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Dressler & Moran
Remind Me

Spotlight on Dressler and Moran - Friday, April 29th

In their MGM films together, Marie Dressler and Polly Moran formed a kind of distaff Laurel and Hardy, playing off each other to hilarious effect. Canadian-born Dressler (1868-1934) was a star on Broadway and in vaudeville before making a hit in films with Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914) opposite Charles Chaplin. Born in Chicago, Moran (1883-1952) also had experience in vaudeville before entering films and enjoying her silent-era heyday as the rowdy star of Mack Sennett comedy shorts. Dressler and Moran first worked together in the silent film The Callahans and the Murphys (1927, now considered a "lost" film). But it was their sound comedies together that brought both actresses an enormous surge in popularity.

The antics of Dressler and Moran enliven The Girl Said No (1930), starring William Haines at the height of his popularity. Dressler in particular makes every moment count in her one scene as a wealthy woman who mistakes Haines for her new doctor. In Reducing (1931), Moran is the social-climbing proprietor of a New York City beauty salon and reducing parlor; Dressler is her sister, a Midwestern housewife who comes to visit and ends up helping out. Complications ensue when the daughter of each woman becomes involved with the same man. The slapstick situations involve a mud bath and becoming trapped in a steam room. In Politics (1931) Dressler plays a mayoral candidate who crusades against mobsters; in Prosperity (1932) she's the matriarch of a banking family in a small town. Moran is her comic foil in both movies.

In the meantime, Dressler had become a big star thanks to her dramatic turn in Garbo's Anna Christie (1930) and her Oscar®-winning role in Min and Bill (1930) opposite Wallace Beery. She also excelled in Emma (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933) and Tugboat Annie (1933) before her life was claimed by cancer in 1934. After Dressler's death, Moran's star faded and she was reduced to making two-reel comedies at Columbia Pictures in the late 1930s. She enjoyed a good bit in the Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn Adam's Rib (1949), but talk of a comeback was curtailed by her death in 1952.

The films in TCM's salute to Dressler & Moran are The Girl Said No (1930), Politics (1931), Reducing (1931) and Prosperity (1932).

by Roger Fristoe