MARIE PREVOST: SILENT FILM STAR AND UPSETTING SUBJECT OF A SONG BY NICK LOWE

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The pretty actress featured in this vintage real photo postcard is film actress Marie Prevost (1896-1937). She was born in Canada and during her twenty-year career, she made 121 silent and talking movies. She was originally “discovered” by Mack Sennett who inked her to a film contract after she played a bit part in one of his movies. She was only on the set (Keystone Studios) because she was running an errand for the law firm where she was employed as a secretary. She became one of his Bathing Beauties in the late 1910’s. She appeared in dozens of Sennett’s short comedy films. Her first lead role was for Sennett in “Yankee Doodle in Berlin” (1919). She than began to make feature length films for Universal Studios, where she signed for $1,000.00 a week. In 1922 she moved to Warner Brothers where she became one of the studio’s leading ladies (her contract was for $1,500.00 per week). Her movie roles at Warner included “The Beautiful and Damned” (1922), “The Marriage Circle” (1924), and “Kiss Me Again” (1925). Warner Brothers dropped her in 1926 and her career began to diminish as she was offered primarily secondary roles. Her personal life also began to decline, if not plummet. Her mother died in 1926 and her second marriage, to actor Kenneth Harlan, fell apart in 1927. She became very depressed and her symptoms included alcohol abuse and binge eating. In 1928 she was cast in “The Racket” which was directed by Howard Hughes. The pair had a brief affair and when it ended, Prevost fell into an even deeper depression. It became increasingly difficult for her to obtain parts in films and her last film role was in 1936. At the age of 38, Marie Prevost died from acute alcoholism and malnutrition. Her estate was worth just three hundred dollars and her death helped prompt the creation of the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital. The details of Prevost’s death have become a bit of Hollywood legend. She was found in her apartment two days after her death. Also at death scene were empty bottles of alcohol, a promissory note to Joan Crawford, and Prevost’s pet dachshund. She was discovered because neighbors had complained about her dog’s continued barking. The legend claims that by the time she was found, her corpse was half-eaten by Maxie, her dog. It was asserted that this of course was only because the dog was trying to awaken his deceased master. This story is not true, but it appeared in Kenneth Anger’s book “Hollywood Babylon” (1959) and in Nick Lowe’s song “Marie Provost” (1978). The lyrics from Lowe’s song include “She was the winner, That became the doggie’s dinner, She never meant that much to me, Woe, poor Marie”. This postcard was published by A.N. of Paris for Universal Films. It is part of as series entitled “Les Vedettes de Cinema” (The Stars of Cinema). This postcard is the first in the series (No. 1).

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. She is superb in “The Racket” — you can see this excellent film from time to time on TCM–great performances from the entire cast.

  2. She was born in my hometown of Sarnia, ON.

    • Is there any plaque or other historic marker in Sarnia that informs residents and visitors that it is Marie Prevost’s birthplace.


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