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The Screen Stars Shop

At the Screen Stars Shop, you could pick up a gown worn by Vilma Banky, pair of Mary Pickford’s shoes, or a suit right off the back of Douglas Fairbanks.

In June 1930, the thrift boutique opened at 1614 Cahuenga Boulevard, stocked with donated items from the closets of Joan Crawford, Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Mary Astor, and Gary Cooper—with all proceeds benefitting the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

Conceived by Pickford, vice president of the charity, she hoped the Screen Stars Shop would be a place for struggling actors and actresses to find affordable fashions to wear on auditions and “dress their part.” For tourists, there were also souvenirs, like the best-selling autographed playing cards.

The shop’s preview tea party received as much fanfare as a film premiere, with 65 of Hollywood’s brightest joining Pickford, including Dolores del Rio, Mae Murray, June Collyer, and Ruth Roland (pictured at left).

Twice that amount were expected to attend the grand opening—including Crawford, Bow, Swanson, Astor, Fairbanks, Cooper—all of whom donated items from their own closets and film sets. Some even selected books from their private library and inscribed the covers with their famous name.

The Screen Stars Shop was “hosted” by the first star of the silent screen: Florence Turner, known as “The Vitagraph Girl” during a time when players were not credited by name. The New York-based actress was eventually recognized by Vitagraph Studios in 1910, however, fame was fleeting.

Within a few years, her star was eclipsed by none other than Pickford, and she moved from New York to London.

Amid the advent of the talkies in 1920s, Turner arrived in Hollywood down on her luck and virtually forgotten. But America’s Sweetheart remembered the brunette with dark eyes. Not only did the MPRF provide assistance, Pickford hired Turner to run the charity boutique.

“Any disheartened extra must surely feel brighter after speaking to her,” noted the April 1931 issue of Photo Play, even if “many of the young players have never even heard of her.”

Turner seemed mostly forgotten by fans as well, which dismayed the magazine’s writer William H. McKegg. Although the Screen Stars Shop was just around the corner from hotspot the Brown Derby on Vine Street, “No fans clutter the doorstep begging her autograph, yet ... [Turner] has done more with her life than many of the new celebrities who trip lightly into the Brown Derby to bewail their sorrows to an interviewer.”

Despite the best of intentions, the Screen Stars Shop faded quickly: Within months, it went out of business.

Luckily the MPRF shined on, led by Pickford’s compassion—and Hollywood’s generosity.

In 1942, the charity opened the Motion Picture Country House, a retirement community in Woodland Hills where those in the industry who have fallen on hard times can spend the last years of their life in dignity.

Among the notable residents: Florence Turner.


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