How Fate Said “Nay” to Marion Aye

Marion Aye (1903-1951) had a fairly good run of about six years in silent film, mostly comedies, culminating with a fairly abrupt parting of the ways, and eventually tragedy.

The daughter of a Chicago lawyer, she eloped with 28 year old Sherman William Plaskett in 1918 when she was only 15 years old. He died of the Spanish flu just a few months later.

Shortly after this she was in Long Beach, California with her mother, where she was discovered by Mack Sennett and cast as one of his Bathing Beauties. It has been written that she worked for the Balboa Amusement Company prior to this, but given that that studio folded in 1918, and Aye is not credited to any of their films, the footnote is a bit of a question mark. At any rate, as a Sennett Bathing Girl she appeared in the shorts Why Beaches Are Popular (a promotional short for A Yankee Doodle in Berlin) and Hearts and Flowers, both in 1919.

Aye’s first proper role was in the Fox short Pretty Lady (1920) with Slim Summerville, Ethel Teare, Bobby Dunn and Kewpie Morgan. Then came two Larry Semon shorts, The Hick and The Sportsman, both 1921.

Most of Aye’s films between 1921 and 1924 were westerns. Occasionally her name was spelled in the credits as “Maryon Aye”. In 1922 she was elected to the prestigious roster of WAMPAS Baby Stars, which often meant a significant career boost. But in the case of Marion Aye, oddly not so. She normally played supporting parts, often quite far down in the pecking order of credits. She did however get to co-star in a couple of comedy shorts in 1922, The Weak-End Party with Stan Laurel, and The Punctured Prince with Bull Montana.She was fourth-billed in The Meanest Man in the World (1923) with Bert Lytell and Blanche Sweet. 

By Star Dust Trail, through, released at the end of 1924, her role is simply “girl”. There were only two film credits after this, a supporting role in Irene (1926) with Colleen Moore, and a walk-on in Up the River (1930). This abrupt falling-off may have had to do with the break-up of her second marriage, to publicist Harry Wilson. The years of their marriage (1920-24) seem to coincide very neatly with her years of promise. She was only 21 at the time of the divorce. It may well have been that she simply didn’t have the tools to self-promote and get herself out there.

When her film career evaporated, Aye filled up the slack with dates in vaudeville, as long as it lasted, which was the early 1930s. In 1935 she attempted suicide with poison. The following year, she married a comedian named Ross Forrester, and appears to have gotten a new lease on life for a time. In 1951, despondent over a TV role she didn’t get, she took a fistful of bi-chloride of mercury tablets, once used as a syphilis cure. She died 11 days later.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube