Friday Glam Spam: Mary Philbin

Image Source: Starlight Archives

While last week’s Friday Glam Spam featured Olga Baclanova, the villainess from 1928’s seminal horror tragedy The Man Who Laughs, this week I’ve chosen to spotlight the love interest of the film, actress Mary Philbin (1903 – 1993), who is perhaps better known for her role as the fated Christine in the 1925 silent version of The Phantom of the Opera (dir. Rupert Julian) alongside the legendary Lon Chaney. Born in Chicago to intensely Irish Catholic parents, “Little Mary” became obsessed with film as a teenager after discovering the work of Erich von Stroheim, and, determined to land a career in motion pictures (and someday work with the great director), entered a beauty contest held by Universal Pictures in 1919 and won. However, more helpful to her career than her exquisite beauty was her close personal friendship with Carla Laemmle, the niece of the mighty Universal mogul Carl Laemmle. The demure and pious Mary made thirty-one films between 1921 and 1929, but sadly her talent did not survive the transition to sound; she fell into relative obscurity and lived the life of a hermit, never marrying and not even appearing in public between the years of 1931 and 1988, when she reemerged briefly to attend memorial services for Rudolph Valentino. She died an unknown from complications of pneumonia at age 89. To learn more about Mary Philbin, there is a surprisingly thorough biography up at IMDb. I’ve always found her to be an… interesting actress, in that, while she is completely charming in her innocence, her acting is a bit like someone trying to speak to you in American Sign Language and smacking you in the face. She’s not subtle about it, but she’s nice to look at, and you can’t help but love her for trying. You can tell from many of these photos that she probably benefited a lot from her resemblance to that other famous Mary, Mary Pickford, especially when she did her hair up in ringlets in the classic Pickford style. Even if she’s not the best actress, she was a beautiful girl, and her role in the history of horror film makes her an excellent candidate for this chilly October Friday Glam Spam.

Image Source: FanPix.Net

Image Source: Find A Grave

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Image Source: FanPix.Net

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1 Comment

  1. Jules

     /  October 24, 2010

    Oh, I love the pic with the dolls!!

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