Mae Busch

Active - 1915 - 2003  |   Born - Jan 20, 1897   |   Died - Apr 19, 1946   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, Romance, Mystery

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Australian-born Mae Busch was the daughter of an opera singer mother and a symphony conductor father. Her family came to the U.S. when Mae was 3 years old, and she was placed in a convent school while her parents toured the world. While still a teenager, Mae achieved stage stardom by replacing Lillian Lorraine in the musical comedy Over the River. In 1915 she became a Mack Sennett bathing beauty at the invitation of her close friend, Sennett-star Mabel Normand. Later, Mae was hired by Eric von Stroheim to play a lusty Spanish dancer in Stroheim's The Devil's Passkey. The director used her again in Foolish Wives (1922), casting Mae as the amoral--and fraudulent--Princess Vera. She was later signed by MGM, where she was billed as "the versatile vamp." Upset at the nondescript leading-lady roles she was getting, Mae walked out of her contract; this action caused producers to hesitate casting Mae in major productions. While free-lancing at second-rate studios, Mae accepted a comedy-vamp role in the Hal Roach 2-reeler Love 'Em and Weep (1927), which represented her first appearance with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Though she made an impressive sound feature-film debut in Roland West's Alibi (1929), the steely-voiced Ms. Busch's stardom had passed, and for the most part her talkie assignments were bits and secondary roles. Her best opportunities in the 1930s came in the films of Laurel and Hardy, where she was often cast as a shrewish wife or sharp-tongued "lady of the evening." In the team's Oliver the Eighth (1934), she essayed her most flamboyant role as an insane widow with a penchant for marrying and murdering any man named Oliver--which happened to be the first name of the hapless Mr. Hardy. Ms. Busch went into semi-retirement in the 1940s, occasionally resurfacing in small roles in such films as Ziegfeld Girl (1946); she died of a heart attack at the age of 49. Formerly married to silent-film star Francis McDonald, Mae Busch was also the aunt of 1960s leading lady Brenda Scott.

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