Marie Dressler

A Biography; With a Listing of Major Stage Performances, a Filmography and a Discography


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About the Book

Early in the century, Marie Dressler was hailed as one of America’s finest comics, with a 20-year string of Broadway and vaudeville successes including The Lady Slavey, Miss Prinnt, Higgledy Piggledy, The Man in the Moon, and Tillie’s Nightmare. She starred with Charlie Chaplin in the first ever feature-length comedy Tillie’s Punctured Romance and later in Min and Bill for which she won an Academy Award. A brilliant comedienne in body, timing, inflection and reactions, her talents far exceeded the expectations of slapstick, and her movies earned sums far greater than those of Garbo, or Harlow, or even Gable.
This work examines Dressler’s life from vaudeville to talkies. Based on extensive research and interviews with Dressler’s surviving friends, co-stars and colleagues, including Maureen O’Sullivan, Jackie Cooper and Anita Page, it details her public and personal successes and failures. A listing of her stage appearances, vocal recordings and films is included.

About the Author(s)

Matthew Kennedy is a film critic for Bright Lights Film Journal. Visit his website at

Bibliographic Details

Matthew Kennedy
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 279
Bibliographic Info: 56 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006 [1999]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2844-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Introduction      1

1. The Koerbers      9
2. The Apprentice      14
3. “Nothing to It but Dressler”      27
4. The London Ache      43
5. A Wretch Named Tillie      59
6. Mack Sennett’s Grand Idea      76
7. Give Till It Hurts      93
8. Ghosts      106
9. The Undying Affection of Friends      121
10. The Raspberry Season      135
11. Anna Christie      147
12. Working      156
13. Queen Marie of Hollywood      171
14. “Careless Rapture”      187
15. Pacific      206

Epilogue      217
Appendix 1: Major Stage Appearances      229
Appendix 2: Filmography      233
Appendix 3: Discography      238
Notes      239
Bibliography      253
Source Institutions      257
Index      259

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Excellent…written with flair and impressively researched, it eloquently conveys the mixture of laughter and tears which marked the comedienne’s art and life…one of the finest McFarland books of recent years”—Past Times
  • “Meticulous research…a must read”—The Silents Majority
  • “Highly readable…Kennedy writes with wit and has performed remarkable research…well-illustrated”—Bay Area Reporter
  • “[Dressler] elevated acting to a craft, infusing her characters with such humanity that she became the biggest star of her day”—Redding Record Searchlight
  • “A box-office champion who topped Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and Mickey Mouse”—Town & Village
  • “Quite a treasure”—Rapport
  • “Scrupulously researched treatise…a must”—David Perry for KALW Radio
  • “one of the great comeback stories in early Hollywood history”—Pacific Film Archive
  • “Marie Dressler[s]…1930s Hollywood movies outgrossed those of Greta Garbo and Clark Gable…Kennedy interviewed Dressler contemporaries including actors Maureen O’Sullivan, Jackie Coogan, Jackie Cooper and Anita Page”—The Toronto Star
  • “Heavy in facts”—Classic Images.