2020-02-25 19:04:43 UTC
before her parents squandered her $1million-a-year salary
*Diana Serra Cary was a child star of the Hollywood silent era during the 1920s
*She was known as Baby Peggy the Child Wonder and the Kutest Kiddie on Screen
*By the age of 7 her career was over when her father fell out with film
*Her parents wasted much of her fortune and lost the rest in the Wall St Crash
Hollywood's last silent-era child star, known as 'Baby Peggy', has died aged
Diana Serra Cary, known professionally as Peggy-Jean Montgomery appeared in her
first movie in 1921 aged 18 months opposite Brownie the Wonder Dog in
Over the first five years of her life she appeared in more than 150 movies.
To early film audiences, she was known as Baby Peggy, the 'Child Wonder' and
'The Kutest Kiddie on the Screen'.
Commenting on her first role and her canine co-star, she said: 'We were on the
same money. Sharp dog.'
By the age of two she was earning more money than her father and gave her first
interview aged three.
Due to her movie career, she did not start school until 12. She also had her
first novel published.
According to the New York Times, she received more than 1.7 million pieces of
fan mail a year and appeared at the 1924 Democratic National Convention with
Franklin D. Roosevelt.
However, despite her success, her financial affairs were controlled by her
parents, Jack and Marian Montgomery.
She was also expected to work six days a week for up to eight hours a day.
As well as not going to school, Baby Peggy was not allowed to play with other
Most of her 150 movies were destroyed in a fire at the Century Film Company
studios in 1926.
In an era before health and safety, Baby Peggy was forced to do her own stunts.
She was held under water until she passed out in one movie. In another, she was
thrown from the back of a truck and even tied to a goat.
In one movie, The Darling of New York, Peggy had to escape from a burning
building after the props team doused the set with kerosene.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, she had been earning $1 million a year but
this money was being squandered by her parents.
In one interview, she said: 'They had a house in Beverly Hills before I was 3.
Then we had a house in Laurel Canyon. Then we had a Duesenberg car that was
$30,000. But they thought Hollywood was forever.'
By 1925, her career was over when her father, who was a cowboy stuntman, had a
row with the film studio who cancelled her latest $1.5m contract.
A large amount of her fortune had also been stolen by a relative.
After her movie career ended, she later toured theaters -still earning
$300-a-day, though by the time of the 1929 Wall Street crash, her $4 million
fortune had been wiped out - forcing the family to sell their home in Beverly
Hills and move to Wyoming.
For several years she returned to Hollywood earning $3-a-day as an extra between
1932 and 1938.
She later went to school along with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, who were
also child stars of the time.
She eloped with her boyfriend Gordon Ayres in 1938 but was divorced a decade
She then married the artist Bob Cary in 1954 and then moved to Mexico.
Mr Cary died 2001.
She is survived by her son, Mark, and granddaughter, Stephanie.
Following her death, her son Mark said: ' I am proud of how she was able to come
to terms with what happened to her from when she was just a toddler and
re-create her life anew.
'She learned to love herself and her unusual childhood so she could focus on
telling her story to educate others in how to avoid the same negative things
that she had experienced in her life and career as Baby Peggy.'