Mary Ann Jackson: Baby with a Bob

A tribute today to child actress Mary Ann Jackson (1923-2003).

There were many performing Jacksons, beginning with her mother Charlotte (1891-1992), who presumably had a stage career before she appeared in the 1921 film adaptation of George M. Cohan’s A Prince There Was with Thomas Meighan and Mildred Harris. Meanwhile, she’d become a stage mother to her oldest daughter Peaches, who started working in films regularly in 1917 at age four.

By comparison, Mary Ann was a prodigy — she was in movies from age two. She initially worked in Mack Sennett comedies, often as the baby sister of Alice Day: Dangerous Curves Behind (1925), Gooseland (1926), Spanking Breezes (1926), Hooked at the Altar (1926), Muscle Bound Music (1926), and Puppy Love Time (1926) were all made for Sennett, casting toddler Jackson amongst the likes of Andy Clyde, Billy Bevan, Eddie Quillan and Barney Hellum.

Next Sennett put her in the Smith Family series with Raymond McKee and Ruth Hiatt. Jackson played “Bubbles”in 30 of these popular shorts between 1926 and 1929. This gig gave Charlotte’s career a little boost as well; she was given small roles in five of the Smith comedies.

In 1928, Mary Ann began appearing in a second series of comedy shorts, the one she is best known for today, Our Gang. Fairly unusually, her time with both series overlapped for over a year. She was thus simultaneously working for Sennett and his competitor Hal Roach. At this stage, Mary Ann had a little bob haircut in emulation of Louise Brooks. Her character with Our Gang was sort of a feisty tom-boy, not the kewpie doll cutie pie most of the lead girls with the series were. She often played Wheezer’s older sister. She appeared in close to 3 dozen Our Gang shorts through 1931. Just as Mary Ann was aging out of the series at age 8, her little brother Dickie joined the Gang. He appeared in the comedy series through 1933.

Mary Ann also had bit parts in a couple of features: Laughing Sinners (1931) with Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, and Stage Mother (1933) with Alice Brady. She came back one last time as an extra in Her First Beau (1941) with Jane Withers, Jackie Cooper and Edith Fellows. After this her time in films was over. Her interesting if short career had bridged the last days of silents and the earliest days of sound. Mary Ann Jackson married in 1943, later worked in a department store and remained in Los Angeles all her life.

For more on Our Gang, please check out my 100th anniversary podcast episode here.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube,