Mae Clark

Active - 1929 - 1970  |   Born - Aug 16, 1907   |   Died - Apr 29, 1992   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, Romance, Musical

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Biography by Hal Erickson

A nightclub dancer in her teens, Mae Clarke rose to prominence on the Broadway musical stage of the 1920s. In films, Clarke nearly always seemed predestined for tragedy and abuse: she played the long-suffering bride of the title character in Frankenstein (1931), the self-sacrificing trollop Molly Molloy in The Front Page (1931), and the streetwalker protagonist in Waterloo Bridge (1931). Clarke's most famous film role was one for which she received no onscreen credit: she was the recipient of James Cagney's legendary "grapefruit massage" in 1931's Public Enemy. Clarke went on to co-star with Cagney in such films as Lady Killer (1933) and Great Guy (1936); though the best of friends in real life, Cagney and Clarke usually seemed poised to bash each other's brains out onscreen. For reasons that still remain unclear, Clarke's starring career plummeted into bit roles and walk-ons by the 1950s. Her most rewarding work during that decade was on television -- it was Clarke who portrayed a middle-aged woman undergoing menopause on a controversial 1954 installment of the TV anthology Medic. Even during her career low points, Clarke retained her sense of humor. When applying for a role on one TV program, she advertised herself as a comedian, listing as a "qualification" the fact that she was at one time married to Fanny Brice's brother. Mae Clarke continued accepting minor film roles until 1970, when she retired to the Motion Picture Country Home at Woodland Hills, California.

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