Mary Brian: The Sweetest Girl in Pictures

Texas-born Louise Byrdie Dantzler (1906-2002) was discovered at age 16 by Esther Ralston in a local beauty pageant whilst residing in Long Beach California. Ralston brought her to the attention of director Herbert Brenon, who cast her as Wendy in Peter Pan (1924). Renamed “Mary Brian”, and dubbed “The Sweetest Girl in Pictures”, she was to appear in nearly 80 films over the next 20-plus years. Becoming one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1926 didn’t hurt a bit.

Brian appeared in three films with W.C. Fields, which is how she first gained our notice: Running Wild (1927), Two Flaming Youths (1927) and Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935). Other films of note include the original version of Beau Geste (1926) with Ronald Colman, an adaptation of the comic trip Harold Teen (1928), the first talkie version of The Virginian (1929) with Gary Cooper, The Royal Family of Broadway (1930), the original version of The Front Page (1931), and Moonlight and Pretzels (1933). As the thirties wore on, the films grew less distinguished. After service in the U.S.O. during World War II, she made her last film a B-movie called Dragnet (1947), that was unrelated to Jack Webb’s later series. In the ’50s she worked sporadically in television. Her last credit was as a regular on the 1954 series Meet Corliss Archer.