Monday, September 24, 2012

And Then There's Maude

Laugh and Get Rich (1931) is a cute little diversion with a familiar plot: good-natured blowhard gets the family into financial trouble, then gets into bigger trouble trying to get them out of it.  Hugh Herbert is the blowhard, Edna May Oliver his long-suffering wife, and cute-as-a-button Dorothy Lee is their daughter whose love life inadvertently saves the day.   Simple, amusing, and the perfect movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The one person I enjoyed most however had little to do with the plot, and she was barely in the movie:

(photo courtesy Can't Stop the Movies)

Maude Fealy plays Miss Teasdale, a throwaway character who adds some comic relief in the beginning and end of the picture.  She has a couple of lines, and is instantly forgettable.  But!  How much fun it was to see her, especially when she's more familiar like this:

Born Maude Hawke in 1881, her elegant and heartfelt stage portrayal of Juliet in (what else?) Romeo and Juliet put her on the map.  Two years later, at only age sixteen, William Gillette himself selected her as his leading lady.  She was supremely talented, well-regarded, and -- as you can see -- colossally beautiful.  Having performed in films for them in 1911 and 1912, Thanhouser signed her to an exclusive contract in 1913; to get such a stage actress as her was a VERY BIG DEAL™.  She quickly became their most publicized photoplayer:

Fealy acted with Thanhouser until 1914, then went back to the stage, perfoming only sporadically in films (and then mostly around 1915-1917) until her bit parts in the 30s and 40s.  She also ran a drama school in Colorado.  Cecil B DeMille, a long-time friend of hers, always made sure she had a role in whatever picture he was working on -- her last being a laborer's wife, as well as voice dubbing, in 1956's The Ten Commandments.  Maude Fealy died in her sleep in 1971, at age 88.  Her funeral arrangements and interment were courtesy DeMille, who had provided for them in his will (he predeceased her in 1959).  

(Much thanks to the Thanhouser website for biographical info -- I have become quite the Thanhouser junkie!)

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