Out on DVD today is Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room.
This documentary, directed by Vera Iwerebor, concerns Diana Serra Cary, earlier known as Peggy-Jean Montgomery, or, when she was in the movies in the early 1920s, as Baby Peggy. Because she was a little girl—indeed, at the beginning, a toddler—she’s now, at 95, one of the last surviving stars of the silent era.
Seeing her here at opposite ends of her life is fairly amazing. In clips from the (relatively few) surviving Baby Peggy comedy shorts, we see a performer of remarkable precision as well as a champion mugger. She claims to have been well aware of being the breadwinner for her family, and of being scared by this, and this adds a distressing subtext to watching her jolly antics.
On the other hand, it’s inspirational to see her in her 90s, sharp as a tack, matter-of-factly recounting the sometimes nightmarish dysfunction of the family she was forced to support. We then learn how she re-invented herself as a writer and historian (and Catholic convert) in her adult years. Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room is a quietly uplifting story of hard-won identity.
The film is less than an hour long, and the DVD’s special features include several Baby Peggy flicks.
It’s not new, but I recently watched another documentary about an unconventional show-business career, that of the one-man spook-show Brother Theodore: To My Great Chagrin. You can read my review of it here, on my recent list of Brother Theodore’s Greatest Hits on Topless Robot, and you can obtain the DVD for yourself here.