Stars of Vaudeville #222: Marilyn Miller
Originally posted in 2010.
Marilyn Miller (born Mary Ellen Reynolds this day in 1898) began her vaudeville career at age four under the nom de guerre Mademoiselle Sugarlump. From here she joined her family’s musical vaudeville act The Five Columbians, consisting of herself, two siblings and her parents, which is cuter than The Cowsills. After about a decade, she was spotted by Lee Shubert who put her in several of his Passing Show reviews. From here she graduated to Ziegfeld shows. In his autobiography, Eddie Cantor writes movingly how he and his pals Van and Schenck (her co-stars in the Follies of 1919) cheered her up when she learned that her husband Frank Carter had been killed in a car accident. Miller was all of 21 then, a little young to be a widow. She had bad luck in the marriage department. Her next husband (1922-27) was the notorious drunken and syphilitic wastrel Jack Pickford (Mary’s brother). Her main claim to fame was to be Broadway musicals, in which the singing-dancing five foot tall Miller was to star throughout the 1920s and early 30s. She played the title roles in Sally (1920-23), Peter Pan (1924-25), Sunny (1925-26)and Rosalie (1928), and starred also in the Depression era musicals Smiles (1930-31) and As Thousands Cheer (1933-34). She was ripped untimely from this mortal stage in 1936 after going into the hospital for a simple sinus operation.
The 1929 clip below is from her stage and screen hit “Sally”. A couple of minutes into the clip it bursts into glorious Technicolor:
To learn more about the history of show business, 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 please check out 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