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Mae Murray

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Also Known As: Marie Adrienne Koening Died: March 23, 1965
Born: May 10, 1889 Cause of Death: complications from a stroke
Birth Place: Portsmouth, Virginia, USA Profession: actor, dancer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Dazzling blonde star of the silent screen, a self-described "golden dragonfly" who made "Sunset Boulevard"'s Norma Desmond seem as normal as apple pie. Brought up by her grandmother, Murray was dancing before she was a teenager, and in her 20s appeared in the "Ziegfeld Follies" of 1908, 1909 and 1915. She also jumped on the ballroom dancing bandwagon of the times and made a name for herself as a minor-league Irene Castle. Paramount's Adolph Zukor discovered her in 1915 and whisked her off to Hollywood, where he tried to make her into a second Mary Pickford in films like "To Have and to Hold" (her first, 1915), Cecil B. DeMille's "The Dream Girl" (1916), and "Princess Virtue" (1917). Several of her films were directed by Robert Z Leonard, whom Murray married in 1918. In 1917, she and Leonard joined Universal, where they opened their own production unit, Bluebird.The Leonards became the Golden Couple of Hollywood in the late 1910s and early '20s, throwing wild parties, traveling the world and somehow finding the time to make a series of popular films (among them "Danger--Go Slow", 1918; "The Delicious Little Devil", 1919; "Idols of Clay", 1920). In 1922, the Leonards signed with Metro's Louis B Mayer...

Dazzling blonde star of the silent screen, a self-described "golden dragonfly" who made "Sunset Boulevard"'s Norma Desmond seem as normal as apple pie. Brought up by her grandmother, Murray was dancing before she was a teenager, and in her 20s appeared in the "Ziegfeld Follies" of 1908, 1909 and 1915. She also jumped on the ballroom dancing bandwagon of the times and made a name for herself as a minor-league Irene Castle. Paramount's Adolph Zukor discovered her in 1915 and whisked her off to Hollywood, where he tried to make her into a second Mary Pickford in films like "To Have and to Hold" (her first, 1915), Cecil B. DeMille's "The Dream Girl" (1916), and "Princess Virtue" (1917). Several of her films were directed by Robert Z Leonard, whom Murray married in 1918. In 1917, she and Leonard joined Universal, where they opened their own production unit, Bluebird.

The Leonards became the Golden Couple of Hollywood in the late 1910s and early '20s, throwing wild parties, traveling the world and somehow finding the time to make a series of popular films (among them "Danger--Go Slow", 1918; "The Delicious Little Devil", 1919; "Idols of Clay", 1920). In 1922, the Leonards signed with Metro's Louis B Mayer to produce films under the Tiffany label, making eight, all big hits and showcases for Murray's imperious blonde beauty and flamboyant, precious performance style. Among the features were "Fascination" (1922), "Jazzmania" (1923) and "Circe the Enchantress" (1924). The Leonards split up in 1924, but Murray went on to her greatest success the following year.

The newly-formed MGM put the volatile combination of Murray, leading man John Gilbert and director Erich von Stroheim together and after nearly a year of fireworks and nervous breakdowns, they produced the classic "The Merry Widow" (1925). After three more MGM films, Murray ran out on her contract to marry specious 'Prince' David Mdivani. She made occasional stage appearances and then seemingly retired before resurfacing in New York in 1930, with a son, broke and husbandless. After three low-budget talkies ("Peacock Alley", 1930; "Bachelor Apartment" and "High Stakes", both 1931), her career was over.

Murray spent the next three decades wandering from coast to coast, her mental and financial condition worsening from year to year. Finally--probably suffering from Alzheimer's--she wound up in a nursing home, where she died in 1965. "You don't have to keep making movies to remain a star," the fascinating ex-diva said to the end, "once you become a star, you are always a star."

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 High Stakes (1931) Dolly Jordan Lennon
2.
 Bachelor Apartment (1931) Agatha Carraway
3.
 Peacock Alley (1930) Claire Tree
4.
 Altars of Desire (1927) Claire Sutherland
5.
 Valencia (1926) Valencia
6.
 The Merry Widow (1925) Sally O'Hara
7.
 The Masked Bride (1925) Gaby
8.
 Mademoiselle Midnight (1924) RenĂ©e de Quiros
9.
 Married Flirts (1924)
10.
 Circe the Enchantress (1924) Circe, mythical goddess/Cecilie Brunne
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Milestones close milestones

1908:
Appeared in "The Ziegfeld Follies"
1916:
Made film debut in "To Have and to Hold"
1922:
Signed with Metro (later MGM)
1927:
Walked out on MGM contract
1931:
Last film, "High Stakes"
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Notes

"Mae Murray danced through life as it if were a dream world and she its faraway princess. A romantic, she behaved as if reality simply didn't exist, and then was wounded to the quick when no one understood her butterfly nature ... She was not an actress: she was a dancer with a tantalizing image that the camera captured in a quicksilver flash. On the screen she came vividly alive. Unfortunately, her bright stardust personality depended on youth ... In the end, she escaped from her tangled web of self-deceit and took refuge in another dream world, a fantasy land where she ruled and gave royal commands that must be obeyed on the instant." --DeWitt Bodeen in Films in Review, December 1975.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
William Schwenker. Broker. Briefly married in the early 1910s.
husband:
Jay O'Brien. Married for one day in 1917; she claimed he kidnapped her.
husband:
Robert Z Leonard. Director. Third husband, married 1918-24.
husband:
David Mdivani. Married 1927-30.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Self-Enchanted"

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