Peggy Hopkins Joyce
(1893 – 1957)
Peggy Hopkins Joyce was born Marguerite Upton in Berkley, Virginia. According to the very fluid writer of lovely profiles, Eve Golden, “Peggy” was born into an ordinary family but she was differently not ordinary. She was the daughter of Sam Upton, the barber of Farmville, Virginia and Dora Wood Upton. Peggy’s parents had separated when she was young, she liked pretty things and could dance and had a manner that attracted the attention of a wealthy young man by the name of Everett Archibald, Jr., of Denver in 1910. They had met at Ocean View, Virginia and there was a 6-month marriage, which ended in an annulment. Peggy was at a boarding school when she ran away to marry her second husband, Sherburne Philbrick Hopkins, a New York attorney in 1913. Peggy and her second husband divorced in 1915 and she walked away with an impressive settlements.
It was at this point in Peggy’s life that she decided on a theatrical career. Peggy Hopkins was blonde with a bob cut, tall, with a flawless figure, lovely face with a soft Southern accent. She had a charm that was almost irresistible, an instinctive courtesan; it wasn’t long before her friends included W.C. Fields, Bessie Poole, Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Bert Williams, and Will Rogers, Dolores, Allyn King, Lilyan Tashman, the Fairbanks twins, Dorothy Dixon and yes, Anne Luther. She debuted in the 1917 Ziegfeld Follies. Peggy was in the 1923 Earl Carroll’s Vanities. She was made for the stage but James Montgomery Flagg directed Peggy in a series of short subjects on film.
Peggy became Mrs. J. Stanley Joyce in 1920. Her third husband was a multi-millionaire lumberman. Peggy was now, “Peggy Hopkins Joyce”. Peggy had houses in Chicago, Paris, and Miami. She seemed to like having a career; she appeared in a newsreel, when a member of a South American embassy in Paris killed himself for love of her. The Ohio Film Board censored the Selznick newsreel coverage of her return to the U.S.
New York City after dark in the 1920's was the perfect spot for a free spirit between husbands or, better yet, for a newlywed on a honeymoon-shopping spree. In the spring of 1920, the new Mrs. Stanley Joyce spent $1 million in a single week, buying $300,000 worth of pearls, a $65,000 Russian sable coat and a $30,000 chinchilla.
In 1933, she played herself in the movie ‘International House’, which contained some good-natured kidding about her love life. For the record Peggy’s husbands were Everett Archibald, Jr. (m.1910); Sherburne Hopkins (1913-1915); J. Stanley Joyce (1920-1921); Gustave Morner (1924-1928); Anthony Easton (m.1945) and Andrew Meyer (1953-1957) Peggy was famous not just for 6 marriages but the dizzying array of millionaires she also dated. Peggy Upton Archer Hopkins Joyce Morner Easton Meyer, the Jazz Age femme fatale made no apologies for shrewdly using her physical assets to indulge a healthy appetite for carnal pleasure and luxurious living. ''Better to be mercenary,'' she once said, ''than miserable.'' Did she really have an affair with King Gustav VI of Sweden, who reportedly paid for her villa in the south of France? Did a maharajah present her with a priceless ruby necklace? Even her own memoir, ''Men, Marriage and Me,'' blatantly mixed fact with fiction. ''Hype overtook reality and became reality,'' Constance Rosenblum, an editor at The New York Times wrote that Joyce's roster of lovers definitely included Lee Shubert, Irving Thalberg, Walter Chrysler and Charlie Chaplin.
Peggy Hopkins Joyce is believed to have been the inspiration for the character of the mercenary Lorelei Lee in Anita Loos' twice-filmed ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. She owned the Portuguese Diamond, one of the most expensive in the world that she later sold to Harry Winston and which is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Portuguese Diamond at 127.01 carats is the largest faceted diamond in the Nation Gem Collection. It's near flawless clarity and unusual octagonal emerald cut make it one of the world's most magnificent diamond gems. One part of the diamond's history that is well-documented is that in February 1928 Peggy Hopkins Joyce acquired the diamond from Black, Starr & Frost Co. She traded a $350,000 pearl necklace for the diamond and $23,000 in cash. According to New York newspaper accounts, it was mounted on a diamond-studded platinum choker to be worn close around the throat. The jewellery firm's spokesperson at the time indicated that the diamond was found at the Premier Mine, Kimberly, South Africa,
''True love was a heavy diamond bracelet, preferably one that arrived with its price tag intact.'' Joyce's life inspired art as well as headlines. ''A Woman of Paris,'' Chaplin's drama, was based on stories she told him about her tempestuous marriage to Stanley Joyce.
Constance Rosenblum wrote in her book ''Gold Digger,'' about Peggy, “For a woman whose love life was her career, Peggy Hopkins Joyce committed the unpardonable sins: she grew old and got fat. At 40, the former fashion plate had become sloppy and unkempt; the gold digger was increasingly debt-ridden. The once international celebrity's name was now a punch line for bad jokes, to which she often responded with whiskey-fueled belligerence. In the aftermath of the Depression, in a country anxiously anticipating a Second World War, she was yesterday's news. At 64, forgotten by the public but mourned by her sixth and final husband, she died.”
Peggy Hopkins Joyce died in New York City in 1957 of throat cancer. Texas Guinan perhaps best summed up her appeal; "Peggy Hopkins Joyce should not be buried like other folks, or cremated, or anything like that, but just be put into Tiffany's window to sparkle forever."