“She was a winner, Who became a doggie’s dinner…” — Nick Lowe
Would a dog loving movie star leave her pooch to starve?
Memorialized in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon and in the eponymous pop song, Marie Prevost is best-known today as a overly-nasal actress who killed herself without anticipating that her pet dachshund would get hungry after days of not being fed.
It’s a memorable Hollywood fairytale, the falling movie star who killed herself in despair and ended up being consumed by her starving if reluctant pup. But is it true?
At the end of the 19th century, Mary Dunn was born in Canada and later moved to Hollywood with her family. As a young teen, the beautiful girl found success as a Sennett Bathing Beauty. (Other Sennett Bathing Beauties include Gloria Swanson, Mabel Normand, and Carole Lombard.) Mack Sennett changed her last name to the fancier, French-ier Prevost, and she went on to star in movies as an unflappable flapper and later a charming comedienne at Universal and Warner Bros. Her career spanned 21 years, during which she not only survived the transition to sound, but managed to make over 120 films!
Marie had the requisite bee-stung lips and perfect pouty insouciance to embody the 20s female ideal. She was featured on the first cover of The Flapper magazine, which asked readers:
“How do you like our girl on the cover? Some fascinating little minx, Marie Prevost, isn’t she? And who but she could assume such a fascinating pose?”
Marie as The Flapper Magazine’s first cover girl
Prevost flappered it up in lots of films, occasionally scoring a juicy lead, as she did in an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned (1923) where she had sufficient chemistry with her leading man to merit their marrying Kenneth Harlan the next year. She made three films with Ernest Lubitsch where his infamous “Lubitsch touch” was in full-effect in mischievous movies like The Marriage Circle (1924), where Marie once again got to play an impish, slightly risqué jazz baby who turns out to be a “good girl” in the end. She made films with other famous directors as well, including Frank Capra, Mervyn LeRoy and Cecil B. DeMille.
But in 1926, while starring in one of her six films with the original movie star Harrison Ford (you didn’t know there were two, did ya?), Marie’s mother died in a car accident. It hit Prevost pretty hard, and that, coupled with her divorce from Harlan, sent Marie straight to the bottle – and the fridge.
Her drinking and eating made her put on the pounds, and roles became harder to get. Too curvy to represent slim, flat-chested flapperdom (a trope that was losing steam, and steaminess, anyway), she was now primarily playing “blowsy tough dames” or the wisecracking sidekick to stars like Jean Harlow and Joan Crawford. She tried all kinds of crash diets with hopes of getting back in the game. In a 1936 New York Times article, “Sometimes They Do Come Back”, Prevost ‘s slide is evident:
“In the studio restaurant at Warners there is an “Old-Timers Tables” that is reserved, in tacit arrangement, for the group of former stars who like to talk over together their halcyon days. A few weeks ago, Marie Prevost sat down at the table. The siren of Mack Sennett days had been successful with a reducing course and had got herself a job as a contract player…She was put to work almost immediately, in a small part in The Bengal Tiger…Miss Prevost is unbilled in The Bengal Tiger: She has only three lines to say, and those short ones.”
Full-on Marie Prevost!
Prevost’s “reducing course” consisted of drinking and not eating. A star just a few years before, Marie was now an “old-timer” and a has-been who was subsisting almost solely on booze –and hope.
On January 23, 1937, neighbors in her rundown apartment building called police to complain about a dog ‘s non-stop barking. Inside, they found Marie dead. Initially diagnosed as having died of acute alcoholism, the major cause of death was actually severe malnutrition.
To get back into pictures once again, Marie had basically starved herself to death. She was only 38.
Though she ate one too many hot dogs, today it’s the appetite of a different kind of weiner dog that has put poor Marie into the Hollywood Hall of Infamy. Despite Nick Lowe and Hollywood Babylon, the truth is that her poor distressed pet was only trying to rouse his sleeping mistress. The police report clearly states that the dog “had chewed up her arms and legs in a futile attempt to awaken her.” In her obituary in the Los Angeles Times, January 24, 1937, the paper details the more poignant than putrid scene:
“Whining at the-bedside was her pet dachshund, Maxie, and teeth marks on the actress’ body indicated animal had tugged at his mistress in ant attempt to arouse her.”
In fact, one can plainly see from the photo in Anger’s book that Marie’s corpse is intact. (And as far as the accuracy of Nick Lowe’s song, he even misspells Marie’s name in title!)
Prevost died a pauper, with only $300 and a few IOUs made out to Joan Crawford, a pal from silent days who’d lent her some money. Marie was also remembered by other luminaries; stars attending her funeral included Barbara Stanwyck, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Clark Gable, and her old boss Mack Sennett, and her destitution prompted Hollywood to form the Motion Picture Relief Fund and the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital.
Marie was a lovely, talented woman who died not of despair but from the hope that fueled her starving for stardom. Her end is sad, not sickening, both for poor Marie — and poor Maxie.
Adrienne and Stephanie Vendetti, rocking it like redheads!
Adrienne and Stephanie Vendetti are sisters, best friends, natural-born redheads — and as it turns out, natural born entrepreneurs. They’re real redheads with a real head for business, with their own company, How to be a Redhead.
The sisters co-founded their website, HowtobeaRedhead.com, to empower all their redheaded sisters with the motto, “ Red hair is more than a color, it’s a lifestyle!” Being a redhead myself, I wanted to learn not just about their business, but the business of being a redhead. (And believe me, it is a full-time job!)
Hi girls! Your tagline is that “Redhead is more than a hair color, it’s a lifestyle.” Just what makes redheads different, special, awesome <fill in your own adjective here>?
First and foremost, red hair IS different! So, that in itself makes a redhead very unique. Redheads cannot deny that their red hair gives them spunk, attitude, fierceness, and definitely some sassiness. Growing up, we were bullied for our red hair and Stephanie even dyed her hair blonde for many years. When we started How to be a Redhead (and Stephanie went back to her beautiful natural roots), we promised ourselves we would make the community a powerful source, something we wish we had when we were growing up. We get emails from girls every single day telling us, “Thank you for making me feel like my hair is awesome! I wouldn’t be able to go to school without your website.”
Historically, how have redheads been a special breed? Which classic redheaded icons are your faves, and why?
We grew up watching “I Love Lucy” with our grandmother, who was also a redhead. Lucille Ball was one of the first women (ever) to make red hair beautiful in Hollywood. We’ve always thought she started the trend. We also love Julianne Moore, Jessica Chastain and Amy Adams.
It’s funny, I became a redhead years ago, and I notice that a lot of my closest friends also happen to be redheads – either born that way or by choice. Coincidence?
It must be because you all love How to be a Redhead. Kidding!! But, with all seriousness, we hear this all of the time. We’re so happy red hair is now being embraced by society and people view it as beautiful. It really is the most stunning hair color in the world!
Hey! You left out some famous redheads from the classic silver screen! Rita Hayworth was one of movie’s supreme love goddesses of all time — and she had gorgeous long red hair. Then there was Clara Bow, the “It Girl”, maybe the screen’s first ever real sex symbol — and she had flaming red hair! To name a few! Anyway…I digress.
Tell us about your “Rock It Like a Redhead” events! I hear you have a Kickstarter campaign…
We’re so excited about our Kickstarter campaign! We bring our website to life with events called Rock it like a Redhead. Its mission is to empower every redhead to feel empowered, look amazing and rock their red hair. We had our 1st event in New York City in 2013 and it was such a big success. A truly magical evening. Everyone kept coming up to us at the events saying, “When are you coming to our city?” We knew right away. We have to do a tour. It took us 18 months of planning and we’re finally live on Kickstarter! We want it to be more than fundraising and sponsors, we want all of our followers behind the tour.
We made it so people can pledge anywhere from $1-$2,000. 2015 is going to be an amazing year. It’s the world’s first & only redhead beauty TOUR ever. We’re about to make some history!
The words “redhead” and “dame” just seem to go together. What similarities do the proverbial dame and the redheaded woman archetype have in common?
They definitely do! Redheads are true “Redhead Royalty”! This is why we have tank tops sold in our store with that slogan. HowtobeaRedhead.com is all about the redhead “damehood.” We’re rare and unique, and our hair color definitely gives us status.
For us older redheads out there (over 40), is there special advice or stuff you have just for us?
We get this question a lot and thanks to our team of writers, we’re able to reach all age demographics. For women over 40, we suggest the following beauty tips: wear lots of sunscreen, invest in a great depositing shampoo (we’re head over heals for the Davine’s line) and a great, deep red lip is always in trend.
Last but not least, I’m a redhead – what concrete steps should I take to “rock it like a redhead”?
Rockin’ it like a redhead is all about having confidence and loving who you are! We think you have it down pat
Aw, shucks, y’all.
People often ask what started me thinking about creating this blog about the “lost art of being a dame”. I think it all started in an elevator…
Years ago I was riding an elevator at work with a couple of (very) young female co-workers and an older gentleman I’d seen from time to time around the building. It was a short ride, but ample time for said gentleman to sneak peeks down our various blouses to assess our various bosoms. If I gave it much thought at all, it was probably “The old guy needs to get out more,” or “The sly shirt-look-down: how quaintly old school.” We all disembarked and after the gent was out of earshot my fellow bosom-possessors pounced.
“We should go to HR right now!” said rattled bosom buddy #1.
“Isn’t there some number or something we can call?” asked # 2, stifling angry tears.
“Um, what the hell are you talking about?” I gently inquired.
“Well, I’m a feminist. I’m not going to put up with that,” #1 explained, implying that I must be some kind of nymphomaniacal doormat to take this assault on our collective bosoms’ air space lying down. I asked why they didn’t just call him on it, with a “Which one do you prefer?” or a “Do you think President Coolidge would have liked these?” or just a bemused, “What big eyes you have, Grandpa!” Hell, they were so furious, if they’d had the balls they could have kneed him in his. Anyway, they tearfully marched off in a huff to HR, leaving me behind to actually feel kinda sorry for the ole horndog.
I don’t know what ever became of Operation Geezer Gazer. I demurred and went about my way, feeling vaguely sorry for both the voyeur and voyettes. Is this what feminism and our P.C. culture had wrought? These young women only saw two options before them: 1) Run and tell HR on the big, bad perv, or 2) Slink meekly away, silently cursing the heavy burden of amplitude. Have women forgotten that they can, in fact, take care of themselves quite nicely? Have we lost sight of the fact that we’re simultaneously strong, self-reliant, sassy, and sexy as all get out?
Whatever happened to snappy remarks? Whatever happened to the well-placed zinger? Whatever happened to the slapped face, the drink in the face? (Hell, I can dream, can’t I?) The point is, these young women were behaving like fragile glass figures that couldn’t withstand a man’s male-gaze, much less utter a scathing, or charmingly tolerant, bon mot. Under the banner of strength and self-esteem my elevator compatriots weren’t acting like women, they were acting like frazzled little girls.
“When the going gets tough, the tough re-apply their lipstick.” — Dixie Laite
What, I wondered, would Barbara Stanwyck do in this situation? What would Myrna Loy or Rosalind Russell or one of the good ole days’ good ole dames do? I was sure it wouldn’t be tramping off in a huff to go file a formal complaint. For one thing, dames don’t do anything in a huff. (I was going to say they don’t do anything huff way, but I spared you. Well, sorta.) In fact, was this really a situation that called for action? I mean, last time I looked men liked looking at bosoms, and that’s probably not gonna change any time soon.)
This got me thinking about how much we’ve lost since the dame’s heyday. Time was they were everywhere. We encountered them in detective novels, plays, beauty parlors and at the movies – always at the movies. Some were lucky enough to have dames at close range: grandmothers, great great-aunts, that woman down at the coffee shop who rocked the beauty mark.
But today, much like dinosaurs, dames no longer roam the earth. What happened to those funny, feisty, glam dames of the 30’s and 40’s? Today the 21st century serves up vacuous tabloid heroines, Girls Gone Wild, girls gone stupid, and girls gone stark-staring-batshit-crazy. Seemingly, an entire generation of females confuses belly tees emblazoned with the word “Hottie” with actual hotness. (By the way, rule #1 of Hot: if you have to let people know, you’re not.)
This dearth of dames makes me sad. I miss dames; I want to see more dames. And I want to see more dame-ness in myself. I’d love to have been born a dame. I wasn’t. But I could watch and learn and study the core principles that shape the dame’s perception of the world, of herself.
Whenever I’m in a situation (and I frequently do find myself in situations) I think, “What would Myrna do?” When I find myself acting coy, self-abnegating, or smaller than I really am, I confront myself with, “Is this how Barbara Stanwyck would do it?” Having studied dames in movies, I use their example to help cultivate stylish and substantive aspects of womanhood in myself. And I want to do it for you, too.
The dame’s legacy of confident charm, sexy self-possession, and light-hearted brawn is applicable, and accessible, to every woman (and a few men too). THE LOST ART OF BEING A DAME is a celebration of yesterday’s dames, and a guide to helping women find their inner dame today.
Want to conquer the world, or at least your very own tiny piece of it? Then get to know Chris Guillebeau, the easy-on-the-eyes, hard-to-put-down-books-writing self-help helper extraordinaire. His very popular blog, The Art of Non-Conformity, explores entrepreneurship, travel, and personal development topics. At his site you can also download his Brief Guide to World . . . → Read More: Chris Guillebeau’s Secrets to the Happiness of Pursuit
Check it out! I couldn’t have put it better than E.A. Hanks in her piece in Time Magazine — Enough With the Kooky Ingenues — Bring Back the Dame!
Lauren Bacall — Archetypal Dame
By Guest blogger Deborah Ingles Schwalbach
Met Deb, 65-years-old and still getting all hot and bothered (but mostly hot) when she discovers a classic film she haven’t seen before. Like me, she grew up crazy about old movies; turns out we’d both sneak out of our bedrooms as children to . . . → Read More: Guest Post: Ava Gardner and Me
I always thought Teresa Wright was talented and sweet, but kind of an ineffectual limp noodle. She plays the good girl well, and I guess that was my problem. Sure, her screen characters had pluck, but pluck is an anemic version of the charming ballsy-ness of a Stanwyck or the fearless hijinks Irene Dunne . . . → Read More: I Was Totally Wrong About Teresa Wright!
The thing about hearts that love a lot, they just keep breaking. And this time it’s the ease and energy with which I love a lot of stuff a lot – weird, wonderful stuff – that’s doing me in.
The last vestige of the big weekend Manhattan Flea Market, known as ‘The Garage”, is . . . → Read More: Flea-Smitten
A LOT of people come to me looking for help finding a job. They either contact me with a hidden agenda of wanting me to give them a job (fat chance), tell them about some incredible job somewhere for which they’d be perfect (fairly chubby chance), or help them craft their resume, LinkedIn profile . . . → Read More: Best Job Hunting Advice You’ll Ever Get, Ever!
What would you do if you had to choose between becoming a famous movie star or traveling the world with the love of your life? When she was just 20 years old, Ann Dvorak made just that choice, and it changed the course of her life.
If you love classic movies — . . . → Read More: Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel (The Most Interesting Star You’ve Never Heard Of )