I just realized that today is a special date. This is the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight, and also the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War.
The famous D.W. Griffith (1875 - 1948) film, The Birth of a Nation, was released in 1915, which is the 50th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. We will not go into the controversy surrounding the film, because this is a blog about Bit Actors.
Mae Marsh (1894 - 1968) started working in films in 1910. She was one of the leads in TBoaN, along with Lillian Gish (1893 - 1993). Marsh went on to appear in about 200 films, up until a few years before her death.
In 1912 her big break came when Griffith cast her in The Sands of Dee, a movie that Mary Pickford (1892 - 1979) was supposed to get. This led to The Birth of a Nation, and then a starring role in Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages in 1916. Those two are arguably the most famous silent films made in America.
After Intolerance, Mae left Griffith and started working for Samuel Goldwyn (1879 - 1974). Her career faltered after that. She made quite a few more silents, but none were the big hits she had with Griffith.
With the advent of talkies, Mae went back to work as a character actress, which made her a very famous Bit Actress. She was approaching 40 years old by then, so starring roles would go to younger actresses.
1932 - Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
1933 - Alice in Wonderland
1939 - Drums Along the Mohawk
1940 - The Grapes of Wrath
1941 - Tobacco Road
1941 - Great Guns (Had to get Laurel and Hardy in there!)
1941 - How Green was my Valley
1943 - The Song of Bernadette
Plus, State Fair, Miracle on 34th Street, Fort Apache, The Fighting Kentuckian, The Gunfighter, The Quiet Man, The Robe, A Star is Born, The Searchers...Holy Cow! what a list.
Her last two films, both uncredited roles, were Donovan's Reef (1963) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). She worked with John Wayne in eight films, but she only did a few TV westerns around 1960.
Mae Marsh was a star. And I am glad we have her in so many great films, if only in Bit Parts.