Friday, August 17, 2012

Baby Peggy, aka Diana Serra Cary

Stupendous newsroom photo of 'Baby Peggy' (b. 1918)--in her day, the most famous Hollywood child star.  The real life story is a fascinating and unsettling one --Baby P. was quite horribly exploited by her parents and the studios.  (She was 'discovered' at the age of 19 months.)
     Remarkably, Baby Peggy, whose real name is Diana Serra Cary, is still alive, and undaunted, in her 90s.  In 1996 she published a memoir, What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy: The Autobiography of Hollywood's Pioneer Child Star (St. Martins Press).  She's since written a number of books about early Hollywood and other child stars, including Jackie Coogan.

Here's a link to a précis of her life, written by herself-- --and an excerpt.  I'm in awe of this lady.

'I made fifty two-reel comedies in the three years I worked for Century and my fame became global. Then in 1923 Universal took me over, changing me from comedy to feature length melodrama. By this time I was four and I ranked among the top twenty major stars of the silent era as a major box office draw. The early 1920's was the age of "personality stars" such as Pola Negri, Clara Bow and the mysterious Greta Garbo. No matter what roles they took their personality shone through, and audiences learned to "trust the brand." As Jackie Coogan's only rival, I was also a popular Personality star, who brought fans into the theatre, which is why Universal paid me ten thousand dollars a week to make three major features back to back that year.'