American Vaudeville Museum

All material © 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc.  Page 43

Marie Dressler

1868 – 1934

So enshrined in the hearts of fans and so mighty as a box office draw was Marie Dressler at the end of her career that she was known as Queen Marie, America’s Most Beloved Star.  This despite the competition of glamorous romantic actresses such as Constance Bennett, Norma Shearer, Myrna Loy, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Kay Francis, Mae West, Claudette Colbert and Garbo.

It wasn’t always so.  Over the course of a career spanning half a century, the big little girl from the Canadian outback struggled to win her place in the limelight. Dressler was regarded as homely and elephantine. While larger and taller than most women of her day, she was hardly a giant at 5’ 7” and she weighed less than 200 pounds for most of her life.

Marie found a niche in comic opera and after she had established herself as a valued comedian able to sing well, dance, turn somersaults and take falls, she rose to leading roles in musical comedies and revues and headliner status in vaudeville.

Dressler was a press agent’s dream and a reporter’s best friend. In the bright spotlight of publicity, Marie announced all her enthusiasms, broke contracts, sued adversaries, worked hard for the rights of performers—including the lowly, ill-paid chorus girls, even got into a brawl or two.

But Marie kept her personal life in a shade of lies, half truths and evasions.