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Mae Clarke (1910 - 1992)

A photo of Mae Clarke
Mae Clarke
1910 - 1992
Born
August 16, 1910
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania United States
Death
April 29, 1992
Woodland Hills in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
Other Names
Violet Mary Klotz
Summary
Mae Clarke was born on August 16, 1910 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania United States. She died on April 29, 1992 at Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California United States at 81 years of age. We know that Mae Clarke had been residing in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles County, California 91364.
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Updated: August 16, 2020
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Mae Clarke (born Violet Mary Klotz); August 16, 1910 – April 29, 1992 was an American actress. She is widely remembered for playing Henry Frankenstein's bride Elizabeth, who is chased by Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, and for being on the receiving end of James Cagney's halved grapefruit in The Public Enemy. Years active‎: ‎1929–1970 Born‎: ‎Violet Mary Klotz; August 16, 1910; ‎Philadelphia, PA Died‎: ‎April 29, 1992 (aged 81); ‎Woodland Hills, CA
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Mae Clarke
Most commonly known as
Mae Clarke
Full name
Violet Mary Klotz
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Woodland Hills, Los Angeles County, California 91364
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Female
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Mae Clarke was born on in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania United States
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Mae Clarke died on at Woodland Hills in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States
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Mae Clarke Biography Born August 16, 1910 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Died April 29, 1992 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA (cancer) Birth Name Violet Mary Klotz Height 5' 2" (1.57 m) Vivacious, blonde Mae Clarke was exposed to cinema from an early age, her father being an organist in a motion picture theatre. Growing up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, she learned how to dance and, at the tender age of 13, was already performing in nightclubs and amateur theatricals. In 1924 she was one of "May Dawson's Dancing Girls", a New York cabaret act, where she was "discovered" by producer Earl Lindsay and promptly cast in a minor part at the Strand Theatre on Times Square. She then performed as a dancer and burlesque artist at the Strand Roof nightclub, situated above the theatre (which was managed by Lindsay), and at the Everglades Club, earning $40 a week. While there she struck up a lifelong friendship with fellow actress Ruby Stevens, who would later change her name to Barbara Stanwyck. In 1926 Mae got her first chance in "legitimate" theater, appearing in the drama "The Noose" with Stanwyck and Ed Wynn. This was followed by the musical comedy "Manhattan Mary" (1927). After further vaudeville experience Mae was screen-tested by Fox and landed her first movie role in 1929. While she was top-billed in films like Nix on Dames (1929), she was clearly headed for B-movie status and left Fox just over a year later. This resulted in better roles for her, though she was generally cast in "hard-luck" roles. She played prostitute Molly Malloy in the hugely successful Lewis Milestone-directed The Front Page (1931)) and, on the strength of this performance, was signed by Carl Laemmle Jr. at Universal and cast to star in Waterloo Bridge (1931) (as a ballerina-turned-streetwalker, a part made famous by Vivien Leigh in the MGM remake, Waterloo Bridge (1940)). Reviewer Mordaunt Hall described Mae's complex performance as "capital" (New York Times, September 5, 1931). Also in 1931 she had the brief but memorable role for which she will always be known: the hapless girlfriend on the receiving end of a grapefruit pushed into her face by James Cagney in The Public Enemy (1931). She later appeared with Cagney (a close friend in real life) in still more adversarial scenes, in Lady Killer (1933) and Great Guy (1936). Mae also had some feisty comedy roles, in Three Wise Girls (1932) with Jean Harlow, and starring in Parole Girl (1933). She was third-billed in James Whale's Frankenstein (1931), as Elizabeth, the title character's bride-to-be. Her best moment in the film, one of sheer terror, comes when she is confronted by the monster (Boris Karloff) in her own bedroom. Mae's career suffered several major setbacks, beginning in 1932, from which it never fully recovered. She had a nervous breakdown in June of that year (and another in 1934), most likely caused by overwork and marital problems. This was followed by a serious car accident in March of 1933. In addition to that, her sexy screen personae became limited by the new, strict Hollywood production code. When she returned to the screen, it was to be in B-pictures. She had some rewarding parts in some films for Republic, notably The House of a Thousand Candles (1936) and the civil war romance Hearts in Bondage (1936), with Lew Ayres. Despite an image change from frizzy blonde to brunette, she had few opportunities to shine after 1938, except, perhaps, as heroine of the Republic serial King of the Rocket Men (1949). By the beginning of the 1950's, Mae was largely reduced to doing cameos and walk-ons, at best playing minor parts in westerns. She did, however, make several notable appearances on television, particularly on The Loretta Young Show (1953). Mae Clarke, an undeniable star of pre-code Hollywood, fell on hard financial times towards the end of her life. After her last film appearance in Watermelon Man (1970), she retired to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital and devoted her remaining years to her favorite hobby: painting in the style of Swiss abstract artist Paul Klee. She died there of cancer in April 1992. Spouse (3) Herbert Langdon (February 1946 - ?) ( divorced) Stevens Bancroft (14 September 1937 - 5 January 1940) ( divorced) Lew Brice (9 February 1928 - 18 January 1930) ( divorced) Immortal as the recipient of James Cagney's classic grapefruit-in-the-face in The Public Enemy (1931). Interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California, USA, section C, lot #2424. First husband was Fanny Brice's brother, Lewis. In her late 70s she worked in the "Court of Miracles" show at the Universal Studios Tour in Hollywood, not far from where she had filmed her role as Dr. Frankenstein's wife in Frankenstein (1931). Collaborated on shooting three movies with director James Whale in 1931, when both were under contract to Universal: "Waterloo Bridge," "Frankenstein," and "Impatient Maiden.". Personal Quotes (3) [on Colin Clive] Colin Clive was the dearest, kindest (in the real meaning of the word 'kind') man, who gave you importance. He was so wonderful, so clever. When he started acting in a scene, I wanted to stop and just watch... I'd think, " Here I am, playing scenes with this marvelous actor! Mr. Whale would say, "Colin's voice is like a pipe organ... I just pull out the stops, and he produces the music." Colin was electric. I was mesmerized by him - so much so that I hoped it didn't show! When he looked at me, I'd flush. He had a wife back in England, and I had my young man (of the "Waterloo Bridge" premiere.) In fact, I was glad my fiancé was at the premiere that night - to be my good anchor against my stormy waves of fancy for Colin. He was the handsomest man I ever saw - and also the saddest. Colin's sadness was elusive; the sadness you see if you contemplate many of the master painters' and sculptors' conceptions of the face of Christ - the ultimate source in my view of all sadness. [on James Whale] I knew James Whale was imported as one of England's very best and was aware of the great success of the play and film "Journey's End." I wanted to meet Mr. Whale the way I would have entered college to begin learning... Our relationship was the adoration between a teacher (who was expert) and a pupil (who was most willing.) And our objectives became 'What did the author want? What did he not say and assumed we would? We could forget ourselves.' [on her then soon-to-be ex-husband Lew Brice] After he started gambling, he told me any queen in the deck was better than I.

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Mae Clarke, Famed for Grapefruit Scene, Dies Mae Clarke, the quintessential gun moll whose sharply etched features once were conjoined to a grapefruit, thus ensuring her a place in motion picture mythology, died Wednesday afternoon. Miss Clarke was 81 and died after a short bout with cancer, said a spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, where the platinum blonde tough girl in “The Public Enemy” and other films of the 1930s had lived since 1980: Although she was a co-star with Boris Karloff in the original 1931 “Frankenstein,” Miss Clarke found film immortality in “The Public Enemy,” a 1931 gangster drama about two slum kids who move from bootlegging to killing. In one scene Miss Clarke--who had one of her smaller roles--drew the wrath of an outraged James Cagney, who picks up a breakfast grapefruit and grinds it into her face. The hundreds of photographs produced from that single frame of celluloid remain a preferred keepsake of film buffs, many of whom forget that the picture starred Jean Harlow. However, Miss Clarke’s favorite part, she told The Times in 1983, was her starring role in 1931 in “Waterloo Bridge,” in which she played a nice girl forced to turn to prostitution by her circumstances. “My name appeared above the title,” she said. The grapefruit scene, she said in another interview, was not in the script but was invented by Cagney as “a piece of business” from the fabled tough guy’s childhood. “He knew a gangster from the East Side of New York who once threw his breakfast at his girlfriend. Jimmy thought it would add to the scene.” She also said she might not have agreed to the scene if she knew that it would be kept in the final cut of the film. “I just did it for the crew to laugh.” The actress that Anita Loos reportedly used as a model for Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was born Mary Klotz in Philadelphia and grew up in Atlantic City, N.J. She was in her teens and dancing on the Steeplechase Pier when a Broadway producer saw her and brought her to New York, where she performed in supper clubs. She also met and married Lew Brice, brother of Fanny Brice, America’s “Funny Girl.” Her new sister-in-law hired producer Billy Rose to write an act for the newlyweds that they performed successfully in vaudeville. From that evolved a screen test for Miss Clarke, who was hired by Fox Talking Pictures (“That was before 20th Century” was added, she said). She came to films with “Big Time” and “Nix on Dames,” both in 1929. At about the same time, her father lost his job as an organist accompanying silent movies. She sent for her family and bought them a chicken ranch in Canoga Park. Two years later--1931--she celebrated what proved to be the apex of her career with appearances in “The Public Enemy,” “The Good Bad Girl,” “Waterloo Bridge,” “Frankenstein,” “Men on Call” and “The Front Page,” in which she turned in a poignant portrayal of the pathetic Molly Malloy. Some of her later films included “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Great Caruso,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “A Big Hand for the Little Lady” and smaller parts in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “The Watermelon Man” in 1970. She then retired to teach drama. Her marriage to Brice ended in divorce as did two others. By the mid-1950s her film career had been reduced to bit parts and cameo roles. But if she no longer was a star she did not act it, telling a reporter in 1985 that she did not want her picture taken until she had put on her eyelashes and to please turn off a tape recorder because “I have a little hesitancy in my speech lately.” There are no immediate survivors and services are pending.
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Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Mae's lifetime.

In 1910, in the year that Mae Clarke was born, Angel Island, which is in San Francisco Bay, became the immigration center for Asians entering U.S. It was often referred to as "The Ellis Island of the West". Due to restrictive laws against Chinese immigration, many immigrants spent years on the island.

In 1925, at the age of merely 15 years old, Mae was alive when in July, the Scopes Trial - often called the Scopes Monkey Trial - took place, prosecuting a substitute teacher for teaching evolution in school. Tennessee had enacted a law that said it was "unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school". William Jennings Bryan headed the prosecution and Clarence Darrow headed the defense. The teacher was found guilty and fined $100. An appeal to the Supreme Court of Tennessee upheld the law but overturned the guilty verdict.

In 1949, at the age of 39 years old, Mae was alive when on January 25th, the first Emmy Awards (for television) were handed out in Los Angeles. Shirley Dinsdale won for the Most Outstanding Television Personality and Pantomime Quiz Time earned an Emmy for the Most Popular Television Program.

In 1967, Mae was 57 years old when between June 5th and 10th, Israeli and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria fought what came to be called the "Six-Day War". The hostilities began when Israel launched "preemptive" strikes against Egypt, destroying nearly its entire air force. It ended with Israel occupying the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and West Bank.

In 1992, in the year of Mae Clarke's passing, on April 29th, riots began in Los Angeles after the "Rodney King" verdict was issued. Four LAPD officers had been accused of using excessive force (assault) on African-American Rodney King, who had been stopped for drunk driving. The beating had been videotaped. Their acquittal sparked a 6 day riot in Los Angeles.

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