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Mae Busch

Mae Busch
Born Annie Mae Busch
(1891-06-18)18 June 1891
Melbourne, Victoria
Died 20 April 1946(1946-04-20) (aged 54)
San Fernando Valley, California, U.S.
Cause of death colon cancer
Occupation Actress
Years active 1912–1946
Spouse(s) Francis McDonald (m. 1915–22) divorced
John Earl Cassell (m. 1926–29) divorced
Thomas C. Tate (m. 1936–46) her death

Mae Busch (18 June 1891 – 20 April 1946)[1][2][3] was an Australian film actress who worked in both silent and sound films in early Hollywood. In the latter part of her career, she appeared in many Laurel and Hardy comedies, where she frequently played Hardy's shrewish wife.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Personal life and death 2
  • Selected filmography 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life and career

Photograph of Mae Busch published in Stars of the Photoplay, 1924

She was born in Melbourne, Victoria to popular Australian vaudeville performers Elizabeth Maria Lay and Frederick William Busch. Lay had been active since 1883 under the stage names Dora Devere and then Dora Busch; she toured India with Hudson's Surprise Party[4] and toured New Zealand twice. In 1887 she joined Frank M. Clark's Silk Stocking Company. A member of the Company's orchestra was Frederick William Busch. Elizabeth and Frederick were married on 6 February 1888 in Brisbane, Queensland between performances. They continued to tour with various companies with short breaks when their two children were born, Dorothy in 1889 (she lived for only 4 months) and Annie May in 1891. Dora Busch/Devere did one season of opera with mixed reviews and William featured in touring bands and orchestras as well as special acts as the Paragon Trio.[5] He never conducted the Melbourne Symphony as has been suggested; the MSO was not founded until 1906,[6] 10 years after William had left the country.

Following a concert tour of New Zealand, the family left for the USA via Tahiti.[7] They departed on 8 August 1896 and arrived in San Francisco at the end of 1896 or in early 1897. Dora Busch was part of the Grand Opera Quartet, making her American debut on 14 February 1897 at the Orpheum Theatre.[8] Towards the end of 1897 the family moved to the East Coast.[9] William Busch performed with the Paragon Trio (renamed Lelliott Busch & Lelliott) at the Drexel Theatre in Chicago on 13 November 1897.[10]

While her parents were touring, 6-year-old Annie May was placed in a convent school in New Jersey. At the age of 12, she joined her parents as the Busch Devere Trio, which was active from the end of 1903 until 1912. As Mae Busch she performed with her mother in Guy Fletch Bragdon's "The Fixer" to good reviews, and in 1911 they featured in Tom Reeves' "Big Show Burlesque." Mae's big break came in March 1912 when she replaced Lillian Lorraine as the lead female in "Over the River" with Eddie Foy.[11]

Mae's first film appearances were in The Agitator and The Water Nymph, both released in 1912. There is some doubt about Mae being in these films as the production of both films in California appears to clash with commitments in New York. (refer to Mae Busch Link for full details) In 1915 she began working at Keystone Studios, where she appeared in comedy two-reelers. Her dalliance with studio chief Mack Sennett famously ended his engagement to actress Mabel Normand—who had actually been Busch's mentor and friend—when Normand walked in on the pair. According to some accounts, Busch, who was known for pinpoint throwing accuracy, inflicted a serious head injury on Normand by striking her with a vase. Normand died a few years later at age 37 from health problems, principally tuberculosis.

At the pinnacle of her film career, Busch was known as the versatile vamp. She starred in such feature films as The Devil's Pass Key (1920) and Foolish Wives (1923), both directed by Erich von Stroheim, and in The Unholy Three (1925), with Lon Chaney. Her career declined abruptly in 1926, when she walked out on her contract at Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer and suffered a nervous breakdown.[12] Afterwards, she found herself working for less prestigious studios such as Gotham and Tiffany, where she was relegated mostly to supporting roles.[12]

In 1927, she was offered a leading role in a Hal Roach two-reeler, Love 'em and Weep, which began her long association with Laurel and Hardy. She appeared in 13 of their comedies, often as shrewish, gold-digging floozies (Chickens Come Home, Come Clean), a volatile wife of Oliver Hardy (Sons of the Desert, Their First Mistake), or more sympathetic roles (Them Thar Hills, Tit for Tat, The Fixer Uppers). Her last role in a Laurel and Hardy film was in The Bohemian Girl, again as a combative spouse of Hardy's, released in 1936. Her film roles after 1936 were often uncredited. Overall, she had roles in approximately 130 motion pictures between 1912 and 1946. Jackie Gleason later mentioned her name on his TV show as "the ever-popular Mae Busch."

In 2014 the thought to be lost 1919 film which was the first feature in to star Harry Houdini The Grim Game was discovered and restored by Rick Schmidlin for Turner Classic Movies and featured Mae Busch.[13]

Personal life and death

Busch married three times: to actor Francis McDonald from 1915–1922; to John Earl Cassell from 1926–1929; and to civil engineer Thomas C. Tate from 1936 until her death.

Busch died on 20 April[14] 1946, age 54, at a San Fernando Valley sanitarium where she had been ill for five months with colon cancer. In 1970, her ashes remained unclaimed and a chapter of The Laurel & Hardy Society, the Way out West Tent, paid for the interment at Chapel of the Pines Crematory.[15] For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Mae Busch has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1912 The Water Nymph Alternative title: The Beach Flirt
1919 The Grim Game Ethel Delmead
1920 Her Husband's Friends Clarice
1922 Foolish Wives Princess Vera Petchnikoff
Brothers Under the Skin Flo Bulger
1923 Souls for Sale Robina Teele
The Christian Glory Quayle
1924 Name the Man Bessie Collister
Bread Jeanette Sturgis
Broken Barriers Irene Kirby
Married Flirts Jill Wetherell
1925 The Unholy Three Rosie O'Grady
1927 Love 'em and Weep Old flame
Husband Hunters Marie Devere
1928 While the City Sleeps Bessie
1929 Alibi Daisy Thomas
Unaccustomed As We Are Mrs. Hardy
1931 Chickens Come Home Ollie's Old Time Flame Uncredited
Fly My Kite Dan's new wife
Come Clean Kate
1932 Their First Mistake Mrs. Arabella Hardy
Doctor X Cathouse Madame
1933 Blondie Johnson Mae
Lilly Turner Hazel
Sons of the Desert Mrs. Lottie Hardy Alternative title: Fraternally Yours
1934 Oliver the Eighth Widow Alternative title: The Private Life of Oliver the Eighth
The Road to Ruin Mrs. Monroe Uncredited
Going Bye-Bye! Butch's girlfriend
Them Thar Hills Mrs. Hall
The Live Ghost Maisie the Vamp, Blonde Floozy
1935 Tit for Tat Grocer's wife
The Fixer Uppers Madame Pierre Gustave
1936 The Bohemian Girl Mrs. Hardy
1938 Daughter of Shanghai Lil Uncredited
Alternative title: Daughter of the Orient
The Buccaneer Bit Role Uncredited
Marie Antoinette Madame La Motte Uncredited
1941 Ziegfeld Girl Jenny
1942 The Mad Monster Susan
1946 The Blue Dahlia Jenny – Maid Uncredited
The Bride Wore Boots Woman Uncredited


  1. ^ Springer, John S.; Hamilton, Jack D. (1974). They Had Faces Then. Citadel Press.  
  2. ^ Gehring, Wes D. (1990). Laurel and Hardy. Greenwood Publishing Group.  
  3. ^ Smith, Ronald L. (1993). Comic Support. Carol Publishing Group.  
  4. ^ Otargo Witness (NZ) 24 January 1895 p.37
  5. ^ Launceston (Tasmania) Examiner 19 April 1895
  6. ^ Zelman, Samuel Victor Albert. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. 
  7. ^ Auckland Star 8 August 1896
  8. ^ San Francisco Call 16 Feb. 1897. In May 1897 Dora was playing various roles in comic opera at the Clunie Opera House. (San Francisco Call 17 May 1897)
  9. ^ They are listed on the 1900 US Census as William and Dora Busch living at 311 East 19th Street, New York.
  10. ^ New York Dramatic Mirror 13 Nov 1897
  11. ^ New York Herald 28 March 1912
  12. ^ a b Maltin 1973, p. 112
  13. ^ Mae Basch IMDB
  14. ^ State of California Death Certificate, County of Los Angeles, District 1801, Registear's Number 7081
  15. ^ Way Out West website
  • "Death Claims Mae Busch, 54". The  
  • Maltin, Leonard (1973). The Laurel and Hardy Book. New York: Curtis. 

External links

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