Stage and screen beauty Marie Doro (Marie Katherine Stewart, 1882-1956) was born 140 years ago this day!
Born in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, Doro grew up mostly in Kansas City, where she made her stage debut as a child in local melodramas. By the age of 20 she had arrived in New York. A small role in The Billionaire (1902) brought her to Broadway and the attention of Charles Frohman, who thenceforth became her manager and producer. Doro’s name was especially association with shows starring actor/manager William Gillette, appearing with him in the 1903 American debut of Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton; his famous production of Sherlock Holmes (1905-06, a British tour during which she was ogled over by fellow cast member Charlie Chaplin, who mentions the connection in his Autobiography), Clarice (1906), Electricity (1910), and a 1914 revival of Sardou’s Diplomacy (1914). She starred in J.M. Barrie’s Little Mary (1904), and Clyde Fitch’s Granny (1904). In 1912 she starred as the title character in a version of Oliver Twist which also featured Nat C. Goodwin and Constance Collier, and in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience opposite DeWolf Hopper.
Frohman’s death on the Lusitania in 1915 caused a major career switch that year. She married former vaudeville actor Elliott Dexter that year, and both of them went into silent films. Doro’s first moving picture The Morals of Marcus (1915) was an adaptation of a play she had appeared in, in 1907. In 1916, she also filmed screen version of her stage hits Oliver Twist and Diplomacy. All told, she starred in 18 films through 1923, by which point she had divorced Dexter. Her last film was Sally Bishop (1923).
After living in Europe for a time, Doro returned to the U.S. where she spent her last years immersed in religion and spiritualism, avoiding all contact with all of her old show business colleagues. For more on Marie Doro’s life and career, see this nice tribute on The Pennsylvania Rambler.
For more on vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.