First full-length silent film features Canada’s Marie Dressler

It was on this day in 1914 that actress Marie Dressler of Cobourg, Ont., stars in Tilley’s Punctured Romance with Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand and Mack Swain.

It was the world’s First six-reel, feature-length silent film comedy directed by fellow Canadian Mack Sennett. The movie, shown in New York, N.Y., was based on her vaudeville act.

According to Wikipedia, Marie Dressler (November 9, 1868 – July 28, 1934) was a Canadian–American stage and screen actress and early silent film and Depression-era star. Successful on stage in vaudeville and comic operas, she was also successful in film.

Leaving home at the age of 14, Dressler built a career on stage in travelling theatre troupes. A large, plain woman, she learned early to appreciate her talent in making people laugh. In 1892, she started a career on Broadway that lasted into the 1920s, performing comedic roles that allowed her to improvise to get laughs.

From one of her successful Broadway roles, she played the titular role in the first full-length screen comedy, 1914’s Tillie’s Punctured Romance, opposite Charles Chaplin and Mabel Normand. She would make several shorts but mostly worked in New York City on stage. During the First World War, along with other celebrities, she helped sell Liberty Bonds. In 1919, she helped organize the first union for stage chorus players.

dressler stampHer career declined in the 1920s and Dressler was reduced to living on her savings while sharing an apartment with a friend. In 1927, she returned to films at the age of 59 and experienced a remarkable string of successes. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1930–31 for Min and Bill and was named the top film star for 1932 and 1933. She would die of cancer in 1934 in Santa Barbara, California. She was married twice but had no children.

In 2008, Canada Post released a four-stamp series honouring four Canadian movie stars (Raymond Burr, Chief Dan George and Norma Shearer, along with Miss Dressler).


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