Olive's Borden's Story

Olive Borden

 Olive Mary Borden was born on July 14, 1906, in Norfolk, Virginia. Tragically her father, Harry Borden, died of typhoid fever in 1907 and her younger sister died when she was an infant. Her mother, Sibbie Shields Borden, had to take a job as a hotel maid to support them. Olive attended Sacred Heart Catholic grade school and Mount St. Agnes Academy boarding school in Baltimore. She dreamed of becoming an actress and in 1922 she persuaded her mother to take her to Hollywood. Olive worked as a telephone operator until she was hired to be a movie extra. Her mother 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 comedies like Too Many Mammas and Just A Good Guy. Olive began dating producer Paul Bern who gave her a role in The Dressmaker From Paris. In 1925 she was chosen to be a WAMPAS Baby Star and starred opposite Tom Mix in The Yankee Senor and My Own Pal. Then director John Ford cast her in the western 3 Bad Men. During filming she started a romance with her costar George O'Brien. 20th Century Fox signed her to a long-term contract in December of 1925. She appeared in a string of successful films including Fig Leaves, The Monkey Talks, and The Secret Studio.

Olive BordenOlive Borden

Olive Borden

Olive was a gifted comedienne and was considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. She 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 she 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 was offered a contract with Columbia. She had leading roles in The Eternal Woman and Virgin Lips but her southern accent made it difficult for her to transition to sound films. Olive 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. When George O'Brien ended their four year relationship in 1930 she was heartbroken.

Olive BordenOlive Borden

Olive Borden

She had a brief romance with costume designer Edward Stevenson. Unable to find work in Hollywood she moved to New York City. Olive made her stage debut in The Devil Is A Lady but the show closed after seven weeks. She married Teddy Spector, a thirty year old stockbroker, on March 23, 1931. They separated in early 1932 because he wanted her to quit acting. When she 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. In November of 1932 their marriage was annulled. Olive had short-lived relationships with director Marshall Neilan and violinist Enric Madriguera. She accepted a role in the low budget 1934 drama Chloe, Love Is Calling. It would be her final film. She 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 got a job working at Macy's department store. She wanted to become a mother but she was unable to have children. By now her fortune was gone and she was forced to file for bankruptcy. She also had a serious drinking problem. Her marriage to John ended in 1941 after he found out she was having an affair with Lieutenant Arthur Benline. During World War 2 she volunteered as a nurse's aid.

Olive BordenOlive Borden

Olive Borden

She decided to join the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) in December of 1942. Olive was sent to Fort Des Moines in Iowa where she earned $12.50 a week driving an ambulance. She told a reporter "I didn't have any children dependant on me. I wanted to help where I could do the most good". In 1943 she received a citation for bravery when she she turned over an enemy ammunition truck. She was forced to leave the Army when she injured her ankle. After getting an honorable discharge in 1944 she moved back to Hollywood and tried to resume her acting career. She had gained a lot of weight and was unable to get any acting roles. Olive had to take several low paying jobs but was unable to keep them because "something always goes wrong". Then in the Fall of 1945 she moved into the Sunshine Mission, a home for destitute women in the "skid row" section Los Angeles. Her mother worked in the mission's commissary. Olive spent her days scrubbing floors, answering the phone, and taking care of the children who lived there. On Thanksgiving Day she served Turkey dinner to the homeless people in the neighborhood. Her final acting performance was in the mission's 1946 Christmas pageant.

Olive Borden Ft. Des MoinesOlive Borden Sunshine Mission
At Ft. Des Moines                                                                                                      At the Sunshine Mission

Olive Borden Sibbie Borden
On her deathbed with her mother

She claimed that while living at the mission she had become a born again Christian. Olive said "I have found the one thing Hollywood couldn't give me - happiness." Feeling restless she ran away the mission in the Spring of 1947. She was found her several months later living in a run down motel. Olive returned to the Sunshine Mission but she was suffering from pneumonia. On October 1, 1947 she died from cirrhosis of the liver at the young age of forty-one. Her beloved mother Sibbie was at her bedside when she passed away. The only possessions she had were a scrapbook of clippings and her lucky pansy ring. Near her bed she kept a photo of her younger self with the inscription "Sincerely yours, Olive Borden". In her last interview she said "The whole world has fallen in on me. But the doctors will make me well." She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. At the funeral Sibbie said "On the other side of town they call this Skid Row. But maybe it's just as well it happened this way. Ollie died among the people who really loved her and idealized her. She was happy".

Olive Borden Grave
Olive's grave at Forest Lawn

Olive BordenOlive Borden

Olive Borden Death Certificate
Olive's death certificate