Mae Marsh

Active - 1910 - 1963  |   Born - Nov 9, 1895   |   Died - Feb 13, 1968   |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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American actress Mae Marsh was the daughter of an auditor for the Santa Fe railroad - and as such, she and her family moved around quite a bit during Marsh's childhood. After her father died and her stepfather was killed in the San Francisco earthquake, she was taken to Los Angeles by her great aunt, a one-time chorus girl who'd become a New York actress. Marsh followed her aunt's footsteps by securing film work with Mack Sennett and D.W. Griffith; it was Griffith, the foremost film director of the early silent period, who first spotted potential in young Miss Marsh. The actress got her first big break appearing as a stone-age maiden in Man's Genesis (1911), after Mary Pickford refused to play the part because it called for bare legs. Specializing in dramatic and tragic roles, Marsh appeared in innumerable Griffith-directed short films, reaching a career high point as the Little Sister in the director's Civil War epic, The Birth of A Nation (1915). She made such an impression in this demanding role that famed American poet Vachel Lindsay was moved to write a long, elaborate poem in the actress' honor. Marsh's career went on a downhill slide in the '20s due to poor management and second-rate films, but she managed to score a personal triumph as the long-suffering heroine of the 1931 talkie tear-jerker Over the Hill. She retired to married life, returning sporadically to films - out of boredom - as a bit actress, notably in the big-budget westerns of director John Ford (a longtime Marsh fan). When asked in the '60s why she didn't lobby for larger roles, Mae Marsh replied simply that "I didn't care to get up every morning at five o'clock to be at the studio by seven."

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