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. She had a younger sister who 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 was an excellent student and played on the basketball team. Olive dreamed of becoming an actress and in September of 1922 she persuaded her mother to take her to Hollywood. She worked as a telephone operator until she was hired to be an work as an extra. Then she appeared in a few Mermaid comedy shorts with Lige Conley.  In March of 1924 she was signed by producer Hal Roach. She played sexy vamps in the comedies Too Many Mammas and Just A Good Guy. Her mother Sibbie opened a candy store near UCLA but it closed after just six months. Olive began dating producer Paul Bern who gave her a role in The Dressmaker From Paris. She was chosen to be a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1925 and starred opposite Tom Mix in The Yankee Senor and My Own Pal. Her big break came when John Ford gave her the female lead in his 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 Yellow Fingers, Fig Leaves, and The Monkey Talks.

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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 dramas The Eternal Woman and Virgin Lips. Her southern accent made it difficult for her to transition to sound films. After Columbia dropped her contract she tried to change her image by cutting her hair into a bob and playing flappers. She costarred with Arthur Lake in Dance Hall and with Jack Oakie in The Social Lion. Olive suffered a breakdown and was hospitalized for exhaustion in December of 1929. Soon after George O'Brien ended their four year relationship leaving her heartbroken.

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Olive Borden

She went out on a few dates with costume designer Edward Stevenson and rekindled her romance with Paul Bern. Unable to find work in Hollywood she moved to New York City in the Fall of 1930. Olive made her stage debut in The Devil Is A Lady but the show closed after seven weeks. She married Teddy Spector, a 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. The marriage was annulled in November of 1932. After making a couple of Vitaphone shorts she was cast in the low budget 1934 drama Chloe, Love Is Calling. It would be her final film. She had short-lived relationships with director Marshall Neilan and violinist Enric Madriguera. Olive also had an affair with her former costar Ralph Emerson. On November 2, 1934 she married John Moeller, an electrician. The couple lived with John's father on Long Island and 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 Arthur Benline.

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Olive Borden Ft. Des Moines
At Ft. Des Moines

During World War 2 she volunteered as a nurse's aid. 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 dependent 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 she moved back to Hollywood and tried to resume her acting career. Unfortunately she had gained a lot of weight and was couldn't get any roles. Olive had to take several low paying jobs but said she 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 and taking care of the children who lived there. On Thanksgiving Day she served Turkey dinner to the homeless people in the neighborhood.

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                                                                                                                 At the Sunshine Mission

Olive Borden Sibbie Borden
On her deathbed with her mother

Her final acting performance was in the mission's 1946 Christmas pageant. 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 her 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

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Olive Borden Death Certificate
Olive's death certificate