Olive Borden

Olive Borden
Born (1906-07-14)July 14, 1906
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
Died October 1, 1947(1947-10-01) (aged 41)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Stomach ailment and pneumonia
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Years active 1924–1934
Spouse(s) Theodore Spector (m. 1931–32)
John Moeller (m. 1934–41)

Olive Borden (July 14, 1906 – October 1, 1947) was an American film and stage actress who began her career during the silent film era. Nicknamed "The Joy Girl",[1] Borden was known for her jet-black hair and overall beauty.

At the peak of her career in the mid-1920s, Borden was earning $1,500 a week. In 1927, she walked out on her contract with Fox after refusing to take a pay cut. By 1929, her career began to wane due to her reputation for being temperamental and her difficulty transitioning to sound films. She made her last film, Chloe, Love Is Calling You, in 1934 and moved on to stage work for a time. By the late 1930s, she had declared bankruptcy and stopped acting. During World War II, she joined the WACs. She was later honorably discharged after sustaining a foot injury and attempted to make a comeback in films. However, Borden's attempts to get back into acting were hindered by her alcoholism and health problems.

In 1945, she began working at the Sunshine Mission, a home for destitute women located in the skidrow section of Los Angeles. She died there in October 1947 of a stomach ailment and pneumonia at the age of 41.

Early life

Olive Borden was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1906. Her birth name was often reported erroneously as Sybil Tinkle until the 1990s when it was discovered that another woman with the same name had been confused with Borden.[2] Borden's father died when she was a baby and she was raised by her mother, Sibbie, in Norfolk and Baltimore, Maryland where she also attended Catholic boarding schools.[3] She was a distant relative of Lizzie Borden.[4] As a teenager, she persuaded her mother to take her to Hollywood to pursue a career in show business. To support themselves they opened a candy store and Olive worked as a telephone operator.


Borden began her career as one of the Sennett Bathing Beauties in 1922 and was soon appearing as a vamp in Hal Roach comedy shorts. Producer Paul Bern chose her for an uncredited role in his film The Dressmaker from Paris (1925). She was signed by Fox after being named a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1925 (along with cousin Natalie Joyce). Borden quickly became one of their most popular and highest paid stars earning a salary of $1,500 a week. She had starring roles in eleven films at Fox including 3 Bad Men and Fig Leaves, both costarring her then-boyfriend George O'Brien. During this time she worked with some directors who would go on to achieve major fame, including John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Leo McCarey.

When Fox cut her salary in 1927, she walked out on her contract. By this point she was a major star but she found it difficult to make the transition from silent films to "talkies". She worked to get rid of her Southern accent but could not overcome her reputation as being difficult. She was still in demand as an actress, and continued to work for Columbia and RKO. Borden cut her trademark hair into a short bob and turned herself into a modern flapper. She made several movies in the early 1930s but her career stalled. Her last screen credit came in 1934 in the film Chloe, Love Is Calling You. She moved to New York where she had a brief stage career and made a living on the vaudeville circuit.

Post acting years

During her acting career, Borden was one of the highest paid stars. She spent her money freely and by the late 1930s, she was broke. Borden then found work as a postal clerk and mail carrier and also worked as a nurse's aide.[5]

In 1942, Borden joined the WAC where she has received an army citation for bravery in turning over an enemy ammunition truck. Her Army career ended after she was hospitalized in Walter Reed Medical Center with a severe foot injury. After her honorable discharge she attempted an unsuccessful comeback in films.[4]

Borden struggled with alcoholism and numerous health problems. She spent her final years in the skid row section of Los Angeles scrubbing floors at the Sunshine Mission, a home for destitute women.[4]

Personal life


From 1926 until 1930 she had been romantically involved with actor George O'Brien and the press reported they were engaged. She also dated director Marshall Neilan, producer Paul Bern, and had a long affair with Arthur Benline, Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Construction Battalion.


Borden was married twice. Her first marriage was to stockbroker Theodore Spector whom she married on March 28, 1931. The marriage was rocky and the couple separated in early 1932. After their separation, Borden learned that Spector was not divorced from his first wife, Pearl, whom he married in 1919. Spector was arrested for bigamy in 1932 after his first wife came forward and claimed they were still married. In November 1932, Borden petitioned the court for an annulment which was later granted. She married her second husband, railroad technician John Moeller, in November 1934.[6] That marriage ended in divorce seven years later.

For most of her life Borden lived with her mother, Sibbie.


Borden died on October 1, 1947 from a stomach ailment and pneumonia at the age of 41.[7] The only possession she had when she died was a signed photo of herself.[8] Borden's funeral was held on October 3 at the Sunshine Mission where she worked before her death. The Mission's founder, Essie Binkley West, officiated the service.[9] Borden was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[10] Her mother Sibbie was interred in the grave next to her.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Olive Borden has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.[11] She was one of the first eight stars chosen to receive a star in 1958. Her name was drawn randomly from hundreds of nominees.

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes[12]
1924 Neck and Neck
1924 Wide Open
1924 Air Pockets
1924 Why Men Work
1924 Should Landlords Live?
1924 Too Many Mamas
1924 The Royal Razz
1924 Just a Good Guy
1925 Should Husbands be Watched? The New Maid
1925 The Dressmaker from Paris Lost film
1925 Bad Boy Undetermined Role Uncredited
1925 Tell It to a Policeman
1925 Good Morning, Nurse! Lost film
1925 The Happy Warrior Ima Lost film
1925 The Overland Limited Ruth Dent
1926 The Yankee Señor Manuelita Alternative title: The Conquering Blood
Lost film
1926 My Own Pal Alice Deering Lost film
1926 Yellow Fingers Saina
1926 3 Bad Men Lee Carlton
1926 Fig Leaves Eve Smith
1926 The Country Beyond Valencia Lost film
1927 The Monkey Talks Olivette
1927 Secret Studio Rosemary Merton Lost film
1927 The Joy Girl Jewel Courage [13]
1927 Pajamas Angela Wade
1927 Come to My House Joan Century Lost film
1928 The Albany Night Boat Georgie Lost film
1928 Virgin Lips Norma Lost film
1928 Gang War Flowers Alternative title: All Square
Lost film
1928 Stool Pigeon Goldie Alternative title: The Decoy
1928 Sinners in Love Ann Hardy
1929 Love in the Desert Zarah
1929 The Eternal Woman Anita
1929 Half Marriage Judy Paige
1929 Dance Hall Gracie Nolan
1929 Wedding Rings Eve Quinn Alternative title: The Dark Swan
1930 Hello Sister Vee Newell
1930 The Social Lion Gloria Staunton
1932 The Divorce Racket Marie Douglas
1933 Hotel Variety Alternative title: The Passing Show
Lost film
1933 Leave It to Me Peavey Alternative title: Help
1933 The Mild West Baby Doll Short film
1934 The Inventors Uncredited
1934 Chloe, Love Is Calling You Chloe (Betty Ann Gordon)

Further reading


  1. (Liebman & 200, p. 323)
  2. (Lowe 2005, p. 76)
  3. (Shipman Springer 1974, p. 273)
  4. 1 2 3 (Brettell 2005, p. 35)
  5. (Ankerich 2010, p. 74)
  6. (Ankerich 2010, pp. 72–73)
  7. "Olive Borden, Star Of Silent Films, 40". New York Times. October 2, 1947. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  8. (Klepper 1999, p. 358)
  9. "Simple Funeral for Olive Borden". The Milwaukee Sentinel. October 5, 1947. p. 15. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  10. "Funeral of Olive Borden". New York Times. October 6, 1947. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  11. "Hollywood Star Walk: Olive Borden". latimes.com. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  12. (Vogel 2010, pp. 162–179)
  13. "Projection Jottings". New York Times. September 4, 1927. Retrieved 2014-12-06. "The Joy Girl," with Olive Borden, produced by Allan Dwan, is to occupy the Roxy screen this week. It is based on a story by May Edglnton. The exterior scenes ...

Works cited

  • Ankerich, Michael G. (2010). Dangerous Curves Atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. BearManor. ISBN 1-59393-605-2
  • Brettell, Andrew; King, Noel; Kennedy, Damien; Imwold, Denise (2005). Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Leonard, Warren Hsu; von Rohr, Heather. Barrons Educational Series. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9.
  • Klepper, Robert K. (1999). Silent Films, 1877-1996: A Critical Guide to 646 Movies. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-0595-3
  • Liebman, Roy (2000). The Wampas Baby Stars: A Biographical Dictionary, 1922-1934. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-0756-5.
  • Lowe, Denise (2005). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films, 1895-1930. Haworth Press. ISBN 0-7890-1843-8.
  • Shipman Springer, John; Hamilton, Jack D. (1974). They Had Faces Then: Super Stars, Stars, and Starlets of the 1930s. Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-0300-9.
  • Vogel Michelle. (2010). Olive Borden: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Joy Girl. McFarland. ISBN 0-786-45836-4.
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