May Robson

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May Robson

May Robson in Broadway to Hollywood trailer (1933)
BornMary Jeanette Robison
April 19, 1858
Melbourne, Australia
DiedOctober 20, 1942
Queens, New York City, United States
SpouseCharles L. Gore (1874?-1883)
Augustus H. Brown (1889-1920)
ChildrenEdward Gore, also a son and daughter who died in childhood
 
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May Robson

May Robson in Broadway to Hollywood trailer (1933)
BornMary Jeanette Robison
April 19, 1858
Melbourne, Australia
DiedOctober 20, 1942
Queens, New York City, United States
SpouseCharles L. Gore (1874?-1883)
Augustus H. Brown (1889-1920)
ChildrenEdward Gore, also a son and daughter who died in childhood

May Robson (April 19, 1858 – October 20, 1942) was an actress and playwright whose career spanned 58 years, starting in 1883 when she was 25 years of age. A major stage actress of the late 19th and early 20th century, Robson is best known today for the dozens of 1930s motion pictures she appeared in when she was well into her seventies, usually playing cross old ladies with hearts of gold.

Robson was the earliest born person to enjoy a major Hollywood career and receive an Academy Award nomination.[1]

Contents

Personal life

Mary Jeanette Robison was the fourth child born to Captain Henry and Julia Robison in Melbourne, Australia. Captain Robison served in the British Royal Navy and retired in Australia for his health. He died when Mary was seven years old. Julia Robison packed up her family and returned to London. Mary was educated in England, Brussells and Paris. At the age of 16, Mary married her first husband, Charles Livingstone Gore.[nb 1][nb 2] The couple first ran a cattle ranch in Fort Worth, Texas and later moved to New York City where Gore died in the 1880s. Upon her husband's death, Mary did embroidery work and gave painting lessons to support her three children.[4][nb 3]

By the time she began her acting career in 1883, two of Robson's three children died; the surviving child was Edward Gore.[3][5] Six years after beginning her stage career, Robson married Augustus Homer Brown, a police surgeon, on May, 29 1889. They remained together until his death on April 1, 1920.[3][6]

She died at the age of 84 of cancer in her Beverly Hills, California home and was buried in Flushing Cemetery in Queens, New York City next to her second husband, Augustus Brown.[3] The New York Times obituary for Robson called her the "dowager queen of the American screen and stage."[1]

Career

On September 17, 1883 she became an actress on the Brooklyn Grand Opera House stage. Her name was incorrectly spelled "Robson" in the billing, which she used from that point forward "for good luck".[7] Over the next several decades, she flourished on the stage as a comedienne and character actress. Her success was partly due to her affiliation with powerful manager and producer Charles Frohman and the Theatrical Syndicate. Robson had established her own touring theatrical company by 1911.[2]

She appeared as herself at her Long Island home in a cameo with one of her adult daughters in the 1915 silent How Molly Made Good, a film that's available on DVD. She starred in the 1916 silent film A Night Out, an adaptation of the play she co-wrote, The Three Lights.[8]

In 1927 Robson went to Hollywood where she would have a successful film career as a senior aged woman.[9] Among her starring roles was 1931's The She-Wolf, in which she was cast as a miserly millionaire businesswoman based on Hetty Green.[10][11] She also starred in the final segment of the anthology film If I Had a Million (1932) as a rest home resident who gets a new lease on life when she is given a $1,000,000 check by a dying business tycoon.[12] She played the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (1933), Countess Vronsky in Anna Karenina (1936), Aunt Elizabeth in Bringing Up Baby (1938), Aunt Polly in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), and a sharp-tongued Granny in A Star Is Born (1937). Miss Robson was top-billed as late as 1940, starring in Granny Get Your Gun at age 82. Her last film was 1942's Joan of Paris.[10][13][14]

Nomination

In 1933, she was nominated at age 75 for the Academy Award for Best Actress for Lady for a Day, losing to Katharine Hepburn. She was the first Australian-born person to be nominated for an acting Oscar, and for many years she held the record for the oldest performer nominated for an Oscar.[15][16]

Theater

The following is a partial list of her stage performances:[3][17]

  • Called Back (1884)
  • An Appeal to the Muse (1885)
  • Robert Elsmere (1889)
  • The Charity Ball (1890)
  • Nerves, adapted from Les Femmes Nerveuses (1891)
  • Gloriana (1892)
  • Lady Bountiful (1892)
  • Americans Abroad (1893)
  • The Family Circle (1893)
  • The Poet and the Puppets (1893)
  • Squirrel Inn (1893)
  • No. 3A (1894)
  • As You Like It (1894)
  • Liberty Hall (1894)
  • The Fatal Card (1895)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
  • A Woman's Reason (1895)
  • The First Born (1897)
  • His Excellency, The Governor (1900)
  • Are You a Mason? (1901)
  • Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1904)
  • Cousin Billy (1905-1907)
  • The Rejuvenation of Aunt Mary (1907)
  • The Three Lights (A Night Out) (1911)

Filmography

The following is a partial list of the more than 60 films that Robson made during her career:[18]

Gallery

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Gore's name is also given as Charles Leveson Gore.[2]
  2. ^ Gore's name is also given as Edward H. Gore.[3]
  3. ^ Author Jan Jones states that Robson and Gore divorced after Robson moved to New York because she did not wish to return to England with Gore. Gore is said by Jones to have died shortly after his return to England.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8. 
  2. ^ a b c Jones, Jan. Renegades, Showmen & Angels: A Theatrical History of Fort Worth, 1873-2001. Texas A & M University Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 0-87565-318-9. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S. Boyer (1971). Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 2. Radcliffe College. p. 185. ISBN 0-674-62734-2. 
  4. ^ Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8. 
  5. ^ Munsey's Magazine. 26. New York: Frank A. Munsey. 1901. pp. 324, 587–8. 
  6. ^ New York State Medical Association, Medical Society of the State of New York (1807- ) (1920). New York State journal of medicine, Volume 20. p. 170. http://books.google.com/books?id=mrhYAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA170. 
  7. ^ Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 184–185. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8. 
  8. ^ "Screenplay Info for A Night Out (1916)". Turner Classic Movies (tcm.com). http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=498973&category=Screenplay%20Info. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  9. ^ Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8. 
  10. ^ a b Palmer, Scott (1988). A Who's Who of Australian and New Zealand Film Actors: The Sound Era. p. 142. ISBN 0-8108-2090-0. 
  11. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (May 28, 1931). "The She-Wolf (1931)". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9807E4DA153AEE3ABC4051DFB366838A629EDE. Retrieved August 3, 2012. 
  12. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (December 3, 1932). "If I Had a Million (1932)". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9901E1DE1F31E333A25750C0A9649D946394D6CF. Retrieved August 3, 2012. 
  13. ^ John C. Tibbetts, James M. Welsh, ed. (2010). American Classic Screen Features. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-81087678-1. 
  14. ^ Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 3, 187–8. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8. 
  15. ^ Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 3, 187. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8. 
  16. ^ Edwards, Anne (2000) [1985]. Katharine Hepburn: A Remarkable Woman. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 456. ISBN 0-312-20656-9. 
  17. ^ Brown, Thomas Allston (1903). A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 to 1901, Volume 3. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. pp. 42, 63, 180, 217, 263, 265, 267, 349, 352, 366, 425–6, 427, 429, 431, 439, 523, 533, 536, 538. 
  18. ^ "May Robson". http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0733480/. Retrieved August 3, 2012. 

External links