Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Mae Murray - The Girl with the Bee Stung Lips

Mae Murray (1889-1965) was Hollywood's “The Girl with the Bee Stung Lips”

Also know as “The Gardenia of the Screen”, Mae was born Marie Adrienne Koenig in Virginnia, USA. She took to the stage at an early and first appeared on Broadway partnering the ballroom dance star Vernon Castle in the 1906 show “About Town”. Soon after this initial break through, she joined the chorus line of the Ziegfeld Follies and by 1915 she was one of their headline names appearing in shows in Paris partnering such names as Rudolph Valentino and Clifton Webb.

A move into film followed in 1916 with “To Have and to Hold” with Wallace Reid; with stardom following soon after, with her becoming one of MGM’s top names, often appearing with the leading matinee idols of the day. Many of her films include choreographed dance sequences created especially for her talents as a dancer. She was married four times including to Robert Leonard, who wrote and produced several films in which she starred.

It was an unfortunate combination of; a voice unsuitable for talkies and her fourth marriage to Prince David Mdvani that caused her decline. Her husband took control of her business affairs and his advice to leave MGM was the career killer. After they divorced she grew more eccentric eventually declaring herself bankrupt and living the rest of her life in poverty.

(possibly incomplete) 

1916 - To Have and to Hold
1916 - Sweet Kitty Bellairs
1916 - The Dream Girl
1916 - The Big Sister
1916 - The Plow Girl

1917 - On Record
1917 - A Mormon Maid
1917 - The Primrose Ring
1917 - At First Sight
1917 - Princess Virtue
1917 - Face Value

1918 - The Bride's Awakening
1918 - Her Body in Bond
1918 - Modern Love
1918 - The Taming of Kaiser Bull
1918 - Danger, Go Slow

1919 - The Scarlet Shadow
1919 - The Twin Pawns
1919 - The Delicious Little Devil
1919 - What Am I Bid?
1919 - Big Little Person
1919 - The ABC of Love

1920 - On with the Dance
1920 - Right to Love
1920 - Idols of Clay

1921 - The Gilded Lily

1922 - Peacock Alley
1922 - Fascination
1922 - Broadway Rose

1923 - Jazzmania
1923 - The French Doll
1923 - Fashion Row

1924 - Mademoiselle Midnight
1924 - Circe, the Enchantress

1925 - The Merry Widow
1925 - The Masked Bride

1926 - Valencia

1927 - Altars of Desire

1930 - Peacock Alley

1931 - Bachelor Apartment
1931 - High Stakes

Plus several films as producer.
1949 - Dick Barton Strikes Back
1950 - Shadow of the Past
1950 - Come Dance With Me

Magazine Cover Art

Cover art c1920

Cover art by Marland Stone

As one of the leading star of the silent film era many works of art were inspired by her looks. Many studio stills and portrait photograph together with the commercial illustrations created for the covers of fan magazines like, Motion Picture, Classic and Picture Play. As with modern stars with their image rights Mae's face was used on collectors cards, postcards, cigarette cards, toffee tins and on advertisements to sell anything and everything.

  The early film poster are works of art - sadly the artist are usually unknown. Here are a few.


Later in her career she appeared at the New York hotspot, Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe, sadly she refused to accept the limitation of her age and appeared in heavy unflattering make up. Sadly her dance routines received mixed reviews. Her authorised biography The Self-Enchanted was compiled by Jane Ardmore with Mae's assistance; was published in 1959. Second hand copies are available - click on title to find a copy - The Self-Enchanted

MORE News - direct from Mae's great grand niece "she was reported to have been born Marie Adrienne Koenig (note spelling) in Portsmouth, Virginia, but Murray family lore (still trying to get a birth certificate) has her born a Murray in County Monaghan, Ireland. Also the “authorised biography” by Jane Ardmore has been largely discredited. A new biography is being published later this year, but perpetuates the Koenig name, although it has her as being born in New York City." -- SEE below for the book.

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