Gold Digger

Constance Rosenblum, Author
Constance Rosenblum, Author Metropolitan Books $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8050-5089-9
Paperback - 293 pages - 978-0-8050-6641-8
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Madonna's Material Girl had nothing on Peggy Hopkins Joyce, the 1920s blonde showgirl and celebrity who became world famous for marrying millionaires. Born Marguerite Upton to a smalltown barber and his wife in North Carolina in 1893, Peggy fled town at age 16 with a vaudeville troupe. After one disastrous, short marriage, she wed the youngest son of a wealthy Washington, D.C., family. When boredom set in, she moved to New York and became a Ziegfeld Girl and a noted society personality. Another short-lived marriage to millionaire James Stanley Joyce ended in a highly publicized, scandalous divorce trial that focused on her numerous indiscretions. By now, Peggy Hopkins Joyce was a household name--an occasional film actress who was famous for being a witty adventuress with a sense of humor and style, whom Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart memorialized in song lyrics and who counted Charlie Chaplin and Irving Thalberg among her lovers. In 1922, Joyce was so notorious that the Motion Picture Theater Owners of America banned her films. By the late 1930s her celebrity faded and, at 60, she entered her last marriage (to a bank clerk 20 years her junior), which may have been the happiest of her six. Rosenblum, the editor of the city section of the New York Times, has assembled a lively and entertaining biography from interviews, press clippings, theater histories and Joyce's own (highly unreliable) memoirs. Filling the book with fascinating details of 1920s social life, Rosenblum not only brings her subject to vibrant life, but also reveals how the cult of media celebrity grew in this century. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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