Violet MacMIllan (1887-1955) was a teenager in Grand Rapids who entered show business by way of a “Cinderella Girl” contest to discover the girl with the tiniest foot. By 1904 (age 17), she was on Broadway, playing Stella Mayhew’s friend in Flo-Flo. Three additional Broadway shows followed: The Time, the Place, and The Girl (1907-08); The Young Turk (1910); and Girlies (1910).
In 1914 she began working for L. Frank Baum at the Oz Manufacturing Company. There, she made her first three movies that year: The Patchwork Girl of Oz, in which she played Ojo; The Magic Cloak, in which she portrayed King Bud; and The New Wizard of Oz, a.k.a. His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz, in which she got to play Dorothy herself. Also for Baum she starred in a series of films as a girl named Claribel who dreamed fantastic adventures: these included A Box of Bandits (1915), The Country Circus (1915), The Magic Bon Bons (1915), and In Dreamy Jungletown (1916). A fifth film Like Babes in the Woods (1917) appears to have been constructed out of pre-existing footage.
Among her couple of dozen other movies, was in a very early Rolin short for Hal Roach called The Hungry Actors (1915) with Harold Lloyd, and an early Al Christie short called Mrs. Plum’s Pudding (1915) with Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran. In between films, starting in 1916, MacMillan appeared in vaudeville in an act called “In and Out of the Movies”. After 1920, she was definitely “out” of the movies. Her last cinematic project was the serial The Mystery Mind (1920), about a Satanic gang out to get the lost treasure of Atlantis, in which she co-starred with vaudeville hypnotist J. Robert Pauline. Altogether, MacMillan appeared in 28 pictures from 1914 through 1920.
After retiring from show business she married an industrial executive and returned to Grand Rapids — much like Dorothy returned to Kansas following her whirlwind adventures in Oz. ‘
For more on silent film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube; and for more about the history of vaudeville please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous
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