Mae Busch

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Mae Busch
Mae Busch The Blue Book of the Screen.jpg
BornAnnie Mae Busch
(1891-06-18)18 June 1891
Melbourne, Victoria
Died20 April 1946(1946-04-20) (aged 54)
San Fernando Valley, California, U.S.
Cause of death
colon cancer
Years active1912–1946
Spouse(s)Francis McDonald (m. 1915–22) divorced
John Earl Cassell (m. 1926–29) divorced
Thomas C. Tate (m. 1936–46) her death
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Mae Busch
Mae Busch The Blue Book of the Screen.jpg
BornAnnie Mae Busch
(1891-06-18)18 June 1891
Melbourne, Victoria
Died20 April 1946(1946-04-20) (aged 54)
San Fernando Valley, California, U.S.
Cause of death
colon cancer
Years active1912–1946
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[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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."

Personal life and death[edit]

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[13] 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.[14] 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[edit]

1912The Water NymphAlternative title: The Beach Flirt
1919The Grim GameEthel Delmead
1920Her Husband's FriendsClarice
1922Foolish WivesPrincess Vera Petchnikoff
Brothers Under the SkinFlo Bulger
1923Souls for SaleRobina Teele
1924Name the ManBessie Collister
BreadJeanette Sturgis
Broken BarriersIrene Kirby
Married FlirtsJill Wetherell
1925The Unholy ThreeRosie O'Grady
1927Love 'em and WeepOld flame
Husband HuntersMarie Devere
1928While the City SleepsBessie
1929AlibiDaisy Thomas
Unaccustomed As We AreMrs. Hardy
1931Chickens Come HomeOllie's Old Time FlameUncredited
Fly My KiteDan's new wife
Come CleanKate
1932Their First MistakeMrs. Arabella Hardy
Doctor XCathouse Madame
1933Blondie JohnsonMae
Lilly TurnerHazel
Sons of the DesertMrs. Lottie HardyAlternative title: Fraternally Yours
1934Oliver the EighthWidowAlternative title: The Private Life of Oliver the Eighth
The Road to RuinMrs. MonroeUncredited
Going Bye-Bye!Butch's girlfriend
Them Thar HillsMrs. Hall
The Live GhostMaisie the Vamp, Blonde Floozy
1935Tit for TatGrocer's wife
The Fixer UppersMadame Pierre Gustave
1936The Bohemian GirlMrs. Hardy
1938Daughter of ShanghaiLilUncredited
Alternative title: Daughter of the Orient
The BuccaneerBit RoleUncredited
Marie AntoinetteMadame La MotteUncredited
1941Ziegfeld GirlJenny
1942The Mad MonsterSusan
1946The Blue DahliaJenny – MaidUncredited
The Bride Wore BootsWomanUncredited


  1. ^ Springer, John S.; Hamilton, Jack D. (1974). They Had Faces Then. Citadel Press. ISBN 0806503009. 
  2. ^ Gehring, Wes D. (1990). Laurel and Hardy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 031325172X. 
  3. ^ Smith, Ronald L. (1993). Comic Support. Carol Publishing Group. ISBN 0806513993. 
  4. ^ Otargo Witness (NZ) 24 January 1895 p.37
  5. ^ Launceston (Tasmania) Examiner 19 April 1895
  6. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography - Australian National University - Zelman, Samuel Victor Albert
  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. ^ State of California Death Certificate, County of Los Angeles, District 1801, Registear's Number 7081
  14. ^ Way Out West website


External links[edit]