Glamour Queen of the Universe

November 1, 2010 at 4:18 am (Photo Gallery)

Painting by Henry Clive.

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When she’s remembered at all, Mae Murray is remembered for the title role of Stroheim’s The Merry Widow (1925). That’s a great film. She does a good job in it and she gets to show off her dancing, but it’s really no more representative of her career than Night of the Hunter is representative of Lillian Gish’s.

Mae established herself as a screen beauty in the late 1910s, starring in a number of melodramas of which the most familiar example today is the ridiculous potboiler A Mormon Maid (1917). At the end of the decade, she transitioned into a genre all her own, with films centered on show business, exotic costumes, tangled romance and often a dash of crime. It was a highly successful formula, particularly when the script left room for a specialty dance number or two.

But audiences began to tire of the formula by the mid-1920s. Age, scandal and a frosty relationship with studio boss Louis B. Mayer hobbled her career further, and it sputtered out shortly after the talkie revolution.

But in her heyday, she was the most glamorous star on the screen. Here’s a look back.

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A 1920 lobby card.

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Detail from a lobby card for Peacock Alley (1922), with Monte Blue.

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Detail from a trade magazine advertisement, 1922.

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Mae vamps bullfighter Robert Frazer with her “dance of the bull” in Fascination (1922).

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Detail from a poster for Broadway Rose (1922).

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Detail from a lobby card for The French Doll (1923), showing the patented skyward gaze that was her most familiar expression. Hey, whatever works.

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– – – Christopher Snowden

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