But how about Baby Peggy, the silent-screen star who was making $1 million a movie when she was 5 years old?
Given the fact that more than 100 years of film history have passed, there are bound to be a million forgotten stories in the celluloid city.
The long, twisty saga of of the movie tyke now known as Diana Serra Cary, 93 and still going strong in SoCal, is explored in “Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room,” a forthcoming documentary directed by Dutch newcomer Vera Iwerebor.
“I was probably one of the top 20 stars [of that era],” Cary told the Wall Street Journal, in a story previewing the documentary’s premiere, next week in New York.
Things I learned about Baby Peggy from reading the WSJ piece:
- By the time she was 7, she starred in six features and 50 two-reeler comedies
- “Captain January,” a Universal silent, was remade as a “talky” with Temple
- At the peak of her fame, she received more than 1 million fan letters annually
- Her fortunes changed when her step-grandfather stole $2 million of her earnings
- Turning to vaudeville, she made a second fortune, which her parents lost through a combination of bad investments and profligate spending
- She subsequently fought to make $3/day working in sound movies. “”The industry people were in a state of panic,” she told writer Tom Nolan. ” They didn’t want to sink in a [new] world they didn’t know anything about. . . . Every opportunity they had, in the press and every other way, they relegated silent films to the Stone Age; they said they were no good, and everybody in them was no good. . . . You were made to feel that you’d appeared in something dreadful. And I just put the lid down on it, completely . . . for the next 30 years.”
- After marrying and having a son, she wrote several non-fiction books on Hollywood and, in 1996, a memoir, “What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy?”
Fascinating stuff, sure to be explored in greater depth in the doc. Here’s the full WSJ story.