I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble
~F. Scott Fitzgerald
I first saw Colleen Moore in a few clips from her films when I was six and she was one of the many stars who were interviewed for Kevin Brownlow's Hollywood documentary. Since then I have watched every one of her films that I could get my hands on, which isn't a lot since sadly many of her films are either lost or not widely available and TCM rarely shows more then a couple of their vast silent film collection every month.
If you can get your hands on her 1968 memoir, then do! It's just wonderful and focuses on her rise in Hollywood to superstar. Miss Moore tells of how she always wanted to be an actress, just like Mary Pickford until when she was fifteen, her uncle made a deal with Mr. Griffith to give her a contract and so she and her grandmother were on the next train to Hollywood. Miss Moore worked hard for six years in forgettable and predictable melodramas and comedies, dreaming of the day when she would become a star. One day she looked at the girls her brother was bringing home from college when she realized what was wrong with her. Her Pickford curls, through popular, didn't suit her boyish body and so her mother chopped her hair off and Miss Moore successfully campaigned for the role that she wanted -the lead in 1923's Flaming Youth, only one reel of which remains. Smash hit and cut to her bob, which wasn't the first but it was the first bob to become world famous and now everyone wanted to be a flapper.
Colleen Moore wasn't the typical wild flapper or flighty young thing, like Misses Bow and Brooks, she kept living a semi-normal life and learned how to invest her money for her retirement. When she did do was observe everything around her and her book details how early feature length films were shots, how studios progressed, what it was like to shoot on location and of the voice coach she had to see after the switch to sound. She also tells of her meetings and friendships with famous people, like the time she found Zelda taking a bath during a party and of the reception for Jean Harlow's second marriage. She also offers her own accounts of the biggest scandals to ever hit Hollywood, taken from either her own experiences or from talking to those involved. She also tells of her struggle with her alcoholic first husband and how much she disliked aspects of her fame, such as her honeymoon in Europe being turned into a giant promotional tour for her latest film and how her clothes were ripped from her back by the crowds waiting to see her. Plus there are some very vivid descriptions of clothes and decorating her own home and how others spent millions building their dream homes. Very little is told about her life after she retired to being a "private" person, expect for the chapter where she tells of how her Fairy Castle came about, how involved everyone got in it and why she toured with it for several years. I'd love to go to Chicago just to see it in the museum.
Miss Moore comes across as a very nice and kind person, the sort of girl you'd like to be friends with, even if she was a big star.
The book as never been reprinted and you'll either have to buy it off of AbeBooks or do what I did. Most public libraries have a service called an Inter Library Loan, which you should be able to find on your library's online catalogue or just ask at the information desk. Just give them the details of the book (Silent Star by Moore, Colleen published in 1968 by Doubleday) and they'll find you a copy from a different library, but be sure to check if your own library has a copy or not. It's well worth the wait (or shipping costs) even if it's just for the dozens of pictures.
This is a clip of her with Harry Langdon in Ella Cinders. The music terrible and wrong, but at least it's shown at the right speed.