Olive's Borden's Story


"In all things I'm an extremist - way up or way down. The slightest disappointment enfolds me in the blackest gloom and when things go right I'm so thrilled that I can't sleep or eat or even sit still." ~ Olive

During the 1920's Olive Borden became one of Hollywood's most popular stars but by the age of forty she was penniless and forgotten. Olive Mary Borden was born on July 14, 1906, in Norfolk, Virginia. Her ancestors came form Ireland. Tragically Olive's father, Harry Borden, died of typhoid fever when she was a baby. Her mother, Sibbie Shields Borden, worked as a hotel maid to support them. Olive attended Sacred Heart Catholic grade school in Norfolk and Mount St. Agnes Academy boarding school in Baltimore. She dreamed of becoming an actress and in 1922 she persuaded her mother Sibbie to take her to Hollywood. Olive worked as a telephone operator until she was hired to be a movie extra. She and Sibbie opened a candy store near UCLA but it closed six months later. Olive was signed by Hal Roach's studio in 1924. She played sexy vamps in the comedies Too Many Mammas and Just A Good Guy. Producer Paul Bern gave Olive a small role in his film The Dressmaker From Paris. She and Paul dated on and off for several years. In 1925 Olive starred in the melodrama The Overland Limited and was chosen to be a WAMPAS Baby Star. She was offered a five year contract at Fox studios. Olive starred opposite Tom Mix in The Yankee Senor and My Own Pal. Director John Ford chose her for a leading role in his 1926 western Three Bad Men. During filming she started a serious romance with her costar George O'Brien.




She and George worked together again in the hit comedy Fig Leaves. Olive appeared in a string of successful films including Yellow Fingers. The Monkey Talks, and Come To My House. She was a gifted comedienne and was considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. Olive was nicknamed "The Joy Girl" after starring in the hit 1927 film. At the peak of her career she earned $1,500 a week. Unfortunately Olive spent her money as fast as she made it. She lived with her mother in a lavish Beverly Hills mansion and had a limousine standing by twenty-four hours a day. Although she was one of their biggest stars Fox cut her salary in November of 1927. The studio claimed she was "temperamental". Olive walked out on her contract and took a six month break from acting. She could no longer afford her extravagant lifestyle so she moved to a small house in Malibu. In 1928 she signed a lucrative contract with Columbia. Olive was given leading roles in the movies The Eternal Woman and Virgin Lips. Unfortunately her southern accent made it difficult for her to make the transition to sound films. She tried to change her image by cutting her long hair into a bob and playing flappers. After Columbia dropped her contract she worked at RKO and First National studios. She costarred with Arthur Lake in Dance Hall and with Jack Oakie in The Social Lion.



Olive was heartbroken when George O'Brien ended their four year relationship in 1930. There were rumors that George's conservative family did not like her. After their break-up she started dating costume designer Edward Stevenson. Olive was having trouble finding work in Hollywood so she moved to New York City. She appeared in several unsuccessful plays and performed in vaudeville. On March 23, 1931 she eloped with Theodore "Teddy" Spector, a thirty year old stockbroker. They separated in early 1932 because he wanted her to quit acting. After Olive filed for divorce she learned that Teddy was still legally married to his first wife. He was arrested for bigamy but the charges were dropped. On November 21, 1932 their marriage was annulled. In 1934 Olive was cast in the low budget drama Chloe, Love Is Calling. This would be her final film. She had brief relationships with director Marshall Neilan and violinst Enric Madriguera. Olive married John Moeller, a twenty-six year old electrician, on November 2, 1934. The couple lived with John's father in a three room apartment on Long Island. Olive took a job working at Macy's department store. She wanted to become a mother but she was unable to have children. Her marriage to John ended in 1941 after he found out she was having an affair with Lieutenant Arthur Benline.



By now Olive's fortune was gone and she was forced to file for bankruptcy. She was also struggling with a serious drinking problem. During World War 2 she worked as a nurse's aid and drove an ambulance. In November 1942 she joined the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps. Olive was sent to Fort Des Moines in Iowa where she earned $12.50 a week working at the WAAC training center. She received an Army citation for bravery when she she turned over an enemy ammunition truck. After being honorably discharged Olive tried to make a comeback in Hollywood. She had gained weight and was unable to get any acting roles. Olive was forced to take several low paying jobs. In 1945 she moved into The Sunshine Mission, a home for destitute women in Los Angeles. Her mother, Sibbie, worked in the commissary. Olive claimed she had become a born again Christian and devoted herself to taking care of children. In 1947 Olive ran away from the mission. Sibbie found her several months later and convinced her to return to the mission. Tragically forty-one year old Olive died on October 1, 1947, from pneumonia and chronic alcoholism. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Olive Borden was a talented actress who learned how fleeting fame could be. Her story is one of Hollywood's most tragic tales.