To Mae Busch—“who is eternally ever popular!"
There is nothing to support any stories of Mabel Normand and Mae Busch knowing each other before 1915. The story of the two women working in films together in
by Marilyn Slater
by Marilyn Slater
January 14, 2008
January 14, 2008
Mae Busch is known to have padded her résumé and at different times and had told widely different stories of her background depending on what situation she was trying for. Truth was not a virtue that Mae held particularly high. Mabel Normand was creative about her roots too. It could be said, that Mae was a woman of easy virtue, but not by me…well maybe.
In understanding the people and time in which Mabel lived, it is a good idea to get to know Mae a little better.
Minta Durfee said that when Mae Busch came in 1915 to Keystone Studio that “no one liked her”. Mae had been in vaudeville before she went into pictures. She told the story that she took over the lead in ‘Over the River’, a role that established her as a leading lady which toured the country. ‘Over the River’ was part of a musical program headed by Eddie Foy and his family.
Although there had been plans for Mabel to star in a film with Joe Weber and Lew Fields in 1915, the film was never made with her even though the newspapers showed photos of Mabel with Weber and Fields. Oh, yes, Keystone made the comedy it was called ‘The Best of Enemies’ Mae Busch took Mabel’s place as the pretty daughter.
MAE BUSCH’S PHILOSOPHY
“I never ask men any questions because I know they never tell the truth.”
It sounds cynical, but it really isn’t. Mae’s philosophy evolved out of the discovery that life wasn’t all she had expected it to be. “I have had a very unhappy experience in my life,” she said, “the thing I have learned is to save myself worry about men.”
Mae understood herself pretty well, in an interview she did with Dan Thomas in 1929, she said, “I’m broke because I’m a fool.” She had a total of $416 to her name! She had gone to court to get a release of an attachment filed against her. In 1929, she was the sole support of her sick father, Frederick Busch.
Mae explained to the judge, “I have thrown away thousands and thousands of dollars” but she promised that from this point on she was going to save her money. She continued explaining, “I’ve learned my lesson – learned that trying to keep pace with
The story she told, Judge Marshall Macomb was, “Before I came to
“My chief ambition was to outdo everyone else in the picture business. And since there are many others with the same idea, it proved to be a difficult task. If one of my friends gave a party, I would give one a week or so later on an even more lavish scale. And if I saw another actress riding in a car, which cost more money then the one I had, I couldn’t rest until I had bought an even more expensive one. I never stopped to think that some day the flow of gold would stop. That is
“There were other things too, a pretentious home, servants and clothes. And they all cost money. I used to spend upwards of $18,000 a year for clothes”.
She had to have a cook, liveried chauffer, a private secretary, a personal publicity man, a business agent, house servants and a personal maid to go to the studio with her.
Mae said, “Besides that I gave thousands to friends that I never got back. However, those days are a past chapter. I have learned how recklessly I threw money away. I have awakened and know now how to live sensibly. “
The Judge, ruled in her favor.
Mae traded her husbands regularly. On
Mae comes across a bit cynical; I think her philosophy is in fact a form of self-protection. It was devised after her divorce from Francis McDonald – after the filing of a letter from her former husband as evidence of his desertion. The letter reads:
“Mae – This is the finish. You can rest assured by to-morrow morning everything will be over between us. But remember I have kept my end of the bargain. Do not try to get me at the studio, for I won’t answer the phone. By-by Mac”
Mae had married McDonald in
After Mae and Mc Donald were divorced, he married Belle Roscoe, the divorced wife of Albert Roscoe. Later, Mae and Francis McDonald came to an understanding and were friendly.
In 1923, Mae was reported engaged to Al Wilkie, a press agent, but they didn’t marry. Mae admitted that she was again engaged in 1924 but didn’t disclose who it might be, leaving her friends to speculate if it were an actor, she had worked with.
There is some information that Mae Busch may have been married to John Holland in 1930 as the records show they were living together.
And, then in 1936 she married Thomas Coe Tate, a civil engineer. In a Walter Winchell column in 1932, they were said, to be “an item”. They were still married in 1946 at the time of Mae’s death. Thomas Coe Tate died in
Mae was childless; she wrote a sad and lovely poem called
Never to see your image in my arms
Nestling at my breast –
Tiny lips draining the milk of my
Tiny hands clutching the tendrils
of my heart –
Why does God create barren soil,
when He forever fertilizes it
with His rain?
His sun, His softly warm winds?
Is life forever to go on wanting?
With naught for my arms but the
head of men,
Naught for my heart but their lash?
(Copyright, 1924, by The News, New York)
She was sometimes unemployed but she never truly retired and she found work almost continually from her first film in 1912 to her death.
It is pretty well documented that Mae was born in
Mae said that she went to the convent when she was 12 years old. She remained there for nearly four years. She had a good singing voice, which was trained at the convent. Shortly before her graduation, she sang at an informal entertainment, where she met Elsie Janis. When Elsie Janis learned that Mae wanted to go on the stage, she gave Mae a letter of introduction to Charles Dillingham, who was then ready to produce ‘Over the River’, with Eddie Foy. Mae went immediately to the Globe Theater, where rehearsals were being held. Dillingham gave her the job of understudying Lillian Lorraine, who had the leading feminine role. When the leading lady suddenly deserted the show, Mae played the whole season on Broadway. She was 16 years old when she became a musical star. After touring with ‘Over the River’, she played in a ‘girl show’, called ‘The Beauties’ which Jesse Lasky put on the Orpheum circuit. Mack Sennett saw her while she was touring in ‘The Beauties’ and offered her a job with his bathing beauties.
So there it is as Mae remembers it. She got her job at Keystone after Mack Sennett saw a “girl show” in 1915.
Before Sennett invited Mae to come to his studio, Mae had been in a film, ‘The Agitator’ (1912 American Film Manufacturing Company, Incorporated) with J. Warren Kerrigan, American Film Manufacturing Company; the offices were in
In one of her stories, Mae had claimed to have lived in
Another story of Mae’s years before Keystone, when she was playing in a musical act on the same vaudeville program as Sarah Bernhardt; Sarah the Divine, after watching the girl from the wings Bernhardt told Mae:
“Someday, if you suffer, my dear child, you will become a great actress”
Mae claims to have suffered enough to make good the prophecy of Bernhardt. It is a good story.
So, Mae had a film and music comedies under her belt when she arrived at Keystone in 1915 and met Mabel Normand for the first time. We have all heard of the alleged brawl between Mabel and Mae; when Mabel found Mae with Mack Sennett, which resulted in Mabel leaving the studio, to work at
Yes, before Mabel left on the train to
Mae returned to stage with the Foys when they also return to the musical comedy but Mae didn’t stay away, she came back to
Although she worked as a comedienne at Keystone and Hal Roach Studios, many of the films she made were not funny. The total body of her work is very impressive. Mae was known as the ‘Versatile Vamp" during the Silent Era, this might have been because she was such a natural flirt.
It was in 1923 that Mabel was invited to attend Mae’s birthday celebration that Paul Bern gave to honor Mae Busch at the private banquet room at the Montmarte. Also in attendance were Julianne Johnston, Corrine Griffith, Walter Morosco, Billy Haines, Carey Wilson and Joe Jackson. Mabel and Mae had met when Mabel was the Mack Sennett star, Mae was doing small bits, and there was that fierce quarrel in September 1915 about 7 years before. The common gossip in 1923 was that their quarrel concerned the attentions of Sennett, but by 1923, the newspaper report that they had resolved their differences and “
In 1923, Maurice Touneur directed ‘The Christian’ in which Mae Busch was well received. She plays the talented and temperamental Glory Quayle. This required her to travel to
During the filming of ‘Souls for
In 1924, Mae signed a new contract with Goldwyn Picture for an extended period of time as a reward for her work.
Lon Chaney and Mae Busch were directed by Tod Browning in ‘The Unholy Three,’ Mae played Rosie O’Grady in 1925. Mae worked with Harry Houdini in ‘Grim Game.’ She appeared in ‘Alibi’ (1929) with Chester Morris; ‘Alibi’ was nominated for an Oscar.
As mentioned Lew Cody worked with Mae before he married Mabel Normand. They made ‘Souls for
Mae Busch was the comedy relief in “Nellie, the Beautiful Cloak Model” (1924), Nellie’s chum Polly Joy; Lew Cody was the villain Walter Pock. Victor (Pop) Schertzinger directed Mabel Normand in a large number of films and also worked with Mae Busch as a young wife in a film called “Bread” that Grace Kingley describes Mae’s performance as exquisitely played.
Mae was at the height of her vamp career, a solid gold contract with Goldwyn, lovely starring parts, terrific reviews, she was a enormous star by the time she made ‘A Woman Who Sinned’ which was described was as, “a gripping daring advance that holds you like a sermon”
Harry Carr tells a story in his
While working at
In 1927, Mae Busch was in a chorus girl role in ‘Husband Hunters.’ It was written that she enjoyed her part of the sophisticated chorus girl and that it took her back to the days when she first went on the stage and had to go through many tiresome rehearsals, but realized how important all this had been in preparing herself for a screen career. The director was given a number of pointers by Mae on how he should portray the chorus girls.
By 1928, Mae was dissatisfied with what she had been offered and was rehearsing a new vaudeville sketch, ‘Capital Punishment,’ written by Adela Rogers St. John. She was also asked to play a supporting role in the play ‘From Hell Came a Lady’ at the Hollywood Play House. This was the first straight dramatic stage part she would have played as in her early career she was in musical comedy not drama. She learned drama in the movies. Mae said that it was Eric Von Strohelm, who taught her how to be obvious in a role and Victor Seastrom worked with her on expressing a side of her character which she never felt before while she becomes stark staring mad. Mae had a supporting role in the Lon Chaney film with Anita Page, ‘While the City Sleeps’ in 1928.
It was her classic work at the Hal Roach Studios with Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, which cemented her reputation as the shrewish wife of Oliver Hardy. Her first Laurel and Hardy film was ‘Love ‘Em and Weep’, (1927). By 1929 Laurel and Hardy made their first all talkie comedy ’Unaccustomed As We Are’ Mae Busch plays Mrs. Hardy, and Thelma Todd appears as the neighbor. Mae Busch made about 16 films with
Part of the strategy of the Roach studio was to bring recognized names to the Studios “All Star” roster; Mabel Normand, Theda Bara and Mae Busch were part of this plan. So again, Mabel and Mae were working on the same lot although not in the same films. Mabel retired in 1926 and Mae made her first Roach film in 1927.
Mabel had long ago forgiven Mae for her dalliance with Mack Sennett; it was Mabel’s manner not to carry ill feelings around, she didn’t have time.
Fred Niblo “There is only one thing that you could ever be sure of with Mae Busch--that you could never be sure of anything."
(Perhaps nothing is truer.)
It is interesting to note in a
“A few months ago Mae got permission from an actors’ agent to help “sell” some of his clients to casting directors. This was one way of getting into studios.
One of her first calls was Hal Roach’s studio, where she went to tell about the merits of one of her clients. Instead, Mae sold herself.
She got parts in two Laurel and Hardy comedies and now she is working quite regularly again”.
When Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as members of that great order, sons of the Desert, took the oath to attend the annual convention at
Mae’s career didn’t end with her films at Roach; she went on to have supporting roles in a number of films where she played character parts.
Her role in the 1929, ‘Alibi’ created a great deal of interest in Mae in drama as well as her work in the Roach shorts. In 1930, she played the part of a cynical partner in ‘Young Desire.’ Her days as a star seem to be over. By the release of ‘Son of Russia’ in 1932, Mae Busch was on the screen with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. but is not included in the cast list. Mae had a small part in ‘Dance Girl, Dance’ in 1933. She made the rounds of the studios picking up work where she could, she had a small part in the Warner Bros, 1935 feature ‘Stranded’.
"The greatest actress on the screen."
--Charlie Chaplin on Mae Busch
By 1937, on a sound stages at a
Mae didn’t stop, she went on and on and on…in 1938; a success story, perhaps; Once upon a time Mae Busch was a star and Norma Shearer was a young hopeful playing bits in Busch features. Things changes, Mae was working in a small part in ‘Marie Antoinette’ supporting the star, Norma Shearer.
Louella Parsons reported in her
Fifteen years before when Mae Busch had been a star and Bob Leonard was one of her directors, her tardiness on the sets had been a
Lana Turner was one of the stars of ‘The Ziegfeld Girl’ but when Mae Busch was a star working on ‘Frivolous Sal’ in Idaho she was so impressed with a little 4-year-old girl, she told the child’s mother that they should move to Hollywood. So Lana Turn’s mother moved to
Ten years after Mabel had died; Mae was still working when Republic Studio dedicated a new stage at the old Sennett lot in
Mae lived with her husband, Tom Tate at
There is a strange story that after the death of Mae Busch Tate, which occurred at the
Mae was not totally forgotten, her star is located at
It is my understanding that a toast to her is part of the by-laws of the Sons of the Desert constitution: "To Mae Busch--who is eternally ever popular!"
 1974, July 21; taped Reel 3A Minta Durfee with Steven Normand
 Joe Weber and Lew Fields veterans of vaudeville from the 1880s,
German dialect act, pioneer in stage slapstick.
 1929, March 26,
 . Continued to work in films in supporting roles perhaps his last
appearance was in for DeMille's, The Ten Commandments (1956), he plays
Simon working in the clay pit with Charlton Heston and is stabbed with a trowel
by a guard, dying in Heston’s arms.
 Elgin Lessley by Marilyn Slater; http://www.freewebs.com/looking-for-mabel/elginlessley.htm
 1928 August 31, The Kingsport Times, Film Actress asks Divorce,
1929 September 12, The
 1930, 15th US Census, Los Angeles California, district #56, line # 17, (courtesy of Steven Rowe)
 if Mae came in 1897 at 6 years old
 1917 07 21, The Eau Claire Leader, Daisy Dean's "News Notes from Movieland”: "All in a Name" "Mae Busch says she's tired of being kidded about her name. She laughs twenty times a week when asked if she is related to Anheuser, and twice as often at jokes about bush league players. The number of laughs required for the burning bush joke average fifty a week. In making this statement she wishes it understood that she is in no wise beating about the bush."
 Elsie Janis was a stage performer, singer, songwriter, screenwriter, director, composer,
producer with a Hollywood Star at
music for ‘Over the River’ (Jan 1912 – Apr 1912) musical. Elsie Janis was Princess Kalora
on the stage in ‘The Slim Princess’ (a character Mabel Normand later played on screen).
 Dillingham, Charles Bancroft, Producer
Dillingham is the only prominent Broadway producer who started out as a theater critic.
also built and managed The Globe Theatre
 Ed Foy was a Vaudeville and Musical Comedy Star. Born Edwin Fitzgerald Foy in
road with him. They developed an act, which became famous as “Eddie Foy and The
Seven Little Foys.”
 1923 Blue Book of the Screen, It was Elsie Janis who gave Miss Busch a letter of
introduction to Charles Dillingham, then rehearsing "Over the River" with Eddie Foy. Mae was
allowed to understudy Lillian Lorraine, the leading lady. A few days before the opening of the
herself appearing in the lead. Despite her lack of experience, she played the role for the entire
season on Broadway.
Next, she appeared in "The Beauties," a girl show on the Orpheum circuit. She played with the
company for a year. While in
and urged her to take up motion-picture work. Still considering the offer, she left for
where she played the leading role in "Damaged Goods" at the Alcazar Theatre, with Edmund Lowe.
At the close of this engagement, she wired that she would accept his offer, and returned to
 1923 Blue Book of the Screen MAE BUSCH was born in
and spent early girlhood in that country and
 Sarah Bernhardt carried out a successful tour of
was amputated before her tour; she continued her career; her physical condition confined her
practically to immobility on the stage, but the charm of her voice allow her to continue. She
has a star on the Walk of Frame,
cast: Mabel Normand, Roscoe Arbuckle, Glen Cavender, Al St. John, Mae Busch, Cecile Arnold finished:
 In a Grace Kingsley column, which noted that Mae was being directed by Charles Parrott
(Charley Chase) in Fox comedies 1917/1918 and that, during breaks in filming, the two would
have fun by singing duets.
 Photoplay, October 1924
 1922, June 6 The Capital Times, by Daisy Dean, News Notes From Movieland
 1931, July 5;
 "Scarlet Dawn" release title,
as part of the "Forbidden Hollywood" series.
 Robert Z. Leonard 1889 to 1968, director, actor, producer and screenwriter. Married to silent
superstar Mae Murray. He was nominated for Academy Award for The Divorcee and The Great
Ziegfeld (won for best picture.) His
 1942, August 24; The Morning Herald,
 1940, December 28;
Dedication to Mabel Normand, Silent Star
 Way Out West website http://www.wayoutwest.org/
 Chapel of the Pines Crematory; 1605 S. Catalina;
 Sons of the Desert,
Sons of the Desert,
Special thanks to:
Members of the Mabel Normand Yahoo Group,
· William M. Drew, knower of just about everything everybody else forgot, a devoted admirer of Mabel and Mae and a sharer of knowledge
· John Everton, lover of Mabel and all things Laurel and Hardy
· Maria Fernandez, the asker of the right questions
· Delores Hanney, a writer and a reader and a smashing lady of wit and style
· Steve Rowe, the finder of facts
· Steve Rydzewski, the searcher, researcher, the writer and man with “Wrigglyeyes”
· William Thomas Sherman, of the Mabel Normand Source Book, an editor and my friend
· April Tanner, the internet surfer and sharer of fines
The Life of the Family in OZ
Of Mae Busch
Settled at the
A Rascal of Wolfish Ways
Those College Girls
Mabel and Fatty’s Married Life (with Mabel Normand)
Ye Olden Grafter
Ambrose Sour Grapes
Love in Armor
Beating hearts and Carpets
A One Night Stand
The Rent Jumpers
A Human Hound’s Triumph
For Better – But Worse
Merely a Married Man
The Best of Enemies
The Folly of Fanchette
The Fair Barbarian
The Grin Game
The Devil’s Passkey
The Lone Ranger
Her Husband’s Friend
The Love Charm
A Parisian Scandal
Her Own Money
Pardon My Nerve
Brother Under the Skin
Only a Shop Girl
Name the Man
The Shooting of Dan McGrew (with Lew Cody)
Nellie, the Beautiful Cloak Model (with Lew Cody)
A Woman Who Sinned
1925 Studio Tour (Lew Cody)
Camille of the
The Unholy Three
Time, the Comedian (Lew Cody)
The Miracle of Life
Fools of Fashion
The Truthful Sex
Tongues of Scandal
Perch of the Devil
The Beauty Shoppers
Love ‘Em and Weep (L&H)
The Bride of
While the City Sleeps
Sister of Eve
Unaccustomed As We Are
A Man’s Man
Chickens Come Home (L&H)
Come Clean (L&H)
Defenders of the Law
Fly My Kite
The Rider of
High Hats and Low Brows
The Man Called Back
The Purchase Price
Their First Mistake (L&H)
Women Won’t Tell
The Racing Strain
Out All Night
Dance, Girl Dance
Sons of the Desert (L&H)
Olivier the Eighth (L&H)
The Road to Ruin
I Like It That Way
Going Bye-Bye (L&H)
Then Thar Hills (L&H)
The Live Ghost (L&H)
Tit for Tat (L&H)
The Fixer Uppers (L&H)
The Affair of Susan
The Bohernian Girl (L&H)
The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand
Easy to Take
The Accusing Finger
The Big Broadcast of 1938
Nancy Drew – Detective
Fang of the Wild
Women Without Names
French Fried Patootie
The Mad Monster
The Stork Club
The Blue Dahlia
The Bride Wore Boots
Cross My Heart
1912 March 28, Lillian Lorriane was having an affair with the co-producer of the play, Flo Ziegfield. In one of their spats in late March of 1912 - she left the show and got married. She was indeed replaced by Busch, the date is listed in the New York Times. Lorriane was stated by an unknown to me April newspaper to be returning to the show, I have no idea if she did before the show ended in late April. Nor do I know who was in the touring show (which ran until at least Jan 1913). (the Lorriane marriage didn't last long either. exact dates of Busch's first staring role and the end of the show were " Mae took over the role in "Over the River" from Lillian Lorriane on
added May 10, 2013
A visit to “To Mae Busch—on