Born in 1889, Virginia-born Mae Murray had only been dancing in vaudeville a short while when Irving Berlin discovered her and suggested she perform opposite a pre-Irene Vernon Castle in the 1906 Lew Fields show About Town.
Two years later she was cast in the Ziegfeld Follies, where she was billed as “The Girl with the Bee Stung Lips” and where she would continue to perform through 1915. Dance partners over the years included Clifton Webb and Rudolph Valentino. Starting in the mid teens she was a major star of the silent screen. In 1921 she formed the company Tiffany Pictures with her husband and professional partner, director Robert Z. Leonard. The pair split in 1925.
Talkies and some bad business decisions wrecked her career in by 1931. In the 1940s she was reduced to performing in Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe nostalgia show. After that, she was really on the skids, even to the point of being picked up for vagrancy when she was caught sleeping on a park bench. She passed away in 1965.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc