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Essays

Marie Dressler

Moore, Paul

Marie Dressler was a top star who died at the height of her popularity. Her career is thoroughly documented, and this synopsis unavoidably recounts the tireless efforts of biographies by Betty Lee and Matthew Kennedy. She remains a comedienne with a loyal following, with a foundation and museum in her birthplace of Cobourg, Ontario. In the context of women behind-the-scenes in early film production, Dressler provides an example of a failed attempt to turn stage and screen fame into an eponymous production company where she had a hand in writing the resulting two-reelers. In the mid-1910s, it was common to turn movie stardom into professional autonomy by creating an eponymous film company. Dressler’s self-produced films were the last before a well-mythologized descent into poverty and reemergence as an MGM early-sound star with the help of loyal friend, screenwriter Frances Marion. Her decline coincided with well-publicized off-screen activities including the World War I bond drive and the 1919 Actors’ Equity strike. Assertions that she was the victim of anti-union blacklisting remain unsubstantiated by her biographers Lee and Kennedy, who conclude instead that she had simply spent too much time off stage and screen, or in lackluster roles.

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Academic Units
Film
Libraries
Series
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019