Dorothy Gibson

Apr 11, 2001
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Well shoot- what do you think of that GORGEOUS DOLL you guys!? Look at the detail and those clothes!! Dorothy would be thrilled. Amazon.com does have the audio CD of Saved From the Titanic.
 
May 12, 2005
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Shell,

I'm sorry, I forgot to mention that I'd seen the Dorothy doll site some time back and I do think they are lovely. But that little sprite in me that is so critical when it comes to absolute authenticity in clothes has to give vent, so here goes:

The 1905 doll is quite faithful to the styles of the moment but I would bet that Dorothy was not working as a model for Fisher that early. She would have been only 14 or 15. But I wouldn't know. Personally I'm skeptical about the Fisher connection. I realize that Geller's book says she was a model for him but what is that based on? Did Harrison Fisher credit Dorothy as one of his models in a biography or article? Did Dorothy claim it in an interview? Where did that info come from, I'm curious? The pictures I've seen purporting to be Dorothy don't look enough like her in my estimation.

The 1912 doll is not authentically dressed at all, I'm sorry to say. First off, the hat is all wrong - it's too high off her head. Crowns were fuller and worn closer down over the head. Hats also tended to be flatter at the top and broader brimmed. The high collar effect would have been very passe for a young woman. And lastly, and most crucially, the skirt is flared out in an A-line which would have been very unfashionable in 1912, at least for a dressy afternoon costume like the one portrayed. Wider-hemmed skirts were permissible for sports dresses and informal walking suits but not for any formal reception, tea, or evening gowns. They all were straight to tapered.

Still I'd like to own one of the dolls for display, only I'd have to re-design the clothes on the 1912 one!!!

I'm sure the doll-maker would hate me!

Randy
 
May 12, 2005
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Jim,

I feel you are probably right that one of Dorothy Gibson's films may turn up. And that it may take an article for one of the e-zines or other silent movie fan journals to get the collectors (and some of the archives to take a second look).

I was told not too long ago that British Film Institute and the Library of Congress both have a number of old Eclair films but at the time, looking only for Lucile stuff, I didn't think to pursue that. I'd forgotten Dorothy was Eclair's first American star.

Anyway, last week I sent off a request to LOC for a search on some of Dorothy's titles. I may as well mention that the reason is I've been working on a piece on Dorothy in off-moments lately but I'm at a halt for the moment because some essential info is "classified," so to speak, and as I do not want to infringe on my friend Phil Gowan's rightful territory, I am holding off. As he's alluded to here, Phil's done some astounding research on the Gibsons. I'm privy to some of the stuff but my lips are sealed. Phil is with good reason guarding this info!

However my focus is on Dorothy and her film work rather than on her complicated, though fascinating, private entanglements.

My working title is "Missing Dorothy: The Lost Films of Eclair Studios Star Dorothy Gibson." I'm gearing it towards the journal "Griffithiana." But who knows if it will come about.

If something turns up in the vaults, I'll have to change the title for one thing - something I'll be glad to do!

All my best,

Randy
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Randy- Good to hear about that article, and I am hoping that it reaches the right collector!

About the Library of Congress- I am sure that you already know about how they will make a video copy of any pre-1923 film (for an exhorbitant fee) for the serious researcher. If one turns up, let me know.

ABOUT SAVED FROM THE TITANIC: My own, perhaps arguable, insight: I have the feeling that the only thing of interest in it was probably Dorothy's costume which, she said, she actually wore while escaping from the Titanic. The Titanic was of sufficient interest that HAD Saved From...etc... been in the least bit worthwhile it would have been distributed on a "state's rights" basis to second run and small town theaters well beyond the War Years, as were many of the better Edison era films. The fact that the surviving prints were destroyed (supposedly) in a 1914 fire would indicate that TWO YEARS after the disaster the film had been shelved. It would be nice to learn that Saved From The Titanic had survived long enough to be transferred to Safety film stock, but I have the feeling that the quote about the "rediscovered" print of Janice Meredith the Marion Davies/WC Fields film ("It wasn't lost all of those years- it was hidden") will most likely be applicable to Saved....if it ever turns up.

CONCERNING THE DOLL- What I like about it is that it is FAIRLY close (by collector doll standards) to an excellent likeness, and gives one a better idea of Dorothy's "look" than do the photos of her which have seen print. Dorothy was not, to be honest, ideally photogenic, but then too Gloria Swanson and Pola Negri photographed "hard" and "mannish" respectively but filmed beautifully (unlike Mary Miles Minter who photographed remarkably well but "washed out" on screen) and it would be interesting to see her on film, just to see if she worked in that medium.
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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James--you are right about her not being photogenic. I have a couple of later photos of her which look fairly good (one in particular is flattering) but as she aged she did look "hard" to use your terminology--and one of her younger photos that I have would even qualify for "unspeakable horror" category--I sent a scan of it to another Titanic buff who remarked "what happened--did a truck run over her?" Her last photo was taken about three months before she died--I have a copy of it--and there is little "softness" left in her appearance. But regardless, she was always a better looking woman than her mother--who ended up looking something like a puffed, venemous mushroom.

Regards,
Phil
 
Apr 11, 2001
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A venomous mushroom-oh Phil- may I never meet you without full war paint and corseted to a faretheewell! Well- Dorothy does have a certain Katie Couric kind of vivacity- especially pre-Jules. The outfit worn off the Titanic is frankly UGHsome. Nothing like Cameron's Rose! One of the 4 existing stills from Saved from the Titanic shows Dot in the mangey straight cut cloth coat- boxy and frumpy. Have been scanning Harrison Fisher ladies- and one or two bear a resemblance. Randolfo- I KNEW you would rise to the bait and critique the doll ensembles! The workmanship is exquisite though. Check out
http://members.xoom.com/pryderi92/operagloves/fisher.html
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Phillip- You had me laughing out loud there! I hope that when you finally go public with the whole story of Dorothy and her mother you include the unspeakable horror shot. But, perhaps Dorothy had a vivacity; a "felicity of expression;" an inner fire- whatever- which made her beautiful in the flesh (and on film) which did not readily translate into still pictures. I have an ongoing interest in Silent Film Stage Mothers (a truly horrifying breed) and your description of Dorothy's mother fits the bill perfectly....I could probably draw a picture of her, never having seen a photograph, and register 80% accuracy, if not better. If one were to line up Charlotte Smith (Pickford) Charlotte Shelby (Minter) and Mrs Talmadge side by side one would swear that they were daughters of a not particularly attractive Amazon....I see Mrs. Gibson blending nicely. This may be priviledged communication at this point, but did Dorothy have an unnaturally close bond to her mother which drove most people away? Was her mother almost pathologically possessive? Was she the sole custodial parent? Were some of their adventures borderline larceneous? I ask because that seems to be the profile of the standard 1910-30 stage mother/daughter relationship.
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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James-
As best as I've been able to determine Dorothy and her mother were always very close. Pauline had three children and two died in infancy--so apparently she was very protective of Dorothy as her only surviving child. Also, Dorothy wasn't a Gibson at all. Dorothy was born to Pauline by her first marriage to John Brown. Later Pauline married Leonard C. Gibson and they had no children of their own but Dorothy used that surname. When Dorothy was asked to name her father on legal documents, she claimed his name was John Gibson--a morph of the first name of her biological father and her step-father.

When Dorothy and Brulatour divorced she went to Europe accompanied by her mother and the two remained in Europe the rest of their lives though at times the two lived in different countries. Leonard Gibson was left behind in New York and never went to Europe--I'm not even sure that Pauline came back to his funeral though they were never divorced.

Bordering on larcenous??? The story is much worse than that. Larceny would have been child's play compared to what it appears that these two may have done. Regardless of the image Dorothy projected during her starlet years, these were not nice people. Dorothy died in Paris and Pauline, who was 79 at the time, lived in another country and I'm not sure she made it to Dorothy's funeral--it appears she did not. But Dorothy did leave a written will (included in her bio here on ET) and left her mother everything she owned with a contingency clause stating that in the event Pauline predeceased her, her longtime paramour, a Spanish diplomat named Antonio Ramos, would inherited her estate. Ramos remained involved in Pauline's life until she died although things did get uuugly between them. When taken as a whole, the Gibson saga relating to Titanic was a small footnote to what was to come later. I'll eventually make it all public--but am not through with the research--kind of like the Clinton pardons, the new and sordid twists in the story continue to crop up constantly. It will take me a while longer to obtain all the relative details so that I can publish some sort of truly comprehensive biography of these two.

I've said too much, so better stop for now. I really am very anxious to finish my research on these people but it will take some time as I'm having to deal with foreign entities and communicate in languages I don't speak well. But maybe this starts to answer your question about the relationship.

Regards,
Phillip
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Phillip: Well, you've more than whetted my appetite- you've one guaranteed sale. Could it be worse than Charlotte Shelby, mother of Mary Miles Minter who between 1914 and 1939 terrorised her beautiful but untalented daughters into film careers they didn't want, murdered the boyfriend of one daughter, committed the other daughter to a mental hospital as a rather forceful way of ending a property dispute, bled both daughters dry financially AND allegedly bribed three consecutive LA district attorneys? If it is comparable, I think you have a best seller on hand, and I am not being at all facetious. And, if you wish, you can include the previously mentioned picture, and slap the classic "With 8 Pages Of Horrifying Photographs" blurb on the cover. I look forward to reading it in whatever format it takes, and if I succeed in turning up one of Dorothy's films I'll forward you a copy.
 
May 12, 2005
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When Phil comes out with all this, I'd say Jim is on the right track about it's being a best-seller calibre story. I think it will prove one of best inside passenger scoops of all.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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Yes, I sense that Phillip has a hit on his hands. Considering that Crime And Sleaze is the one aspect of Old Hollywood (and, yes, I know- Dorothy was not a Hollywood figure) which still maintains broad public interest, and that the Titanic is probably the ONE 20th Century event EVERYONE has at least some interest in, a well researched fusion of the two would be unbeatable. When the time comes, CASTING the inevitable movie will be the subject of another fun series of postings I am sure.
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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The old woman who played "Mrs. Naugatuck" on the sitcom "MAUDE" (Hermione Baddeley??) should play Pauline. Dixie Carter, in a non-comedic role, could be a good Dorothy.

PG
 

Mike Poirier

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Dec 31, 2004
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So you would say that Pauline was a bit low class and uncouth? That is what I remember about Mrs Naugatuck. As she put it, she ran a " bawdy house ".
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Phillip- where's the juicy obit you promised? Have been patiently waiting. Maybe it should be poor little Clara- Saved From Jules!
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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Shelley,
It is *somewhere* in my "Titanic Room"--unfortunately not in the Dorothy Gibson file--which means its in one of the several stacks :). Also not very juicy--just an obit. I promise to post it as soon as I can find it.

PG