In the early 1930s, Marie Dressler (1868-1934) was the most loved movie star in the world. Under the careful guidance of Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg at MGM, she soared to late life stardom with a string of hits including Anna Christie, Tugboat Annie, Dinner at Eight, and Min and Bill, which won her the Best Actress Academy Award. But she was then past 60, large and ungainly, and had the self-described face of a "mud fence." How did she become the darling of the movie world? Her earthy warmth, well-practiced humor, and fantastic charisma were sweet medicine for audiences devastated by the Depression. This book explores in striking detail the full span of her life, taking in her lesser known earlier career, her ever-changing professional fortunes, failed marriage, and romantic attachments to men and women. From her modest birth in Cobourg, Ontario, she became a Gilded Age pioneer of vaudeville and musical revue, appearing with fabled names such as Lillian Russell, Weber & Fields, Eddie Foy, and Anna Held, later starring with Charlie Chaplin in Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914), widely considered the first ever feature length film comedy. She fought for women's suffrage, co-founded Broadway's first actors' union, and toured the country selling bonds during World War I. Marie Dressler: A Biography is the product of international archival research and interviews with her last surviving co-stars, friends, and care givers. It brings to life a fascinating woman of her time, and one of the greatest entertainers the stage and screen have ever seen.
Matthew gives an overview of the book:
What strange confluence made Marie Dressler possible? She would attribute her final good fortuneto fortuitous astrology, but I believe the answer is rooted in the earth and its people. It is not possible to write about Marie's prolonged career slump without accounting for the Great War, Prohibition, and women's suffrage. Especially Marie's comeback at the end of her life can be understood only in context of the Depression, the coming of sound to movies, and her friendshp with Frances Marion. For her fans, Marie was nothing less than emotional salvation during an era of great uncertainty and fear. Her life and art were entwined in both historic moments and moving friendships.