If you had dined at the Krebs’ on Wednesday evening, September 10, 1919, you would have hit the celebrity jackpot. For an appetizer, the Governor of New York, Alfred E. Smith, was being hosted by the commissioners of the State Fair. Watching him tuck away the legendary Krebs’ feast, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that Smith would run for President in 1928, but you would have recognized him. However, in one of those rare twists, the Governor was the least of the luminaries at Krebs’ that evening.
At a nearby table, Mrs. O.M. Edwards was picking up the tab, as well she could. She was married to Oliver Murray Edwards, an inventor and manufacturer who was worth a bundle. Mr. Edwards had figured out a way to put windows that actually opened and closed in rail cars, and he made those windows, along with padlocks and office furniture, at his factory in Syracuse. The Edwards lived in a large house on James Street and summered at “Paownyc” their estate on Fourth Lake in the Adirondacks. They were society in these parts, but Mrs. Edwards’ party this evening elevated her almost to royalty. At her table, sat not one, not two, but three movie stars.
Norma Talmadge was one of the greatest of the stars of the silent screen. From 1917 to 1920, she appeared in an average of four to six films a year; she made more than 50 feature films in her career. By 1923, she was acknowledged as the leading star in American films; every week she received $10,000 and 3,000 fan letters. But she did not make a successful transition to talkies, and by 1930 she was too bored and too wealthy to care. She is remembered for two interesting legacies: In 1927, she started a Hollywood tradition by accidentally stepping into wet cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. And in 1950, Billy Wilder used her, someone cruelly, as his model for silent film queen Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
Sitting with Talmadge was Alice Brady, an actress who was successful in both silent and sound motion pictures, making more than 80 films. Moving to character roles in the talkies, she was honored with an Oscar nomination for her performance in My Man Godfrey (1936) and the next year she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for In Old Chicago.
But if anyone was making hearts flutter that evening, it was Wallace Reid. An actor who specialized in action roles, Reid was six feet tall, athletic and boyishly charming. Sadly, he would be injured while working in 1919 and given morphine by his producer so he could finish the film. And the next film. And the next film. By 1923, he was dead. But for one night in 1919, he was making the waitresses at the Krebs’ blush, smooth their aprons and put on their best smiles.
One wonders if the Governor was even able to get a second cup of coffee.