Silent Film Star in Guanajuato

by Joseph Toone

Several years ago I stumbled upon a book called “Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy?” It was a very intriguing autobiography by a child star of the silent era who was the precursor for Depression era Shirley Temple. At one point, when she was about my current age, she lived in Guanajuato, raising her only, late-in-life child fathered by her ex-priest husband.

A decade ago she came to the North Carolina Museum of Art to show one of her movies (co-starring then teen-aged Clara Bow) with the live music they used in the 1920s followed by a question and answer section. I took my kids to meet her, knowing she is likely the last of the silent stars living. Well into her eighties, she was very interesting. Even the movie aged well, having been based on my mother’s favorite childhood novel of the 1920s.

When I started to learn how to dance in group classes I thought of Baby Peggy frequently. She wrote about was how, as a child before she could read, she would place the movie script on walls and walk around it to absorb the information she really couldn’t understand. She called it learning in the round.

While attending dance classes and trying to improve my Spanish I often I didn’t get a fraction of what was said. Still, I tried to circle the teacher all the time when he taught something new. Since verbal directions eluded me I needed to see what he was doing from all angles. So, I too, was now learning in the round. Gracias, to Baby Peggy for planting the idea in my head.

Then a few years later, when I am now teaching dance, while we were celebrating graduation of all the classes taught at the Cultural Center, the teen salsa class did a routine to song that repeatedly states “Baby Peggy, Baby Peggy, Baby Peggy.” I was astonished and appreciated her efforts once again.

At 98 today, she’s got to be both the last silent star alive and one of the most interesting ex-pats Guanajuato has ever hosted.

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Joseph Toone is Amazon's bestselling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series of books and TripAdvisor's best rated historical walking tour guide. For more information contact toone.joseph@yahoo.com or visit History and Culture Walking Tours or JosephTooneTours.com, also on FaceBook.

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