World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Marie Dressler

Article Id: WHEBN0000177739
Reproduction Date:

Title: Marie Dressler  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Wallace Beery, Academy Award for Best Actress, Dinner at Eight (film), Min and Bill, Sylvia of Hollywood
Collection: 1868 Births, 1934 Deaths, 19Th-Century American Actresses, 20Th-Century American Actresses, 20Th-Century Canadian Actresses, Actresses from Ontario, American Film Actresses, American Film Producers, American Memoirists, American Silent Film Actresses, American Women Screenwriters, Best Actress Academy Award Winners, Burials at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Canadian Expatriate Actresses in the United States, Canadian Film Actresses, Canadian Film Producers, Canadian People of Austrian Descent, Canadian Silent Film Actresses, Canadian Stage Actresses, Canadian Women Film Directors, Cancer Deaths in California, Lgbt Entertainers from the United States, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Contract Players, People from Cobourg, Short Film Directors, Silent Film Directors, Vaudeville Performers, Women Memoirists
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Marie Dressler

Marie Dressler
Dressler in 1930
Born Leila Marie Koerber
(1868-11-09)November 9, 1868
Cobourg, Ontario, Canada
Died July 28, 1934(1934-07-28) (aged 65)
Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cancer
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Citizenship Canadian
Occupation Actress
Years active 1892–1934
Spouse(s) George Hoeppert (m. 1899–1906)
J. H. Dalton (m. 1908–21)

Marie Dressler (November 9, 1868 – July 28, 1934) was a Canadian American stage and screen actress, comedienne and early silent film and Depression-era film star.[2][3] Successful on stage in vaudeville and comic operas, she was also successful in film. In 1914, she was in the first full-length film comedy and later won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1931.

Leaving home at the age of fourteen, Dressler built a career on stage in travelling theatre troupes. A large, plain woman, she learned early to appreciate her talent in making people laugh. In 1892, she started a career on Broadway that lasted into the 1920s, performing comedic roles that allowed her to improvise to get laughs. From one of her successful Broadway roles, she played the titular role in the first full-length screen comedy, 1914's Tillie's Punctured Romance, opposite Charles Chaplin and Mabel Normand. She would make several shorts but mostly worked in New York City on stage. During World War I, along with other celebrities, she helped sell Liberty Bonds. In 1919, she helped organize the first union for stage chorus players.

Her career declined in the 1920s and Dressler was reduced to living on her savings while sharing an apartment with a friend. In 1927, she returned to films at the age of 59 and experienced a remarkable string of successes. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1930–31 for Min and Bill and was named the top film star for 1932 and 1933. She would die of cancer in 1934. She was married twice but had no children.


  • Early life 1
  • Stage career 2
  • Film career 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Death 5
  • Legacy 6
  • Filmography 7
  • Quotes 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early life

Dressler was born Leila Marie Koerber in

  • Marie Dressler at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Marie Dressler at the Internet Movie Database
  • Marie Dressler at Women Film Pioneers Project
  • portrait gallery(NY Public Library, Billy Rose collection)
  • Marie Dressler cylinder recordings, from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library
  • Web site dedicated to Marie Dressler
  • Marie Dressler Web site
  • Photographs and literature
  • Collected Works of Marie Dressler at the Internet Archive
  • Marie Dressler dressed in Edwardian style and fashion, 1908 (Univ. of Washington, Sayre collection)
  • Tillie's NightmareMarie Dressler reading newspaper in 1911 play (Univ. of Washington, Sayre collection)
  • 1917Tillie the Scrub LadyMarie Dressler in a still of scene from (Univ. of Washington, Sayre collection)
  • 1922 passport photo; Marie Dressler

External links

Further reading

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Obituary Variety, July 31, 1934, page 54.
  3. ^ North American Theatre OnlineMarie Dressler:
  4. ^ a b c d e
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 9.
  7. ^ Lee 1997, p. 10.
  8. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 11–12.
  9. ^ Lee 1997, p. 14.
  10. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 13.
  11. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 15-16.
  12. ^ Lee 1997, p. 17.
  13. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 18.
  14. ^ Lee 1997, p. 20.
  15. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 20-21.
  16. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 21-22.
  17. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 24.
  18. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 24-25.
  19. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 26-28.
  20. ^ Lee 1997, p. 28.
  21. ^ Lee 1997, p. 29.
  22. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 30-31.
  23. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 31-32.
  24. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 33-37.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Lee 1997, p. 39.
  27. ^ Kennedy 2006, p. 2.
  28. ^ Lee 1997, p. 69.
  29. ^ Lee 1997, p. 78.
  30. ^ a b c Silverman 1999, p. 23.
  31. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 145.
  32. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 153-154.
  33. ^ Lee 1997, p. 156.
  34. ^ Lee 1997, p. 173.
  35. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 103.
  36. ^ Lee 1997, p. 105.
  37. ^ Lee 1997, p. 150.
  38. ^ Lee 1997, p. 155.
  39. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 159.
  40. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 165.
  41. ^ Lee 1997, p. 166.
  42. ^ Lee 1997, p. 167.
  43. ^ Silverman 1999, p. 24.
  44. ^ Kennedy 2006, pp. 27–29.
  45. ^ Lee 1997, p. 70.
  46. ^ Lee 1997, p. 64.
  47. ^ Lee 1997, p. 65.
  48. ^ Lee 1997, p. 102.
  49. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 148.
  50. ^ Lee 1997, p. 152.
  51. ^ Lee 1997, p. 168.
  52. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 169.
  53. ^
  54. ^ Lee 1997, pp. 186-187.
  55. ^ Lee 1997, p. 186.
  56. ^ a b Lee 1997, p. 187.
  57. ^ Kennedy 2006, pp. 143-144.
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^ a b
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^ Lee 1997, p. 182.
  66. ^
  67. ^ a b


See also

  • "If ants are such busy workers, how come they find time to go to all the picnics?"[67]
  • "You're only as good as your last picture"[67]


Year Title Role Notes
1909 Marie Dressler Herself Short subject
1910 Actors' Fund Field Day Herself Short subject
1914 Tillie's Punctured Romance Tillie Banks, Country Girl
1915 Tillie's Tomato Surprise Tillie Banks
1917 Fired
Short subject
Writer and director
1917 The Scrub Lady Tillie
1917 Tillie Wakes Up Tillie Tinkelpaw
1918 Red Cross Nurse, TheThe Red Cross Nurse
1918 Agonies of Agnes, TheThe Agonies of Agnes
Producer and writer
1927 Joy Girl, TheThe Joy Girl Mrs. Heath
1927 The Callahans and the Murphys Mrs. Callahan
1927 Breakfast at Sunrise Queen
1928 Patsy, TheThe Patsy Ma Harrington
1928 Bringing Up Father Annie Moore
1929 Voice of Hollywood Herself Uncredited
1929 The Vagabond Lover Mrs. Ethel Bertha Whitehall
1929 Dangerous Females Sarah Bascom
1929 Hollywood Revue of 1929 Herself
1929 Divine Lady, TheThe Divine Lady Mrs. Hart
1930 Voice of Hollywood No. 14, TheThe Voice of Hollywood No. 14 Herself Uncredited
1930 Screen Snapshots Series 9, No. 14 Herself, at Premiere
1930 The March of Time Herself, "Old Timer" sequence Unfinished film, never released
1930 Anna Christie Marthy Owens
1930 Derelict
1930 Let Us Be Gay Mrs. 'Bouccy' Bouccicault
1930 Caught Short Marie Jones
1930 One Romantic Night Princess Beatrice
1930 Girl Said No, TheThe Girl Said No Hettie Brown
1930 Chasing Rainbows Bonnie
1930 Min and Bill Min Divot, Innkeeper Won- Academy Award for Best Actress
1931 Jackie Cooper's Birthday Party Herself
1931 Politics Hattie Burns
1931 Reducing Marie Truffle
1932 Prosperity Maggie Warren
1932 Emma Emma Thatcher Smith Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
1933 Going Hollywood Herself, Premiere Clip Uncredited
1933 Dinner at Eight Carlotta Vance
1933 Tugboat Annie Annie Brennan
1933 Christopher Bean Abby Final Film Before Her Death


Canada Post, as part of its "Canada in Hollywood" series, issued a postage stamp on June 30, 2008 to honour Marie Dressler.[66]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Marie Dressler has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1731 Vine Street, added in 1960.[64] After Min and Bill, Dressler and Beery added their footprints to the cement forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, with the inscription "America's New Sweethearts, Min and Bill."[65]

Dressler's birth home in Cobourg, Ontario is known as the "Marie Dressler House" and is open to the public. The home was converted to a restaurant in 1937 and operated as a restaurant until 1989, when it was damaged by fire. It was restored but did not open again as a restaurant. It was the office of the Cobourg Chamber of Commerce until its conversion to its current use as a museum about Dressler and as a visitor information office for Cobourg.[62] Each year, the Marie Dressler Foundation Vintage Film Festival is held, with screenings in Cobourg and in Port Hope, Ontario.[63]


[61] night club in Cocoanut Grove The two used the funds to open the [61] Dressler left her 1931 automobile and $35,000 in her will to her maid of twenty years, Mamie Cox, and $15,000 to Cox's husband Jerry, who had served as Dressler's butler for four years.[60] Dressler left an estate worth $310,000, the bulk left to her sister Bonita.

On Saturday July 28, 1934, Dressler died of cancer at the age of 65 in Santa Barbara, California. After a private funeral held at The Wee Kirk o' the Heather chapel, Dressler was interred in a crypt in the Great Mausoleum in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale in Glendale, California.[59]

Crypt of Marie Dressler, in the Great Mausoleum, Forest Lawn Glendale.


Although Dressler was married twice, there have been rumors and conjecture that Dressler was a lesbian. During her lifetime, Dressler socialized with gay men such as Ramon Novarro and women such as Elisabeth Marbury and Elsie de Wolfe. Composer David Diamond claimed that during the 1930s, Dressler was an active lesbian who befriended other well known lesbian actresses such as Patsy Kelly and Thelma Todd.[54] Biographer Antoni Gronowicz intimated that Dressler had a sexual liaison with Greta Garbo.[55] However, Hollywood biographers Donald Spoto and Charles Higham both have stated that there is no evidence that Dressler was known in the movie community as a lesbian.[56] Both Lee and biographer Matthew Kennedy document Dressler's long standing friendship with actress Claire Du Brey, whom she met in 1928.[57] Du Brey's and Dressler's friendship was also rumored to be a lesbian relationship although there is no evidence of such in Du Brey's own memoir.[56] Kennedy himself considers Du Brey to be an untrustworthy source considering Dressler and Du Brey's falling out in 1932 and a later lawsuit by Du Brey, who claimed back wages as Dressler's nurse.[58]

Although atypical in size of a Hollywood star, Dressler was reported in 1931 to use the services of 'body sculptor to the stars' Sylvia of Hollywood to keep herself at a steady weight.[53]

After Dalton's death, which coincided with a decline in her stage career, Dressler moved into a servant's room in the Ritz Hotel to save money.[50] Eventually, she moved in with friend Nella Webb to save on expenses.[39] After finding work in film again in 1927, she rented a home in Hollywood on Hillside Avenue. Although Dressler was working in films from 1927 on, she was still living hand to mouth. In November 1928, wealthy friends Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Neurmberg gave her ten thousand dollars, explaining they planned to give her a legacy someday, but they thought she needed the money then.[51] In 1929, Dressler moved to Los Angeles to 6718 Milner Road in Whitley Heights, then to 623 North Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills, all rented. She moved to her final home at 801 North Alpine in Beverly Hills in 1932, a home which she bought from the estate of King C. Gillette.[52] During her seven years in Hollywood, Dressler lived with her maid Mamie Cox and later Mamie's husband Jerry.[52]

In 1907, Dressler met Maine business man James Henry Dalton, who would become her companion until his death in 1921. According to Dalton, the two were married in Europe in 1908.[46] However, Dressler later learned that the "minister" who married them in Monte Carlo was actually a local man paid by Dalton to stage a fake wedding.[47] Dalton's first wife Lizzie claimed that he had not consented to a divorce or been served divorce papers, while Dalton claimed to have divorced her in 1905.[48] By 1921, Dalton had become an invalid due to degenerated kidneys and would watch her from the wings in a wheel-chair.[49] After his death, Dressler was planning for Dalton to be buried as her husband, but Lizzie Dalton had Dalton's body returned to be buried in the Dalton family plot.[49]

Since her start in theatre, Dressler sent a portion of her salary to her parents. Her success on Broadway meant she could afford to buy a home and later a farm on Long Island, which she shared with her parents. Dressler made several attempts to set up theatre companies or theatre productions of her own using her Broadway proceeds, but these failed and she had to declare bankruptcy several times.[45]

Dressler's first marriage was to American George Hoeppert. According to Dressler's testimony, she married Hoeppert in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1899, although biographer Matthew Kennedy puts the marriage date as May 6, 1894, and a divorce early in 1896.[44] Her marriage to Hoeppert gave Dressler American citizenship, which was useful later in life, when American immigration rules meant permits were needed to work in the United States, and Dressler had to appear before an immigration hearing.[1]

Dressler in 1909

Personal life

Dressler appeared in more than forty films, and achieved her greatest successes in talking pictures made during the last years of her life. Always seeing herself as physically unattractive, she wrote an autobiography titled The Life Story of an Ugly Duckling.

Following the release of that film, Dressler appeared on the cover of Time magazine, in its August 7, 1933, issue. MGM held a huge birthday party for Dressler in 1933, broadcast live via radio. Her newly regenerated career came to an abrupt end when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1934. MGM head Louis B. Mayer learned of Dressler's illness from her doctor and asked that she not be told. To keep her home, he ordered her not to travel on her vacation because he wanted to put her in a new film. Dressler was furious but complied.

Harlow: I was reading a book the other day.
Dressler: Reading a book?
Harlow: Yes, it's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy said that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?
Dressler: Oh my dear, that's something you need never worry about.

Dressler followed these successes with more hits in 1933, including the comedy Dinner at Eight, in which she played an aging but vivacious former stage actress. Dressler had a memorable bit with Jean Harlow in the film:[43]

A robust, full-bodied woman of very plain features, Dressler went on to act in comic films which were very popular with the movie-going public and an equally lucrative investment for MGM. Although past sixty years of age, she quickly became Hollywood's number one box-office attraction, and stayed on top until her death at age 65. In addition to her comedic genius and her natural elegance, Dressler demonstrated her considerable talents by taking on serious roles. For her starring portrayal in Min and Bill, with Wallace Beery, she won the 1930–31 Academy Award for Best Actress (the eligibility years were staggered at that time). Dressler was nominated again for Best Actress for her 1932 starring role in Emma. With that film, Dressler demonstrated her profound generosity to other performers. Dressler personally insisted that her studio bosses cast a friend of hers, a largely unknown young actor named Richard Cromwell, in the lead opposite her. This break helped launch his career.

Lobby card with Wallace Beery

Hollywood was converting from silent films, but "talkies" presented no problems for Dressler, whose rumbling voice could handle both sympathetic scenes and snappy comebacks (she's the wisecracking stage actress in Chasing Rainbows and the dubious matron in Rudy Vallee's Vagabond Lover). Frances Marion persuaded Thalberg to give Dressler the role of Marthy, the old harridan who welcomes Greta Garbo home after the search for her father, in the 1930 film Anna Christie. Garbo and the critics were impressed by Dressler's acting ability, and so was MGM, which quickly signed her to a $500-per-week contract.

The film was initially a success, but the portrayal of Irish characters caused a protest in the Irish World newspaper, protests by the American Irish Vigilance Committee, and pickets outside the film's New York theatre. The film was first cut by MGM in an attempt to appease the Irish community, then eventually pulled from release after Cardinal Dougherty of the diocese of Philadelphia called MGM president Nicholas Schenck.[40] It was not shown again, and the negative and prints may have been destroyed.[40] While the film brought her to Hollywood, it did not establish Dressler's career. Her next appearance was a minor part in the First National film Breakfast at Sunrise. She appeared again with Moran in Bringing Up Father, another film written by Marion.[41] Dressler returned to MGM in 1928's The Patsy in a winning portrayal, playing the fluttery mother to star Marion Davies and Jane Winton.[42]

Later that year, Frances Marion, a screenwriter for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studio, came to Dressler's rescue. Marion had seen Dressler in the 1925 vaudeville tour and witnessed Dressler at her professional low-point. Dressler had shown great kindness to Marion during the filming of Tillie Wakes Up in 1917, and in return, Marion used her influence with MGM's production chief Irving Thalberg to return Dressler to the screen.[30] Her first MGM feature was The Callahans and the Murphys (1927), a rowdy silent comedy co-starring Dressler (as Ma Callahan) with another former Mack Sennett comedienne, Polly Moran, written by Marion.[30]

In early 1927, Dressler received a lifeline from director Allan Dwan. Although versions differ as to how Dressler and Dwan met, including that Dressler was contemplating suicide, Dwan offered her a part in a film he was planning to film in Florida. The film, The Joy Girl, an early color production, only provided a small part as her scenes were finished in two days, but Dressler returned to New York upbeat after her experience with the production.[39]

In 1922, after her husband's death, Dressler and writers Helena Dayton and Louise Barrett tried to sell a script to the Hollywood studios but was turned down. The one studio to hold a meeting with the group rejected the script saying all the audiences wanted is "young love." The proposed co-star of [37] In 1925, Dressler filmed a pair of two-reel short movies in Europe for producer Harry Reichenbach. The movies, titled the Travelaffs were not released, considered a failure by both Dressler and Reichenbach. Dressler announced her retirement from show business.[38]

Dressler had appeared in two shorts as herself, but her first role in a feature film came in 1914, at the age of 44. In 1902, she had met fellow Canadian Mack Sennett and helped him get a job in the theater. After Sennett became the owner of his namesake motion picture studio, he convinced Dressler to star in his 1914 silent film Tillie's Punctured Romance. The film was to be the first full-length, six-reel motion picture comedy. According to Sennett, a prospective budget of $200,000 meant that he needed "a star whose name and face meant something to every possible theatre-goer in the United States and the British Empire."[35] The movie was based on Dressler's hit Tillie's Nightmare, a choice credited either to Dressler or to a Keystone studio employee.[36] Dressler herself claims to have cast Charlie Chaplin in the movie as her leading man, and was "proud to have had a part in giving him his first big chance."[35] Instead of his recently invented Tramp character, Chaplin played a villainous rogue. Silent film comedienne Mabel Normand also starred in the movie. Tillie's Punctured Romance was a hit with audiences and Dressler appeared in two Tillie sequels and other comedies until 1918, when she returned to vaudeville.

Dressler in the magazine Photoplay in 1930
The Scrublady (1917)

Film career

Early in 1930, Dressler joined Edward Everett Horton's theater troupe in L.A. to play a princess in Ferenc Molnár's The Swan. But after one week, she quit the troupe. She proceeded to leave Horton flat, much to his indignation. Dressler later in 1930 played the princess-mother of Lillian Gish in the 1930 film adaptation of Molnar's The Swan called One Romantic Night.[34]

After failing to sell a film script, Dressler took an extended trip to Europe in the fall of 1922. After she returned, Dressler found it difficult to find work, considering America to be "youth-mad" and "flapper-crazy". She busied herself with visits to veteran hospitals. To save money, Dressler moved into the Ritz Hotel, arranging for a small room at a discount. In 1923, she received a small part in a revue at the Winter Garden Theatre, called The Dancing Girl but she was not offered any work after the show closed. In 1925, she was able to perform as part of the cast of a vaudeville show which went on a five-week tour, but still could not find any work back in New York City.[32] In 1926, Dressler made a final appearance on Broadway as part of an Old Timers' bill at the Palace Theatre.[33]

Dressler accepted a role in Cinderella on Broadway in October 1920, but the play failed after only a few weeks. She signed on for a role in The Passing Show of 1921 but left the cast after only a few weeks. Dressler returned to the vaudeville stage with the Schubert Organization, travelling through the mid-west. Her husband Jim travelled with her although he was very ill from degeneration of the kidneys. Dalton stayed in Chicago while Dressler travelled on to St. Louis and Milwaukee. Jim died while Marie was in St. Louis and Marie left the tour. Dalton's body was claimed by his ex-wife and he was buried in the Dalton plot.[31]

In 1919, during the Actors' Equity strike in New York City, the Chorus Equity Association was formed and voted Dressler its first president.

After the war, Dressler returned to vaudeville in New York, and toured in Cleveland and Buffalo. She owned the rights to the play Tillie's Nightmare, the play upon which her 1914 movie Tillie's Punctured Romance was based. She and husband Jim Dalton made plans to self-finance a revival of the play. The play fizzled in the summer of 1920 and the production was disbanded.[31]

Dressler continued to work in the theater during the 1910s, and toured the United States during World War I, selling Liberty Bonds[4] and entertaining the American Expeditionary Forces. American Doughboys in France named both a street and a cow after Dressler. The cow was killed, leading to "Marie Dressler: Killed in Line of Duty" headlines, about which Dressler quipped "I had a hard time convincing people that the report of my death had been greatly exaggerated."[30]

Dressler returned to the Broadway stage in a show called The Boy and the Girl, but it only lasted a few weeks. She moved on to perform vaudeville at Young's Pier in Atlantic City for the summer. In addition to her stage work, Dressler recorded for Edison Records in 1909 and 1910. In the fall of 1909, Dressler first entered rehearsals for a new play Tillie's Nightmare. The play toured in Albany, Chicago, Kansas City and Philadelphia and was a flop. Dressler helped to revise the show, without the authors' permission, and Dressler had to threaten to quit before the play opened on Broadway to keep the changes. Dressler's revisions to the play helped make it a big success on Broadway. Her biographer Betty Lee considers the play the high point of her stage career.[29]

In 1907 Dressler met Jim Dalton. Dressler and Dalton moved to London, England. Dressler performed at the Aldwych Theatre, renaming the production Philopoena after Dressler's role. It was a failure, closing after a week. Dressler lost $40,000 on the production, a debt she eventually repaid in 1930.[28] Dressler and Dalton returned to New York. Dressler declared bankruptcy for a second time.

In 1904, Dressler signed a three-year $50,000 contract with the Weber and Fields Music Hall management, performing lead roles in Higgeldy Piggeldy and Twiddle Twaddle. After her contract was up, Dressler performed vaudeville in New York, Boston and other cities. Dressler was known for her full-figured body—fashionable at the time—and had buxom contemporaries such as her friends Lillian Russell, Fay Templeton, May Irwin and Trixie Friganza. Dressler herself was 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 m) tall and weighed 200 pounds (91 kg).[27]

In 1900, Dressler formed her own theatre troupe, which performed Miss Prinnt in cities of the American north-east.[25] The production of Miss Prinnt was a failure and Dressler was forced to declare bankruptcy.[26]

In 1896, Dressler landed her first starring role as Flo in The Lady Slaver at the Casino Theatre on Broadway with co-star British dancer Dan Daly. It was a great success, playing for two years at the Casino. Dressler became known for her hilarious facial expressions, seriocomic reactions and double takes. With her large, strong body, Dressler could improvise routines where she would carry Daly to the delight of the audience.[21] Her success enabled her to purchase a home for her parents on Long Island.[22] The Lady Slavey success however turned sour when she quit the production while it toured in Colorado. The Erlanger syndicate blocked Dressler from appearing on Broadway and Dressler chose to work with the Rich and Harris touring company.[23] Dressler would return to Broadway with roles in Hotel Topsy Turvy and The Man in the Moon.[24]

In 1892, she made her debut on Broadway at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Waldemar, the Robber of the Rhine, which only lasted five weeks.[17] Dressler had hoped to become an operatic diva or tragedienne, but the writer of Waldemar, Maurice Barrymore convinced her to accept that her best chance of success was in comedy roles.[17] Years later she would appear with his sons, Lionel and John, in motion pictures and would also become good friends with his daughter Ethel of which both would campaign for actor's benefits in the Actors Equity Strike of 1919. In 1893, Dressler was cast as the Duchess, in Princess Nicotine, where she met and befriended the star Lillian Russell.[18] Dressler now made $50 per week, with which she supported her parents. She moved on into roles in 1492 Up To Date, Girofle-Girofla and A Stag Party, or A Hero in Spite of Himself[19] After A Stag Party flopped, she joined the touring Camille D'Arville Company on a tour of the mid-west in Madeleine, or The Magic Kiss, as Mary Doodle, a role giving her a chance to clown.[20]

Dressler left the Starr company to return home to her parents in Saginaw, but when the Bennett and Moulton Opera Company came to town, Dressler was, according to Dressler, chosen from the church choir by the company's manager and asked to join the company. She would remain with the company for three years, again on the road, playing roles of light opera.[14] Dressler would recall specially the role of Barbara in The Black Hussars, which she especially liked, and in which she would hit a baseball into the stands.[15] Dressler remained with the company until 1891, gradually increasing in popularity. She moved to Chicago and was cast in productions of Little Robinson Crusoe and The Tar and the Tartar. After the touring production of The Tar and the Tartar came to a close, she chose to move to New York City.[16]

Dressler would remain with the troupe for three years, while her sister left to marry playwright Richard Ganthony. The company eventually ended up in a small Michigan town without money or a booking. Dressler joined the Robert Grau Opera Company, which also toured the mid-west, and she received an improvement in pay to $8 per week, although Dressler claims she never received any wages.[12] Dressler ended up in Philadelphia, where she joined the Starr Opera Company as a member of the chorus. A highlight with the Starr company was portraying Katisha in The Mikado when the regular actress was unable to go on, due to a sprained ankle, according to Dressler.[13] She was also known to have played the role of Princess Flametta in an 1887 production in Ann Arbor, Michigan.[13]

Dressler left home at fourteen to begin her acting career with the Nevada Stock Company, telling the company she was actually eighteen.[8] The pay was either $6 or $8 a week,[4] and Dressler sent half to her mother.[9] It was at this time that Dressler adopted the name of an aunt as her stage name.[4] According to Dressler, her father objected to her using the name of Koerber. The identity of the aunt was never confirmed, though Dressler denied that she adopted the name from a store awning. Dressler's sister Bonita, five years older, left home at about the same time. Bonita also worked in the opera company.[10] The Nevada Stock Company was a travelling company that played mostly in the American Midwest. Dressler described the troupe as a "wonderful school in many ways. Often a bill was changed on an hour's notice or less. Every member of the cast had to be a quick study."[11] Dressler made her professional debut as a chorus girl named Cigarette in the play Under Two Flags, a dramatization of life in the Foreign Legion.[10]

Stage career

[7] Residents of the towns the Koerbers lived in recalled Dressler acting in many amateur productions, and Leila often aggravated her parents with those performances.[4].Lindsay, Ontario at age five in a church theatrical performance in Cupid Her first known acting appearance was as [6].Saginaw, Michigan and Findlay, Ohio, Bay City, Michigan, where Alexander Koerber is known to have worked as a piano teacher in the late 1870s and early 1880s in United States The Koerber family eventually moved to the [6] According to Dressler, the family regularly moved from community to community during her childhood, though this is unconfirmed. There is no information about her childhood education, either. It has been suggested by Cobourg historian Andrew Hewson that Dressler attended a private school, but this is doubtful if Dressler's recollections of the family living in poverty is correct.[5]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.