Voted a 1928 WAMPAS Baby Star by motion picture advertisers, piquant Molly O'Day (born Noonan) had followed her older sister, Sally O'Neil, into films in 1925. After a stint with Hal Roach, the slightly chubby flapper skyrocketed to stardom opposite heartthrob Richard Barthelmess in The Patent Leather Kid (1927). The role was a victory of sorts since her studio, First National, at first had refused to see her as leading lady material. But the victory came with a price tag: To get herself ready for the demanding role of a dancehall girl-turned-war nurse, O'Day began a battle with obesity that would eventually ruin both her career and her health.
The problems only intensified on the set of the pastoral romance Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1928), again opposite Barthelmess, and the studio brought in a dietician. But while munching away on spinach and pineapple in public, the private Molly O'Day reportedly went to town on "ice cream, cream puffs, and chocolate candy." Returning from location, even her most ardent supporter, producer Al Rockett, failed to recognize her and felt forced to lay down the law. "As far as we're concerned, you're through," Rockett is supposed to have yelled, "that is until you get down to the right physical size for our pictures!" Her roles, the producer added, would instead go to Alice White. O'Day checked herself into a health spa in Arkansas where she supposedly underwent dramatic surgery that literally cut off the unwanted poundage. The results were decades of ill health and unseemly scars running up and down her body.