The Story Of Molly O’Day, One Of The First Victims Of The Pressure For Beauty In Hollywood

Hollywood always had a predilection for the perfect body. It is not a science, I know. It is a fact. You don’t have to be very smart to do math and count more goddesses of Olympus than voluptuous women parading on the red carpets. But this hateful trend, against which many actresses have struggled and continue to fight, comes from the days when the industry was just a baby. And to do so, I would like to remind you of Molly O’Day, an emerging star of the 20s who suffered bullying from her bosses and the press. So much so that she ended up undergoing the first liposuction in Hollywood when she was just 18 years old.Thinking of actresses who have faced the constant struggle for physical perfection in the film industry, I remembered Meryl Streep and Judy Dench. The two were singled out as “ugly” by different executives in their early days as actresses and showed the world that their beauty was far greater than what a few powerful men in Hollywood saw in them. But Molly O’Day was not so lucky. There were other times, there was no contention or social networks where to uncover the harassment or bullying like now, and not even the press was on their side like now. On the contrary. World War I was over and the public was thirsty for stories and the yellow press had found a perfect niche exploiting the miseries and scandals of Hollywood. And Molly was the perfect victim. Circa 1923: Molly O’Day, the American actress who featured in First National Pictures. (Photo by Hulton Archive / Getty Images) MoreWhat was scandalous about this teenage girl who gained sudden fame with a movie? Nothing that amazes us today. But then it was the cross that condemned his career: in the months following the premiere, he had gained 9 kilos more. He was 17 years old. 9 kilos nothing more. And what happened next was a full-blown bullying-ridden chapter – I got to know her story through You Must Remember This, a podcast I follow religiously, whose chapters talk about different stories from Hollywood’s past. Molly’s story caught my attention so much that I became obsessed (a little bit) trying to find more information about her. And here I share her with you. Molly was born as Suzanne Dobson Noonan on October 16, 1909 in New Jersey. She was the youngest of 11 siblings, the children of an opera singer who canceled her contract with the New York Metropolitan Opera to marry her father, a judge. But the sudden death of his father forced his mother to move all his offspring to Los Angeles with the dream that one of them would get them out of the poor in the dreamy and rising world of cinema. Five of his brothers fought in World War I, one sister was a Red Cross nurse, and three others tried their luck at the movies. One of them succeeded, Virginia – whose stage name was Sally O’Neal – getting a contract with MGM to appear in a film with Joan Crawford in 1925. Sally led the way and Suzanne followed in her footsteps. He debuted at age 14 before changing his name to Molly O’Day, in a short for ‘Laurel and Hardy’ (El Gordo y el Flaco) and then appeared in several Hal Roach series. But it was at age 17 that everything changed. Legend has it that she surpassed 2,000 other opponents (although some believe that they were less) taking the role of heroin in The patent leather kid (titled in Spain The world that is born), a silent drama from 1927 that was a critical success and box office Read more His future was promising. Shortly after, she was chosen among the 13 actresses that each year the Association of Film Advertisers named as the new faces with qualities to be stars. They were known as the WAMPAS Baby Stars. Her sister had been selected the previous year. I mean, Molly reached stardom right away but didn’t have much time to enjoy it. The media and industry scrutiny soon noticed her physique and the kilos that apparently differentiated her from the cinematographic ideal of the time, raging with overwhelming malice. What’s more, reading some newspaper clippings of the time about her I couldn’t help but remember the bad years of Britney Spears, and other public figures, and the media pressure of the tabloids. The difference is that Molly’s sin had been simply gaining weight. Some of the phrases and headlines about Molly O’Day are literally to boil our blood. “Have you ever seen a pumpkin dressed in a lady’s evening gown?” Photoplay magazine wrote when describing his physical appearance. “Napoleon lost his battle but Molly’s Waterloo is pure fat,” he said in another article. While one of its headlines from 1928 wrote: “Starving to death for stardom.” And so we enter the next chapter of its history, and the pressure was not only from the press. The studio began threatening to leave her without a contract. It turns out that, and here comes what personally left my eyes wide, First National – the studio that had her under contract – stipulated a clause that forced her actresses to maintain the desired figure. The clause made reference to the fact that the studio had the right to suspend 12 weeks of payment if the actress incurred “disability or disfigurement of the face or physical”. And forget the talent, at this time, the extra kilos fell into this category. Despite trying different diets, I could not lose weight. Molly tried to hide her figure in corsets, but only managed to get more attention from the tabloids and after making about four more movies, First National gave her an ultimatum: she had 90 days to lose those 9 kilos with the help of a dietitian. The message was that he must lose weight or say goodbye to his short career. They told him that he must drop to 49 kilos (109 pounds) and that the litmus test would be to demonstrate to executives that he could get into the locker room of The patent leather kid. Clothes that she wore at 17. Now she had the body of a little woman of almost 19. Imagine how embarrassing. What pressure. And more so being so young and in a world where women were far from achieving all their equal rights. Just 8 years ago, they had just gotten the vote in the US. She did a diet that forced her to take hot baths morning and night, and eat spinach, lamb chops, and pineapple three times a day. Well, he did not manage to lose a gram and, on top of that, he lost the leading role in a movie.The headlines were filled with stories focusing on his extra kilos, making fun of his weight and mocking his figure with horrible descriptions. Those extra pounds became the biggest obstacle to his climb and, in the end, he ended up succumbing to bullying and pressure, undergoing Hollywood’s first weight-loss surgery. I remind you: I was almost 19 years old. It was not as far as Barbara La Marr, the actress who at the same time was a victim of tabloids by the rumor that she had swallowed the head of a lone earthworm to lose weight, but almost. It was in September 1928 and she later defined the experience herself as “being dragged to the guillotine like Marie Antoinette.” But let’s see, were liposuctions safe in 1928? Well not so much. The first was done in 1921 by a French surgeon named Charles Dujarier, who tried to remove the fat accumulated on the ankles and knees of a dancer, but the surgery was a real butchery. It resulted in amputation and the first lawsuit in the history of cosmetic surgery. Fat removal procedures had advanced in those years, but little. Back then, to remove fat from the legs and hips, doctors made several incisions to remove the most obvious fat, and then melted the rest, letting it drain through the cuts. By the time Molly submitted to hers, the technique had only been applied for 2 years.According to the news of the time, Dr. Robert B. Griffith – who accumulated several medical malpractice lawsuits – removed from 2 to 5 kilos making cuts on legs and hips. The tabloids immediately echoed the operation, reporting her recovery daily. Even posting photos of Molly in the hospital bed. The sad thing about the story – yes, there is more – is that after such surgery and a postoperative period that must have been very painful at the time, the study terminated his contract in December of the same year. Just three months later. The sacrifice had the opposite effect and the study didn’t even explain why. He was 19 years old, had undergone pressure surgery and was out of a job. Added to this were other personal scandals, such as that he declared bankruptcy with his sister or that one of his brothers was a criminal who had escaped from prison. All his efforts were in vain. Even a former ex-actor, George Raft, later told his biographer Lewis Yablonsky: “He did quite well in the movies, but he loved to overeat and that weight turned out to be his downfall. He attempted bizarre plastic surgery, where he paid the healers a fortune for an operation in which they attempted to cut fat from his body. When they sewed it, she had scars on the seams running down the sides of her formerly beautiful body. The operation ruined her health, her career, and almost killed her. ”Molly continued to appear in some minor role movies, even managing to drop eight pounds during a stay in Florida shortly thereafter, filling the Hollywood tabloids upon his return with his switch. But the damage was done. And just for having 9 kilos more than what the study required. In 1935 he made his last film accompanying Rin Tin Tin Jr. … Yes, the dog. She was secondary. The protagonist dog. And so, at the age of 24, her career was over, Molly walked away from the cinema, married and became a mother that same year. She had four children with her first husband but divorced in 1951 and married James Kenaston a year later, divorcing four years later on charges of domestic violence. She received a significant sum of money from the divorce, but died at the age of 88 in 1998. Despite the talent that many applauded at the beginning, the film industry ended up remembering her for her “weight problems”. No one defined her as an actress in the articles about her anymore, however Molly received a star on the Walk of Fame in 1960 and spent the last years of her life helping homeless people in her community. So with this article, I vindicate you Molly wherever you are. More stories that may interest you: Sources: You Must Remember This; photos and cutouts of Silence is platinum; PhotoPlay snippets; Virtual-History; Wikipedia; Los Angeles Times; The Independent; NCBI