Marie Dressler was born as Leila Marie Koerber in Cobourg on November 9, 1869. She went on to become one of the great Hollywood movie stars of her time. Her heritage home on King street, Cobourg, now houses a museum about her lifehome. More about Cobourg. A lot more about Marie at the Marie Dressler web site.
Once you saw her, you would not forget her. Despite her age and weight, she became one of the top box office draws of the sound era. She was 14 when she joined a theater group and she went on to work on stage and in light opera. By 1892, she was on Broadway and she later became a star comedienne on the vaudeville circuit. In 1910, she had a hit with 'Tillie's nightmare' which Mack Sennett adapted to film in 1914 as 'Tillie's Punctured Romance' with Charles Chaplin. Marie took top billing over a young Chaplin, but her film career never took off and by 1918, she was out of films and out of work. Her role in the chorus girls' strike of 1917 had her blacklisted from the theaters. In 1927, MGM screenwriter Frances Marion got her a small part in 'The Joy Girl' and then a co-starring lead with Polly Moran in The Callahans and the Murphys (1927). It was a slow return in films but her popularity continued to grow. But it would be sound that made her a star again. Anna Christie (1930) was the movie where Garbo talks, but everyone noticed Marie as Marthy. In another film from the same year, Min and Bill (1930) she would receive an Academy Award for her dramatic performance. She would receive another Academy Award nomination for 'Emma (1932)'. In 1933, she would be the top box office star of one poll who could easily switch between drama and comedy. She had more success with 'Dinner at Eight' and 'Tugboat Annie' in 1933. In 1934, cancer would claim her.
Marie Dressler (born November 9, 1868; died July 28, 1934) was a Canadian actress.
Born Leila Marie Koerber in Cobourg, Ontario to parents Alexander Rudolph Koerber (who was Austrian) and Anna Henderson. Being a large kid, she spent a lot of time developing the defensive mechanisms a lot of chubby kids become good at. The young Marie Dressler was able to hone her talents to make other people laugh, and at 14 years old she began her acting career in theatre. In 1892 she made her debut on Broadway. At first she hoped to make a career of singing light opera, but then gravitated to vaudeville.
During the early 1900s, she became a major vaudeville star. With her In 1902, she met fellow Canadian, Mack Sennett, and helped him get a job in the theatre. In addition to her stage work, Dressler recorded for Edison Records in 1909 and 1910. After Sennett became the owner of his namesake motion picture studio, he convinced Dressler to star in his 1914 film Tillie's Punctured Romance opposite Sennett’s newly discovered actor, Charlie Chaplin. Dressler appeared in two more "Tillie" sequels plus other comedies until 1918 when she returned to work in vaudeville.
In 1919, during the Actors' Equity strike in New York city, the Chorus Equity Association was formed and voted Dressler its first president.
In 1927, she had been secretly blacklisted by the theater production companies due to her strong stance in a labor dispute. It would turn out to be another Canadian who gave her the opportunity to return to motion pictures, MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer who called her "the most adored person ever to set foot in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio."
A robust woman of very plain features, Marie Dressler’s comedy films were very popular with the movie-going public and an equally lucrative investment for MGM. Although past sixty years of age, she quickly became Hollywood’s number one box office attraction and stayed on top for two straight years. In addition to her comedic genius and her natural elegance, she also demonstrated her considerable talents by taking on serious roles. For her starring portrayal in Min and Bill, co-starring Wallace Beery, she won the 1931 Academy Award for Best Actress. Dressler was nominated again for Best Actress for her 1932 role as Emma. With that film, Dressler demonstrated her profound generosity to other performers: Dressler personally insisted that her studio bosses cast a friend of hers and then largely unknown young actor, Richard Cromwell, in the lead opposite her. It was a break that helped launch his career.
Dressler followed these successes with more hits in 1933 (like the wonderful comedy Dinner at Eight, in which she played an aging and poor former stage actress) and made the cover of the August 7, 1933 issue of Time magazine. However, her career came to an abrupt end when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. MGM head Louis B. Mayer learned of Dressler's illness from her doctor and asked that she not be told. To keep her home, he ordered her not to travel on her vacation because he wanted to put her in a new film. Dressler was furious but complied.
In Anna Christie starring Greta Garbo, Dressler had a supporting role as Marthy, a waterfront tramp. That same year, audiences saw her Oscar-winning performance in Min and Bill, and she soon rivaled Garbo in popularity.