Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tugboat Goddess

Marie Dressler! The unlikeliest superstar of the early talkies - a small mountain of a Vaudeville trouper with a face like a bull dog and a figure like the Rock of Gibraltar.

She had soldiered through three decades of an up-and-down career on stage and screen before MGM, desperate for voices, grabbed her, discovered what it had, and treasured her as it did few stars.

She had the most roguish stare this side of Valentino:

And when she stared through a lorgnette, it was never in disapproval, but only genuine confusion:

She had started out as a kind of frightening ingenue:

But wound up the toast of Hollywood, as evidenced by the starry company she kept:

A Barrymore, a Trouper, and the Boss's Wife's Patented Expression...

She played tragic, in Anna Christie with Garbo, and she played high comedy, stretching double takes into triples and quadruples in Dinner at Eight. She played opposite Gish, Harlow, Wallace Beery, Marion Davies, and a brace of Barrymores, among others.

She said, "I have played my life as a comedy rather than the tragedy many would have made of it," and that's something useful for all of us, I think. Her autobiography is The Life Story of an Ugly Duckling; I think she should have named it after another one of her pictures: The Divine Lady.

1 comment:

  1. I saw Dinner at Eight again recently and Marie is the best thing in it, which is saying a lot considering who the rest of that gang was.