Marie Dressler (Leila Marie Koerber)

Marie Dressler

Actress.  Born Leila Koerber on Ontario, Canada, Marie Dressler made her first public appearance at the age of five when she appeared as “Cupid” on a pedestal in a church theatrical performance.  She wrote in her memoirs that she was instructed by her father to remain still, but she claims that the stool didn’t and subsequently she fell into the arms of another performer to the howling delight of the audience.  She claims that that moment was when she became ‘bit by the acting bug’.  She joined with a traveling acting troupe while in her teens, changing her name to Marie Dressler (after an aunt) because her family frowned upon acting as a profession.  Soon she was discovered by Maurice Barrymore, father of Ethel, John and Lionel who capitalized on her comedic abilities in a string of Broadway theatrical productions. In 1914 she was asked her to reprise on film a role that she made popular on stage, that of ‘Tillie Banks’, the gullible farmer’s daughter in “Tillie’s Punctured Romance”.  The film was a huge success and helped to launch the career of Charlie Chaplin, who appeared as her cheating boyfriend.  Dressler’s own career in film didn’t grown at that point however, many blaming it on the changing times.  As Hollywood entered the 1920s, there were few roles for portly, and somewhat homely comedienne.  She returned to Broadway where she continued to work on stage until 1917 when she was blacklisted as a result of her part in a chorus girl strike.  By 1927, all but forgetton, her friend and MGM screenwriter managed to land her a part in “The Joy Girl”.  Bolstered by the success of that role, Dressler found more film work, and had found a new legion of fans who were attracted to her range of comedic roles.  She appeared in Greta Garbo’s first talking picture, “Anna Christie”, giving a memorable performance as a drunken dock-side bar patron.  She played a similar character in “Min and Bill” (1930) for which she received the Academy Award for Best Actress. She would go on to portray a matronly gossip in “Let Us Be Gay” (1930) with Norma Shearer, and a uptight prude in “Politics” (1930) with Polly Moran, one of her regular co-stars.  Other roles included the title character in “Emma” (1933), (for which she was also nominated), and “Tugboat Annie” (1932).  Considered one of Hollywood’s great comeback stories, Dressler’s films were huge hits, making her the top box office draw for two years straight.   At the height of her new found success, she was stricken with cancer.  She continued to work despite failing health, occasionally having to halt production due to mounting pain. (bio by: Patrick R) Cause of death: Cancer

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  • November, 09, 1869
  • Canada
  • Coburg, Ontario


  • July, 07, 1934
  • Santa Barbara, California

Cause of Death

  • Cancer


  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
  • Glendale, California

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