By 1919 the silent film era was in full swing, and fans everywhere were clamoring for new ways to interact with their favorite stars. In a previous post I talked about the genesis of the celebrity endorsement in the days of silent film. But brands and stars of the era weren’t satisfied to stop with just a celebrity endorsement. Merchandising would later be fully realized by the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Walt Disney, but even in the early days the stars’ likenesses proved to be a big draw, even in paper doll form.
Even today collectors and fans of the silent film era enjoy the impact the movy-doll innovation created. A quick search of Amazon.com reveals memorabilia, reprinted dolls, and other silent film collectibles for sale.
Movy-Dols introduce a new way for fans to enjoy silent film stars
We also covered the influence of Photoplay on the fan magazine industry, as well as the public’s relationship with the celebrity world, in a previous post. By the early ’20s, Photoplay Magazine was the ruling movie publication thanks in part to the sheer amount of star publicity photos included in each issue. But in 1919, the magazine decided to take this idea a step further and introduce Movy-Dols, lifelike illustrations of silent era stars complete with outfits, accessories, and recognizable set pieces.
Each paper doll is featured, in full color, on one page of the magazine, and each month features a different star with their own array of clothing. The reigning queen of the cinema, America’s Sweetheart Mary Pickford, was the first starlet to be featured along with outfits from some of her popular characters.
Mary Pickford’s husband, the swashbuckling silent star Douglas Fairbanks, got his own doll.
The queen of drama, Norma Talmadge, was also represented in paper doll form.
Elsie Ferguson, largely forgotten today, was recognized with her own doll.
And no collection would be complete without a paper doll for the king of silent film — Charlie Chaplin.
The paper doll feature in the magazine was short-lived, but merchandising was far from it. It would only be a matter of years before actual dolls for each of the stars would find their way into the homes of fans and collectors.