This is Marie Dressler. You can see her sense of humor, the very devil in her eyes. I don't know when the photo was taken, but it's another in a collection of photos in a book called Stars of the Photoplay, published in 1930.
She would have been 62 in 1930 (reportedly born in 1868), but the brief bio that accompanies the pic says she was born three years later in 1871. If, as was a lady's privilege, she lied about her age, she probably did not bother to relate to the publisher that this was not a current picture.
Or perhaps the studio photographer's magic was just at work here. I particularly love that all the photos in the book - big, page-sized portraits - are done in sepia tone. I think of the Thirties more as sepia than as black-and-white, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps all the sepia family photos, or the brown paper sleeves that held the 78 rpm records passed down to me, or the fact that my mother, in her Depression-era teens had a pair of saddle shoes that were brown and white, not black and white as in the 1950s.
Marie Dressler, who had a string of bad luck in middle age when stage parts dried up, was in financial difficulty when suddenly in 1927, a return to silent movies gave her career a lift and made her famous. It was a glorious end to the Jazz Age for her (a decade which, earlier, she had lamented was youth-obsessed), and the Great Depression and the coming of talkies seemed no great threat to the likes of this enormously talented actress. On the contrary, she could sling lines with the best of them.
But we were not long into the sepia decade when Dressler died in 1934. Being a woman in her early sixties did not keep her from being a star, successful in an industry where that was unusual. It took cancer to beat her.
I'm sorry I missed commenting on Miss Dressler when TCM programmed her movies in June when she was Star of the Month. I've always felt a special affinity to Marie Dressler when my mother told me that my grandmother, who was an immigrant to this country and did not speak English, loved Miss Dressler. She was my grandmother's favorite movie star. She didn't need to understand English for silent films, when pantomime told the story very nicely, thank you.
I wonder if she felt a sense of loss when her favorite movie star began to speak, and she couldn't understand her? Was it almost as great a sense of loss as when she died?
The audio book for Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is now for sale on Audible.com, and on Amazon and iTunes.
Also in paperback and eBook from Amazon.