Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Remembering... Marie Dressler

MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer called her 'the most adored person ever to set foot in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio', and he was a man who'd never blow smoke unless he could find a way to put it on film and charge two-bits admission!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn in Coburg, Ontario, on this day in 1868, Marie Dressler was a big girl who grew into a big woman with an even bigger talent; although her initial ambition was to appear in the opera, it was undoubtedly her splendid sense of comic timing that brought her instead to vaudeville. There she befriended Mack Sennett and Edward Everett Horton, both of whom would later feature prominently alongside her in the early history of Hollywood.

Already popular in silent films - a medium famous for its FACES! - by the time she appeared in talking pictures she had her routine by rote, and indeed much of it involved making faces. In films like Anna Christie (1931) her mug-happy antics threatened to wipe even a ham like Greta Garbo off the screen.

Dressler was awarded an Oscar for her appearance in Min and Bill (1931) with Wallace Beery; onscreen they shared not so much chemistry as physics. Altogether she would make 40 films; her penultimate, Dinner at Eight (1933), shows Dressler at the top of her game, despite her obvious illness. Castmates later reported finding her vomiting violently or else coughing up blood in her dressing room, only to emerge and film take after take of a flawless performance fraught with comedy and drama in equal parts...

Dressler's memoirs were entitled The Life Story of an Ugly Duckling, but the Pop Culture Institute would like to offer a posthumous revision: A Swan By Any Other Name.
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