Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Actress: Marie Dressler.

Marie Dressler (November 9, 1868 – July 28, 1934), she could perform in both drama and comedy with the best of them. Her first role in a film came at the age of 44, in the silent film, Tillie's Punctured Romance(1914).

Tillie's Punctured Romance, is the first feature-length comedy/silent film, which stars Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand, Charles Chaplin, and the Keystone Cops. The film is based on Dressler's stage play Tillie's Nightmare. It is best remembered as being the last Chaplin film, which he did not write or direct himself.

In 1919, during the Actors' Equity strike in New York City, the Chorus Equity Association voted Dressler president. Dressler, was blacklisted by the theater production companies because of her believes.

She was seriously thinking about working as a housekeeper, at a Long Island estate, before screenwriter Frances Marion, knowing that Dressler was down on her luck, insisted that MGM cast her in, The Callahans and the Murphys (1927), which turned out to be the comedy/silent film, which saved her movie career. The film Callahans and the Murphys, was based on a novel by Kathleen Norris. Released in June 18, 1927, but quickly withdrawn after protests by Irish-American organizations. The film is presumed to be lost. The story is about Mrs. Callahan and Mrs. Murphy, a couple of feuding tenement housewives trying to keep control of their children.

Her next performance was a minor part in the film, Breakfast at Sunrise(1927). A story about a rich young lady Madeleine and poor Lussan, who have a fake marriage to spite the people they really want to marry. With beautiful, costumes and Art Deco apartments.

She later performed with Moran in, Bringing Up Father (1946). A comedy film, based on the comic strip Bringing Up Father by George McManus, which is about the adventures of the social-climbing Maggie and her long-suffering husband Jiggs.

Later, she performed in the color film, The Joy Girl (1927). A silent/comedy film starring Olive Borden, based on the novel of the same name by May Edginton. The story is about a young woman named, Jewel Courage, who rejects a suitor, who she thinks is a chauffeur, for a man who she thinks is a millionaire. It turns out the roles were, switched.  Jewel, goes on to do well for herself in business, until she and the real millionaire find themselves together.

Dressler, later returned to MGM to perform in the film, The Patsy(1928), playing the mother of Marion Davies. In a silent/comedy drama film directed by King Vidor.

By this time, Hollywood was converting from silent films to "talkies" which was not a problem for Dressler, who could both be sympathetic and snarky. Early in 1930, Dressler joined Edward Everett Horton's theater troupe in L.A. to play a princess in, The Swan. But after one week, she quit leaving Horton, without a woman to play the part.

Later Thalberg, gave Dressler the role of Marthy, who welcomes Greta Garbo home after the search for her father in the film, Anna Christie(1930). A Pre-Code drama film adaptation of the 1922 play by Eugene O'Neill. It was adapted by Frances Marion, produced and directed by Clarence Brown with Paul Bern and Irving Thalberg as co-producers. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress (Greta Garbo), Best Cinematography and Best Director. Both Garbo and the critics were impressed by Dressler's acting ability, and so was MGM, which quickly signed Dressler to a contract. Although, she was past sixty years old, she quickly became Hollywood’s number one box-office attraction.

She won the 1930-31 Academy Award for Best Actress For her wonderful performance in, Min and Bill.

Dressler was nominated again for Best Actress for her 1932 starring role in, Emma.

Dressler followed with the comedy, Dinner at Eight(1933), in which she played an aging but vivacious former stage actress. Dressler had a memorable scene with Jean Harlow in the film.

Dressler appeared in more than 40 films, and achieved her greatest successes in talking pictures made during the last years of her life. Always seeing herself as physically unattractive, she wrote an autobiography titled, The Life Story of an Ugly Duckling.


  1. Dawn,
    I really enjoyed your bio on Dressler. She's always intrigued me and I thought her Oscar for Min and Bill" was well deserved.

    Thanks for mentioning the title of her autobiography. I'd like to read it.

    Oh, and I love that she was considered 'snarky'. My kind of gal! : )

  2. The title of Marie's autobiography is a classic!
    She was obviously a lady who was refreshingly free of conceit.

  3. Page, Thank you.. I also plan on reading her bio. She seems she had a very interesting life.

    Paul, an actress that cared about her friends and gave everyone a smile..

  4. Oh - just LOVE her. Also enjoy TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE every time I watch it.. as I do enjoy every other performance by Marie Dressler! She was just marvellous! Thank you for this wonderful post, Dawn!

  5. Thanks for the info. I've seen her at opposite ends of her film career (Tillie's Punctured Romance and Dinner at Eight), but nothing in between.

  6. Loved your biography, I've seen more than a few Marie Dressler movies yet I always feel like I'm noticing her for the first time.

  7. Irene Palfy, Thank you.. My favorite Marie Dressler, film that I have seen so far is, Dinner at Eight. She is a great actress and you can not take your eyes off her.

    Chip Lary, I also want to see more of her films on TCM.

    Kristen, Thank you, I wish.. I could have found more pictures of her to share with you.

  8. Who doesn't love Marie? She is the definition of "lovable." Thanks for sharing a wondeful post on Marie with us, Dawn.

  9. FlickChick, Thank you. Hopefully, TCM will show more of her films. I would like to see them all.


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