Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Born Today February 17: Mary Brian


Mary Brain was born Louise Byrdie Dantzler in Corsicana, Texas.  Unfortunately, her father died when she was just a month old and the family moved to Dallas.  In the early 1920's the family relocated to Long Beach, California; where here mother hoped to get her into the motion picture industry.  She was entered into a beauty contest there at the age of 16.  One of the judges was movie star Esther Ralston.  She did not win the $25 dollar first prize, but Ralston, feeling sorry for her, arranged a consolation prize:  an interview with director Herbert Brenon, who was casting for his upcoming production of Peter Pan (1924).  He liked her in the tests for the main part of Wendy Moira Angela Darling; and loved that she was an unknown.  She was put under contract with Paramount Pictures; it was at this time that the studio changed her name to Mary Brian.  She then had very steady work throughout the 1920's.  The studio had put out that she was two years younger than she actually was, and she was eventually dubbed "the sweetest girl in pictures."  By the mid-1920's she had become so popular that Paramount was even willing to loan her out to MGM; which they did for the film Brown Of Harvard (1926).  That same year, along with a host of other young Hollywood luminaries, she was named one of that year's WAMPAS Baby Stars.  During her time with Paramount, she starred in over 40 films.  Her first speaking role came in 1928 with Varsity, a partial silent that had a few talking sequences, with sound by Western Electric (it amongst the long list of lost films, unfortunately). Her first full sound talkie came in 1929 with Black Waters.  Also in 1929, she would have a major role in one the earliest, and most influential, talking westerns, The Virginian, opposite rising star Gary Cooper. The last film that she made in the 1920's was The Marriage Playgrounda return to the partial silent format, with only a few speaking lines.  By the early 1930's, her contract with Paramount was up and she went into freelance mode, unusual for the time. She also got stage experience by performing live vaudeville in New York.  This allowed her to make a successful transition into speaking roles; something that was highly unusual for silent stars that did not start out on the live stage before appearing in films.  She went on to have steady work in film all during the 1930's.  By the early 1940's, she was involved in stage work that took her around the world.  She was also involved in entertaining troops in both the Pacific and Europe live during WWII; she spent Christmas of 1944 with American troops fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.  After this, her acting career began to wane some.  The last full length film that she appeared in was Dragnet in 1947.  In the 1950's she transitioned to television, having a major role as Janet Archer in Meet Corliss Archer (1954-1955), the last acting role that she would have.  After the show was canceled, she quit acting to work with her second husband George Tomasini's work as film editor for Alfred Hitchcock.  Personally, she devoted her time to her lifelong love of portrait painting.  She lived to the age of 96, passing away from natural causes on the 30th of December in 2002 in Del Mar, CA.  She is buried under her married name "Mary Brian Tomasini" Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills location, next to her husband George, who had passed away in 1964.

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