsonian. 

* She is allegedly the inspiration for the Lorelei Lee character in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes".

* She was being honest-not funny-when she said, "It takes all the fun out of a bracelet when you have to buy it yourself."

* There is a stanza in the Eddie Cantor version of  "Makin' Whoopie" where he sings:
Take Peggy Joyce
With little voice
She soon became
The nation's choice!
I tell you, buddy
She's made a study
Of makin' whoopee

I think that should about bring you up to speed.  Now let's get a worm's eye view of Peggy in action, via an entry of her diary.
This particular episode takes place at a point in her life where things were perhaps a little too sedate for our girl.  After leaving her first husband, she had run home to mommy and daddy.  Though of modest means (pops was a barber) they loved there little darling, and after calling in some influential favors, managed to send her to an exclusive girls school in Washington DC to be finished.  

In an earlier diary entry from her days at the school she complains how none of the girls like her because she is so pretty.  The only one who is nice to her is her roommate Judy, a girl she considers her dearest friend.

Now this:

Monday morning
I feel terrible today.  I think Judy is mad at me.  I don't think she appreciates it, but last night I saved her from an awful experience....She's been going with a very tall, handsome young man.  His name is Sherbourne Philbrick Hopkins, Jr. and he is very social and Rich.  His eyes are sensuous-very dark brown-and the minute I saw him I was attracted to him and I felt he liked me.  Every time he came to pick up Judy I would catch him watching me as a cat watches a bowl of cream....

Judy says he's very much in love with her.  I told her You're mistaken, He's in love with me.  I can tell.  I told her she must not marry him until we found out who he really loved.  I told her to invite him over and I'd meet him alone and she should go across the street and if she sees the light turn off, come back right away.  When he came in and found that Judy wasn't there he walked over to me.  He didn't say much, but he didn't have to.  He took me in his arms and whispered Peggy I'm crazy about you.  He was wonderful-very loving and gentle.  As I turned off the light we laid down on the sofa.  I knew what he was up to but I had to go all the way because then I could prove to Judy he loved me....

Today "Sherby" took me shopping and bought me some beautiful clothes-two morning dresses, three tea frocks, and three Evening gowns-SIX PAIRS of shoes-and simply piles and PILES of the most wonderful LINGERIE, EVERYTHING WAS SILK....


We're eloping tomorrow....

In any case, I've saved my girl friend a terrible life....

PHJ, for whom all men were Santa Claus



Donna Lethal said...

"Franklin Pangborn is in it, of course, so I know about it" - why I love you.

I have always loved PHJ (well, since I've known about her, that is) - what a great post! A true role model for bad girls everywhere.

Jon said...

One of the best and campest stories I have read so far this year - fantabulosa! Jx

Ask the Cool Cookie said...

But whatever became of her?

normadesmond said...

great post feel! really excellent.
this one may win you "the big one!"

TJB said...

I now realize who I want to be when I grow up: PHJ!

Stephen said...

Put A Ring On It, for sure.
Terrific post, & knew little of her!

MJ said...

Are there any photos of her with The Seven Dwarves?

Kid Crowbar said...

Should I make one man my choice
And regard divorce as treason
Or make like Peggy Joyce
And get a new one every season?
- Cole Porter, "Which"