Marie Dressler was a Canadian-American actress and comedian who ruled the stage and screen for 60 years. She had just turned 14 when she left home to become an actress. Her strong will and steely determination helped her keep going through the ups and downs of her acting career, which she did with her talent and skill. Dressler, who was a real fighter, built her career as a member of traveling theater groups. In 1892, she had a bit of luck when she made her Broadway debut. The book “Tillie’s Nightmare” was Dressler’s first big hit. The show was a big success and made her known as an actor. It was also made into the movie “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” and its follow-ups. Dressler’s career began to fall apart in the 1920s. Just when people gave up on her, she had a sort of comeback. The MGM movie “The Callahans and the Murphys” was Dressler’s comeback. Dressler went back to work at the age of 59, which may seem hard to believe. What came next was a string of successful movies that made her even more well-known. She also won the Best Actress Oscar for “Min and Bill.” Even though it may seem strange, her career was cut short when she was told she had cancer.
Early years and childhood
Leila Marie Koerber, who later became Marie Dressler, was born in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, on November 9, 1868. Her parents were Alexander Rudolph Koerber and Anna Henderson. Her parents both played music. She had an elder sister named Bonita Louise Koerber.
Marie got her love of music from her parents when she was young. She would go with her father to St. Peter’s Anglican Church, where he was the organist, often. She would also play the organ and sing on some days.
Marie’s family was always moving from one place to another until they finally settled in the United States, where Marie’s father taught piano in Bay City, Michigan, Findlay, Ohio, and Saginaw.
Marie started acting when she was only five years old. She played Cupid in a church play in Lindsay, Ontario, which was her first time on stage. After that, she did a few amateur productions, which made her parents very unhappy because they didn’t like her acting.
Marie Dressler’s Career
Young Marie’s first experiences with the stage and acting had a big impact on her decision to become an actor. She left home at 14 to join the Nevada Stock Company, which was her dream. During this time, her father told her she couldn’t use the family name Koerber as her stage name, so she changed it to Marie Dressler.
Dressler learned a lot during his time at Nevada Stock Company. She got better at acting by learning the ins and outs of the job. During her time with Nevada Stock Company, Dressler traveled a lot because most of the plays the company put on were for people in the Midwest of the United States.
Dressler’s first time on stage was in the play “Under Two Flags,” where she played a chorus girl named Cigarette. She stayed with the group for the next three years and did a few plays with them before leaving to join the Robert Grau Opera Company.
After a while with the Robert Grau Opera Company, Dressler became a member of the chorus for the Starr Opera Company. She filled in as Katisha in “The Mikado” and Princess Flametta in an 1887 production when the regular actress was sick.
She quit Starr Opera Company and went back to live with her parents in Saginaw for a short time. But Bennett and Moulton Opera Company asked her to join. She was back on the road for the next three years, playing roles in light opera for the company. She worked for the business until 1891.
She moved to Chicago in 1891, where she was cast in “Little Robinson Crusoe” and “The Tar and the Tartar.” She moved to New York City after that. The next year, she made her Broadway debut in “Waldemar, the Robber of the Rhine” at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. Only five weeks of the show were shown.
After her first show, she was in many other plays and shows, such as “Princess Nicotine,” “1492 Up to Date,” “Girofle-Girofla,” “A Stag Party,” and “A Hero in Spite of Himself.”
In 1896, Dressler got her first leading role as Flo in “The Lady Slave” at the Broadway Casino Theatre. The show did incredibly well. The audience loved her funny faces, reactions that were both funny and serious, and double-takes.
Dressler quit the play when it went on tour to Colorado and joined the Rich and Harris touring company instead. In “Hotel Topsy-Turvy” and “The Man in the Moon,” she went back to Broadway.
Dressler started her own theater group in 1900, but it went bankrupt after its first show, “Miss Print,” did not do well.
In 1904, she made a deal with the people who ran the Weber and Fields Music Hall. In the plays “Higgeldy Piggeldy” and “Twiddle Twaddle,” she was the main character.
Dressler met James Henry “Jim” Dalton for the first time in 1907. They moved to London, where she performed at the Palace Theatre of Varieties. She also tried to come up with a different version of “Higgeldy Piggeldy” at the same time. Dressler lost his money for the second time in a row because of the show. She went back to New York and got a job on Broadway again.
Dressler made a few records for Edison Records in 1909 and 1910. She then went on to act in “Tillie’s Nightmare,” a play that didn’t do well, in Albany, Chicago, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. Dressler made a few changes to the show right before it started on Broadway. “Tillie’s Nightmare” was Dressler’s biggest hit on stage and his best work.
Dressler was named President of the Chorus Equity Association in 1919 when it had just been set up. Dressler went back to vaudeville with the Schubert Organization after a few shows that didn’t do well.
Dressler went to Europe for a long time in 1922, but he couldn’t sell a movie script there. She went back to New York,
but she was always having trouble because she couldn’t find work. Dressler did a few shows here and there, but in 1926, as part of an Old Timers’ bill at the Palace Theatre, it was his last time on Broadway.
Dressler was also known for her work on the big screen, as well as on stage. “Tillie’s Punctured Romance,” a full-length movie, was her first time on the big screen. Dressler’s hit show “Tillie’s Nightmare” was the inspiration for the movie. The movie was a big hit, and two sequels and other comedies came after it.
Dressler quit the show business in 1925 after a string of failures. But she didn’t stay out of acting for long. She came back for Allan Dwan’s “The Jot Girl.” Dressler had given up after all of her failures, but the movie gave her a new lease on life.
Frances Marion, who works as a screenwriter for MGM studio, helped Dressler get back into acting. Dressler got a part in ‘The Callahans and the Murphys,’ a wild silent comedy, in 1927 because he asked MGM’s boss, Irving Thalberg, for it. The movie was a big hit, and it helped Dressler get his career back on track.
After her part in “The Callahans and the Murphys,” Dressler had a small part in “Breakfast at Sunrise,” which was the first movie made in the United States. Later, she was cast in “Bringing Up Father” with Moran.
In the 1928 MGM movie “The Patsy,” Dressler played Marion Davies’s and Jane Winston’s mother, who is a nervous wreck. The movie was a big success.
When Hollywood switched from silent to talking movies, it opened up more doors for Dressler. Marion persuaded Thalberg to give Dressler the part of Marthy in the movie “Anna Christie” in 1930. Critics and people in the audience both loved her right away because of how talented she was. MGM hired her because of how good she was on screen.
Dressler became MGM’s hottest star and a big box office draw. She was the lead in both funny and serious movies. In “Min and Bill,” she was paired with Wallace Berry, who played Bill. She won the Oscar for Best Actress because of how well she did in the movie. In 1932, she was nominated again for her lead role in “Emma.”
Dressler was the main character in four movies in 1933. These were “Going Hollywood,” “Dinner at Eight,” “Tugboat Annie,” and “Christopher Bean.” In 1934, when her career was coming back like a fairy tale, she was told she had cancer that would kill her. Dressler kept acting even though she knew she was dying. She was in more than forty movies. The last few years of her life were when she did the best work.
Works of note
Dressler’s best work was when she was in the play “Tillie’s Nightmare,” which was a huge hit. The play was a huge success and became Dressler’s first masterpiece on stage. The movie “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” and its sequels were made from it.
When she was cast in MGM movies in the late 1920s, her career took off again. During this time, she sang hit after hit in all kinds of styles, from funny to sad to serious. In the 1930 movie “Min and Bill,” which won her an Academy Award, she did her best work.
Awards & Achievements
She was nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Actress, and she won once, for the 1931 movie “Min and Bill.”
She has a star at 1731 Vine Street on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Personal History and Legacies
Dressler got married twice during her life. The first was to an American named George Hoeppert in 1899. Dressler became an American citizen when he got married. But the marriage didn’t last, and the two broke up.
Dressler met Jim Dalton, a businessman from Maine, for the first time in 1907. The pair got married in Europe the following year. They were married until Dalton died in 1921.
Dressler moved in with her friend Nella Webb after Dalton died. She moved to Los Angeles in 1929 and then to Beverly Hills after that. She lived with her maid Mamie and her husband Jerry during her last years.
Dressler was told she had terminal cancer just as her career was getting back on track and she was having great success in movies. She died in Santa Barbara, California, on July 28, 1934, when she was 65 years old.
In 1937, her house in Cobourg, Ontario, which is now called the “Marie Dressler House,” was turned into a restaurant. It was still in use until 1989. After a fire destroyed it, it was fixed up and turned into the office of the Cobourg Chamber of Commerce. It is now used as a museum.
As part of its “Canada in Hollywood” series, Canada Post honored Marie Dressler with a postage stamp on June 30, 2008, for her work in the movie business.
Estimated Net worth
Marie is one of the wealthiest actresses in movies and is on the list of the most popular actresses. Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider all say that Marie Dressler has a net worth of about $1.5 million.