Mae Marsh (1895-1968)

Mae Marsh, Silent Film Star - Biography and Colorized Images Courtesy Golden Silents

Mae Marsh was the most unlikely and unpreposessing of silent stars; it almost seems that she was discovered by accident. She was considered plain, with hair of a nondescript color, and freckles, but she stood out to pioneer film director D.W. Griffith, and became one of his top leading actresses, along with Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. She had a naturalistic, luminous quality about her that Griffith was able to bring to the screen with a deft touch.

Born Mary Wayne Marsh in Madrid, New Mexico Territory, on 9 November 1895, to a railroad auditor and his wife; her father died when she was only four years old. Her mother remarried, and the family moved to San Francisco, where her step father was killed in the earthquake of 1906. Sometime later, the family ended up in Los Angeles, and in 1912 Mae found herself in Biograph studios after deciding to follow her older sister Marguerite’s example and try acting. Mae first got work with Mack Sennett and Griffith. Her big break came in “Man’s Genesis” (1912), in which she played a bare legged prehistoric girl. The part had first been offered to Mary Pickford, who refused due to the fact that her legs would be visible. She later worked in all Griffith’s unforgettable epics, “The Birth of a Nation” (1915) as Flora Cameron, who jumped off a cliff rather than face being raped, and in “Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages” (1916), as “The Dear One”, who races to save her innocent husband from the gallows for a crime he did not commit. These were probably her best and most memorable film roles, and she was frequently cast opposite another Griffith find, Robert Harron; they made a charming and often passionate romantic couple on screen.

Mae worked with Griffith from 1912-1916, signing with Samuel Goldwyn in 1917. She was at the height of her popularity. However, Mae did not find the success with Goldwyn that she had with Griffith. After marrying Louis Lee Arms, a publicity agent for Goldwyn in 1918, she virtually retired to raise the couple’s three children. She worked with Griffith again however, in 1923’s “The White Rose”, co-starring Ivor Novello, and she also went to England to make a few movies, including “The Rat”, written by Ivor. By 1928, she intended retiring from the screen altogether, but with the advent of the Great Depression Mae had to go back to work to earn money for the family. She gave a remarkable performance in the sound film “Over the Hill” (1932), where her character was forced to go to a poorhouse by an ungrateful son.

She continued to appear in smaller parts until the 1960’s; due to a difficulty in remembering lines she was never again given big roles, but as a friend of legendary director John Ford, she always had smaller character parts she could sink her teeth into, in Ford’s classic films such as “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940), “How Green Was My Valley” (1941), “My Darling Clementine” (1946), and “The Quiet Man” (1952).

After a career spanning fifty years, Mae Marsh died at her home of a heart attack, in Hermosa Beach, California, February 13, 1968.

– Biography courtesy Brenda T.

Mae Marsh’s Silent Films

Racing Through (1928)
Tides of Passion (1925) …. Charity
The Rat (1925) …. Odile Etrange
Arabella (1924)
Daddies (1924) …. Ruth Atkins
Paddy the Next Best Thing (1923) …. Paddy

Mae Marsh, Silent Film Star - Colorized by

Silent Star Mae Marsh, Colorized by Golden Silents

The White Rose (1923) …. Bessie ‘Teazie’ Williams
Till We Meet Again (1922) …. Marion Bates
Flames of Passion (1922) …. Dorothy Hawke
Nobody’s Kid (1921) …. Mary Cary
The Little ‘Fraid Lady (1920) …. Cecilia Carne
The Mother and the Law (1919) …. The Little Dear One
Spotlight Sadie (1919) …. Sadie Sullivan
… aka The Saintly Show Girl
The Bondage of Barbara (1919) …. Barbara Grey
The Racing Strain (1918) …. Lucille Cameron

Mae Marsh and Mae Marsh in Hidden Fires (1918)

Hidden Fires (1918) …. Peggy Murray / Louise Parke
Money Mad (1918) …. Elsie Dean
The Glorious Adventure (1918) …. Carey Wethersbee
All Woman (1918) …. Susan Sweeney
The Face in the Dark (1918) …. Jane Ridgeway
The Beloved Traitor (1918) …. Mary Garland
Fields of Honor (1918) …. Marie Messereau
Stake Uncle Sam to Play Your Hand (1918)
The Cinderella Man (1917) …. Marjorie Caner
Sunshine Alley (1917) …. Nell
Polly of the Circus (1917) …. Polly
The Wharf Rat (1916) …. Polly
The Little Liar (1916) …. Maggie
Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916) …. The Dear One (Modern Story)
… aka Intolerance (USA: short title)
… aka Intolerance: A Sun-Play of the Ages (USA: copyright title)
The Marriage of Molly-O (1916) …. Molly-O
A Wild Girl of the Sierras (1916) …. The Wild Girl
… aka A Child of Nature
A Child of the Streets (1916)
A Child of the Paris Streets (1916) …. Julie/the child-wife
… aka A Child of Paris
Hoodoo Ann (1916) …. Hoodoo Ann
Big Jim’s Heart (1915)
Her Shattered Idol (1915) …. Mae Carter
The Victim (1915) …. Mary Hastings, Frank’s Wife
The Outlaw’s Revenge (1915) …. The American lover
The Outcast (1915) …. The Girl
The Birth of a Nation (1915) …. Flora Cameron
… aka In the Clutches of the Ku Klux Klan (USA: cut version)
… aka The Birth of the Nation; Or The Clansman (second copyright title)
… aka The Clansman (USA: Los Angeles première title)
The Genius (1914)
The Great God Fear (1914)
Meg of the Mines (1914)
Moonshine Molly (1914)
The Avenging Conscience; Thou Shalt Not Kill (1914) …. The Maid
… aka Thou Shalt Not Kill
The Birthday Present (1914)
… aka Her Birthday Present (USA)
The Escape (1914) …. Jennie Joyce
The Swindlers (1914)
The Girl in the Shack (1914)
Home, Sweet Home (1914) …. Apple Pie Mary
The Broken Bottle (1914)
The Great Leap: Until Death Do Us Part (1914) …. Mary Gibbs
Brute Force (1914) …. Lillywhite
… aka In Prehistoric Days
… aka Primitive Man (USA: short title)
… aka The Primitive Man (USA)
… aka Wars of the Primal Tribes
Apple Pie Mary (1914)
Judith of Bethulia (1914) …. Naomi
… aka Her Condoned Sin (USA)
The Battle at Elderbush Gulch (1913) …. Sallly (a waif)
… aka The Battle of Elderbush Gulch
By Man’s Law (1913) …. Sister Owner
The Girl Across the Way (1913) …. The Girl
Influence of the Unknown (1913) …. The Young Woman
For the Son of the House (1913) …. The Young Woman
Two Men of the Desert (1913)
The Reformers; or, The Lost Art of Minding One’s Business (1913) …. The Daughter
… aka The Lost Art of Minding One’s Business
… aka The Reformers (USA: short title)
The Sorrowful Shore (1913) …. On Shore
Her Mother’s Oath (1913) …. In Church
The Mothering Heart (1913) (unconfirmed) …. Undetermined Role
A Timely Interception (1913)
His Mother’s Son (1913) …. The Daughter
The Wanderer (1913/II) …. The Other Parents’ Daughter, as an Adult
If We Only Knew (1913) (unconfirmed)
The Lady and the Mouse (1913) (unconfirmed) …. Undetermined Role
The Little Tease (1913) …. The Little Tease, as an Adult
The Perfidy of Mary (1913) …. Mary
Fate (1913/I) …. Mother, Loving Family
Near to Earth (1913) …. One of Gato’s Sweetheart’s Friends
A Girl’s Stratagem (1913)
Broken Ways (1913)
Love in an Apartment Hotel (1913) …. Angelina Millingford, a Maid
The Tender Hearted Boy (1913) …. The Tender-Hearted Boy’s sister
An Adventure in the Autumn Woods (1913) …. The Girl
The Telephone Girl and the Lady (1913) …. The Telephone Girl
Three Friends (1913) …. The Wife’s Friend
The Indian Uprising at Santa Fe (1912) …. Juan
The New York Hat (1912) …. Second Gossip
Brutality (1912) …. The Young Woman
The Civilian (1912)
For the Honor of the Seventh (1912)
Two Daughters of Eve (1912)
The Parasite (1912)
The Kentucky Girl (1912) …. Bob’s Sister
The Inner Circle (1912)
The Sands of Dee (1912) …. Mary
Man’s Genesis (1912) …. Lillywhite
… aka Man’s Genesis: A Psychological Comedy Founded on Darwin’s Theory of the Genesis of Man (USA: complete title)
An Indian Summer (1912) …. The Widow’s Daughter
The School Teacher and the Waif (1912) …. Schoolgirl
The Spirit Awakened (1912) …. The Renegade Farmhand’s Sweetheart
Lena and the Geese (1912) …. The ‘Adopted’ Daughter
A Temporary Truce (1912) …. A Murdered Settler
Home Folks (1912) …. At Barn Dance
A Beast at Bay (1912) …. The Young Woman’s Friend
When Kings Were the Law (1912) …. At Court
His Lesson (1912) …. A Visitor
A Lodging for the Night (1912) …. First Mexican Couple, the Woman
The Old Actor (1912)
The Lesser Evil (1912) …. The Young Woman’s Companion
Just Like a Woman (1912) …. In Club
Those Hicksville Boys (1912) (unconfirmed) …. At Party
A Voice from the Deep (1912) …. On Beach
A Siren of Impulse (1912)
Fighting Blood (1911)
Serious Sixteen (1910)
Ramona (1910)

For more information on Mae Marsh, visit her webpage on the Internet Movie Database


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