Mae worked as a salesgirl and loitered around the sets and locations while her older sister worked on a film, observing the progress of her sister's performance. She first started as an extra in various movies, and had first starring role in the film Ramona (1910) at the age of 15.
I tagged my way into motion pictures, Mae recalled in The Silent Picture. "I used to follow my sister Marguerite to the old Biograph studio and then, one great 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."
CareerMae worked with D.W. Griffith in small roles at Biograph when they were filming in California and in New York. Her big break came when Mary Pickford, resident star of the Biograph lot and a married woman at that time, refused to play the bare-legged, grass-skirted role of Lily-White in Man's Genesis. Griffith announced that if Mary would not play that part in Man's Genesis she would not play the coveted title role in his next film, The Sands of Dee. The other actresses stood behind Mary, each refusing in turn to play the part, citing the same objection. Mae was willing and eager for an opportunity to advance in the ranks.
Working with Mack Sennett and D.W. Griffith, she was a prolific actress, sometimes appearing in eight movies a year and often paired the fellow young Sennett protegé Robert Harron in romantic roles. In The Birth of a Nation (1915) she played the innocent sister who waits for her brothers to come home from war and who, in one of the film's most racially charged scenes, leaps to her death rather than submit to the lustful advances of Gus, the so-called renegade Negro who is later killed by the Ku Klux Klan. In Intolerance (1916) she plays the wife who has her baby taken away after her husband is unjustly convicted of murder. Both films were controversial in their day and still are, particularly The Birth of a Nation, but most critics agree that Marsh was impressive in both.
She signed a lucrative contract with Samuel Goldwyn worth $2,500 per week after Intolerance, but none of the films she made with him were particularly successful. After her marriage to Lee Arms, a publicity agent for Goldwyn, in 1918, her film output decreased to about one per year.
Marsh's last notable starring role was as a flapper for Griffith in The White Rose in 1923 with Ivor Novello and Carol Dempster. She re-teamed with Novello in 1925 for the film version of his hit stage play, The Rat.
TalkiesMarsh returned from retirement to appear in talkies and played a role in Henry King's remake of Over the Hill (1931). She gravitated toward character roles, and worked in this manner for the next several decades. Marsh appeared in numerous popular films, such as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1932). She also became a favorite of director John Ford, appearing in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), 3 Godfathers (1948), and The Searchers (1956).
Marsh has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1600 Vine Street.
Mae Marsh Facts
|Birth Name||Mary Wayne Marsh|
|Birthday||November 9, 1895|
|Birthplace||Madrid, New Mexico, USA|
|Date of death||February 13, 1968 (Hermosa Beach, California, USA, age 72)|
|Height||5' 3" (1m60) How tall is Mae Marsh compared to you?|
|The Phillip Diedesheimer Story|
|The Birth of a Nation|
|Song Of Bernadette, The|
|The Tall Men|
|Miracle on 34th Street|
|While the City Sleeps|
|A Blueprint For Murder|