Madge Evans: Child of Stage and Screen

When MargheritaMadge” Evans (1909-1981) chalked up her final screen credit in 1958 she had been a professional for nearly a half century. She started out as a child model at age two, in ads for companies like Fairy Soap and Anheuser-Busch. She appeared as a child actress in productions by William A. Brady. In 1914 (age 5) she began appearing in films. You can see her in dozens of movies as a juvenile through 1924, including The Sign of the Cross (1914), Alias Jimmy Valentine (1915), Zaza (1915), Maternity (1917), Heidi (1920, the title role), and On the Banks of the Wabash (1923).

At 17, she turned to Broadway, starring in George Kelly’s Daisey Mayme (1926-27), Noel Coward’s The Marquise (1927-28), Somerset Maugham’s Our Betters (1928), and Philip Goes Forth (1931), also by Kelly. This experience made her viable to star in talkies. Following several Vitaphone shorts she made on the East Coast in 1930, she headed to Hollywood in 1931. Her best remembered films are Hallelujah I’m a Bum with Al Jolson, Frank Morgan and Harry Langdon; The Nuisance with Lee Tracy; the all-star Dinner at Eight; Broadway to Hollywood (all 1933); George Kelly’s The Show Off (1934); Stand Up and Cheer (1934); David Copperfield (1935); Pennies from Heaven (1936) and the 1937 version of The Thirteenth Chair. Her last Hollywood film was Army Girl (1938). She then returned to Broadway for Philip Barry’s Here Come the Clowns (1938) directed by Eddie Dowling. In 1939 she married playwright Sidney Kingsley, starring in the original production of his play The Patriots in 1943. She returned to acting in 1949 to star in live television drama, acting in over a dozen productions through 1958. She and Kingsley spent their last decades together in Oakland, New Jersey.

For more on show business history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on early film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.