Saturday, September 15, 2012

Miss Mae Marsh


Mae Marsh was born Mary Wayne Marsh on November 9, 1894 in Madrid, New Mexico. Her parents, Charles and May, divorced when she was still a child. Apparently there are some rumors that her father was killed when she was four while working for a railroad company, but this is false. Charles Marsh worked as a bartender and was still alive around 1900. What happened to him after that, I don't know.

Marguerite, the oldest Marsh child, also became an actress. Mae also had an older brother named Oliver, and younger sisters, Frances and Mildred.

May Marsh remarried a man named William Hall and moved with her new husband and children to California. By this time, older sister Marguerite (born Margaret) was married to Donald Loveridge and had a daughter named Leslie.

While her older sister was working on films, Mae worked as a shop girl and sometimes followed her sister to the studio to watch her work. Eventually she began working as an extra until 1910 when she earned her first real role in the film Ramona with Mary Pickford.

In fact, it was actually the queen of silent film herself, Ms. Pickford, that inadvertently gave Mae her big break in film. Mary was getting sick and tired of playing scrappy little girl roles and put her foot down when another film of the same ilk came her way. In response, D.W. Griffith blackmailed her by saying she wouldn't get a bigger role in another picture if she turned the other one down. This just pissed Mary off even more, as well as the other actresses in the studio. Well, everyone that is but Mae, who just wanted any part! She got the role and I am betting both she and Mary recovered.

In 1915, she had lead roles in Griffith's epics The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance a year later.

After appearing in two of the biggest films in silent history (well, they are now at least) her career went downward. She signed with a different studio but failed to find any strong vehicles. Her last silent screen appearance was in 1925's The Rat with Ivor Novello.

Unlike many of her fellow silent stars, Mae made a smooth transition into talkies. She appeared in such notable films as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1932) with Marian Nixon, The Grapes of Wrath (1940) with Henry Fonda,  and How Green Was My Valley (1941) with Walter Pidgeon.

Her last screen appearance was in 1964.

Mae Marsh passed away after a heart attack on February 13, 1968 in Hermosa Beach, California.

She was buried at Pacific Crest Cemetery in Redondo Beach, California.

Mae was only married once, to publicity agent Louis Lee Arms. They were married from 1918 until her death. They had two daughters, Mary and Marguerite, and a son, Brewster. Louis Arms actually lived to be 101!

So, around 1918, Ernest Hemingway told family and friends that he at one time was engaged to Mae but she had decided against marrying him. Years later Mae was asked about this story and said that she never met Hemingway but would have like to! Interesting...

It seems like the acting bug ran through the veins of the Marsh children. As I stated earlier, sister Marguerite was also an actress. She appeared in such films as The New York Hat (1912) with Mary Pickford and Boomerang Bill (1922) with Lionel Barrymore. Sadly, Marguerite passed away from bronchial pneumonia in 1925. She was only 37 years old. Oliver Marsh worked a cinematographer in Hollywood and was the favorite cameraman of actress Jeanette Macdonald. He passed away at a young age as well in 1941 after a heart attack.

"I tagged my way into motion pictures. I used to follow my sister Marguerite to the old Biograph studio and then, one day, Mr. Griffith noticed me, put me in a picture and I had my chance. I love my work and though new and very wonderful interests have entered my life, I still love it and couldn't think of giving it up." ~~ Mae Marsh


  1. Hi Jessica,
    I found an awesome article in LIFE with photos of Buster Keaton,Harold Lloyd,Mary Pickford,just to name a few. Here is the link:

  2. Thank you Theresa! I loved the pictures in the article. The then and now pictorials were so cool. I just heart Harold and Buster. Always and forever :)