Beating Around the Busch
The True Story of Mae Busch
By David Noakes
Motion Picture Classic August 1924
This is more than the story of Annie May Busch. This is the story of her parents, and her grandparents, a story that has never been told, and as will be seen, their impact was enormous. It is also an attempt to clear up some of the errors that are “out there” concerning the early part of Mae’s career in relation to the period prior to 1915.
Busch is my 1st cousin, twice removed, through her mother Elizabeth
Lay. I have no inside family knowledge to add to what is publically available,
but many years of genealogical research into her ancestors has enabled me to
make the link and trace her early movements. As with all family research some
things remain a mystery and this story is no exception, I will however make it
clear throughout when supposition takes over from evidence based fact. It
should be noted that even some of the ‘evidence’, such as newspaper articles,
are sometimes based on rumour, or represent studio statements. An excellent
example of this is the Mabel Normand affair of September 1915.
Because of the nature of his activities there is a substantial amount of information about Mae’s maternal grandfather, Charles Henry Lay, whereas very little is available on her father’s side. It may be thought that the importance of the Busch family is being understated; however this is not intentional, as apart from her father, there is very little information available. To an extent this is also true of Mae herself, there are few meaningful interviews and little from Mae on important events in her life and we are left to rely on gossip and guess work.
A case in point was her age, which she went to go to great lengths to conceal. As a result of this most events and bio information on a lot of websites are out by up to ten years, including her memorial plaque. This is then an attempt to put an accurate time frame to the life and times of Annie May Busch.
Most of the information relating to Mae is from articles in books and newspapers, and as they are the story, I have included these items in the body of the text rather than use footnotes. I have endeavoured to let these articles tell the story.
David Noakes March 2013
Charles Henry Lay – Maternal Grandfather
In a way I partly blame Samuel Morse, of Morse code fame, for the events that follow. Charles Henry Lay was born in Troy, NY in 1832, and at an early age was trained in the mysteries of the electric telegraph. In 1853 he was employed by the Toronto & Niagara Telegraph Company and in the same year he married Henrietta Brackenridge who was born in Niagara. He continued with various Telegraph Companies in Canada until 1861 when he was offered a job in Australia assisting with the setting up of the Telegraph in Victoria.
A couple of months after his arrival he was instrumental in forming a local lodge of the Freemasons in Woodend, Lowry Lodge No. 1224. Freemason records indicate he chaired this meeting before being appointed the founding Worshipful Master.
This lodge and the lodge he founded in Rutherglen, Alexandra Lodge, No. 1115, Victoria, both received warrants from the Grand Lodge of England, although Freemason records indicate that he joined the Lowry Lodge from the Canadian Constitution.
“Woodend was the scene of a meeting of more than usual interest, in connection with free- masonry, on Friday night last. A large number of the brethren, from Melbourne and from the neighbouring townships, assembled for the purpose of opening a new lodge, to be called the "Lowry Lodge," in compliment to a zealous brother of the mystic tie, who has been named-not inappropriately the father of freemasonry in Victoria. Tho usual ceremony having been gone through, the lodge was duly constituted, and the following officers appointed :-Worshipful Brother J. Kennedy, P.M. ; C. H. Lay, W.M. ; A. B. Hoffman, S.W. ; "W. J. Lande, J.W. ; A. S. Drought, secretary ; P. Moollcr, treasurer ; T. Fitzsimmons, S.D. ; H. Horneman, J.D. ; and C. Lilley, J.G. The brethren afterwards dined together in the Sydney Hotel.” ARGUS 23rd December 1861
Henrietta and their four children arrived the following year on the 28th September 1862 on the City of Bath. This also seems to support the fact that CHL had to hurry to Victoria to take up his job. The family was to be reunited in Rutherglen as in 1862 Charles was appointed Post Master and Telegraph Manager (at 200 Pounds per year) in this gold rush town.
First established in September 1860 to support the thousands, who rushed to the area in search of gold, some reports suggest 20,000 at the height of the rush, however by 1865 the Victorian Gazetteer lists the population as 2000. The town is 30 kilometres east of Albury and 8 kilometres from the Murray River. The Gazetteer also reports “Rutherglen was progressive, the streets were well made, metalled and kerbed, and the town lighted with kerosene.”
Apart from opening the first Telegraph Office in Rutherglen Charles Lay is also given credit for starting the Rutherglen Fire Brigade and the local chapter of the Masonic Lodge, Alexandra Lodge 1115 was founded in 1865. With the decline in rural population after the gold rush era it closed in 1884. He is also highly praised as an entertainer. The following newspaper articles from the Chiltern Federal Standard, and the Murray Gazette paints an excellent picture of Charles Henry Lay.
The July 1863 Gazette reported the formation of a Masonic Lodge in the following terms: “ The brethren of the mystic are exerting themselves to found a lodge at Rutherglen, and have, we understand, met with so much encouragement that a suitable brick building is to be commenced almost immediately. The first meetings of the lodge were held in the Star Hotel, the initiative coming from the newly appointed postmaster, Charles Lay”
The Federal Standard of 1st January 1864 reports a Fire Brigade Meeting as follows: “A number of residents in Rutherglen met at the Star Hotel on Wednesday night. The Mayor, in the chair, briefly explained the object of the meeting. He called on Mr. Lay as having been connected with fire brigades for a number of years, to relate his experiences. Mr. Lay submitted a plan and specification of a hook and chain, which he thought would answer the purpose. It was resolved that the Municipal Council should recognize a body of volunteers to act as the Municipal Fire Brigade of Rutherglen. It was decided that persons desirous of enrolling should be enabled to do so by applying to Mr. C. H. Lay.”
The Federal Standard of Friday, February 5th reports on an amateur concert held at Wahgunyah to raise funds for the Corowa Church. Over 300 attended and 70 pounds was raised. Part of the report states: “Prominent among the successes of the evening was the facetious and lively song “Lager Bier” by Mr. Lay. Indeed this gentleman was rapturously and successfully encored each time he appeared.”
In September 1865 Charles Lay did a series of lectures followed by entertainment to raise funds for the Ovens Hospital. The lecture and entertainment was repeated in various towns in the district every night for a week. The evening’s entertainment consisted of an hour of demonstrations on the electric telegraph followed by an hour of music and songs. A report in the Federal Standard on Friday 15th September 1865 states: “On Tuesday evening, Mr. C. H. Lay of Rutherglen, gave a very interesting entertainment at the Star Theatre, Beechworth, in aid of the funds for the Ovens Hospital. Between 50 and 60 persons were present. Mr. Lay first of all delivered a lecture on the electric telegraph and illustrated the subject by apparatus and diagrams. The composition of the lecture was very good, both instructive and amusing. After the lecture Mr. Lay gave the second part of his entertainment, a series of songs, sentimental, comic, patriotic and local. They were all well sung, the comic songs being particularly excellent. The two, “The Fine Old Irish Gentleman” and “Lager Bier,” were indeed some of the best pieces of comic singing which we have heard in the district. Great credit is due to Mr. Lay for the public spirited manner in which he has come forward and exercised talents of no mean order on behalf of the Ovens Hospital.”
While at Rutherglen his only daughter, the future mother of Mae Busch, Elizabeth Maria Lay, was born on 14th December 1866
In November 1869 Charles resigns from Rutherglen Post Office and eighteen months later turns up as the owner of a hotel in Western Victoria
Western Hotel – Corner of Timor and Kepler Streets
C. H. Lay begs to intimate that he has succeeded Mr. W. O’Brien in the occupation of the above central hotel, which has superior accommodation for Squatters, Commercial Travellers, and others. In taking possession the new proprietor hopes, by strict attention to business, to merit the support of residents and visitors to the district. Well ventilated bedrooms, bathroom upstairs; sample rooms; O’Brien’s Western Horse Bazaar adjoining Hotel. WARRNAMBOOL EXAMINER 11th April 1871
The family lived there until September 1872 as confirmed by 22 newspaper articles in The Warrnambool Examiner during this period. In the 18 months he was there he was Treasurer of the Anglers Club, established the Rowing Club, and was General Manager of the Dramatic Club in addition to his normal concert appearances for fund raising.
The family left Warrnambool on 27th September 1872 on the “Edina” and arrived back in Melbourne on 28th September Warrnambool Examiner 27/09/1872
He was in Melbourne in March 1873 for a meeting of Freemasons and then he operated as Charles H Lay & Co, Indian & China Tea Co, in Shop 2, Ground Floor, Eastern Arcade, Bourke St in 1875, a business he had bought from T. L. Englande & Co. A year later the business had gone & in 1877 his wife was running a vest makers shop from the upstairs gallery of the same arcade. It also only lasted a year. It is suspected that he sold the tea business to Webster & Co in 1876 before taking up the Telegraph post in South Australia, leaving his family in Melbourne; however this did not last as the following newspaper article explains.
White's Rooms. — On Saturday Bachelder's Combination Company closed their season at this place of amusement. An afternoon performance was given, at which there was a large attendance of little folk, who each received some presents; and in the evening there was another large audience, - who accorded to the various items in the programme unmistakable marks of favour. The Anglo-German eccentricities of Mr. C. H. Lay created, as on previous occasions, great laughter, and were rewarded with liberal applause. Mr. Lay has, we understand, decided to cast in his lot with the Pantascope Company, and will accompany the entertainment as lecturer — a post which he is especially qualified to fill. Mr. Lay, who has been employed in our Telegraph Department since his arrival in Adelaide, has by his genial manner and good fellow ship made a large circle of friends, who will wish him all the success he can wish himself in his new position. He has received a most flattering communication in reply to his letter resigning his position from the Postmaster General and Superintendent of Telegraphs, in which Mr. Todd states his regret at losing Mr. Lay's services, and conveys good wishes for his future success. Twenty-six officers of the Telegraph Department have also presented him with a joint letter, expressing their high opinion of him as a man and a fellow employee. The Pantascope will appear at Port Adelaide on Tuesday night. SOUTH AUSTRALIAN REGISTER 9th July 1877
He continued to give concerts in Adelaide raising funds for various causes until he moved to Haydonton (Murrurundi) NSW and took up the post of Inspector of Railway Telegraph Lines & Stations on 1st January 1879. The NSW Public Service lists 1872-1881 lists his appointment as Inspector of Railway Telegraph Lines and Stations on 250 pounds per annum, a job he held until his death in January 1882 of apoplexy. He lived in Haydonton. Haydonton was a private town established by Peter Haydon in 1838 and was built on the opposite bank of Page’s River from Murrurundi. In 1913 the two towns were amalgamated and the name Murrurundi was retained for the combined towns.
During this period he continued his concerts to excellent reviews in addition to founding the Murrurundi Agricultural and Horticultural Society.
MURRURUNDI. Scone, January 14. Death has been in our midst during the last week. Mr. C. H. Lay, Superintendent of Railway Telegraphs, was the first who died, after three or four days' illness. His mortal remains were yesterday followed to their last resting place by all the inhabitants. We have just heard that Mr. Lay, who was 50 years of age, had only a few months past insured his life for some few hundred pounds. MAITLAND MERCURY 17th January 1882
His wife Henreitta died the following year, but this was just the start of the problems for the family which just fell apart following the death of Charles. The same year his mother died, 1883, the eldest son Francis died in a hotel room after being discharged from Sydney hospital as being incurable, another son Edmund also in the same year deserted his wife and three children and was never seen again. In the middle of all of this, also in 1883, his daughter, Elizabeth, at the age of seventeen launches a singing and stage career no doubt strongly influenced by her father’s stage performances over the years. It is not know where Elizabeth was living just prior to her stage debut on 22nd May 1883
Henry Andrew Busch - Paternal Grandfather:
Born in Germany in 1836 he married an Irish immigrant, Annie May Conway, in Melbourne in 1866 and their first of seven children, Frederick William Busch was born the following year. All that is known about Henry is that he was a musician of some kind and his son Frederick followed in his footsteps.
It is worth noting at this stage that the unusual parentage of both Elizabeth and Frederick was the key factor in finding them on the 1900 New York census as both had changed their names; Elizabeth to Dora Busch and Frederick was known as William Busch. Dora was listed as having an American father and a Canadian mother while William was listed as having a German father and an Irish mother.
William Busch & Elizabeth Lay – Parents
Their actual names were Elizabeth Maria Lay and Frederick William Busch; however they were never known by those names, with Frederick more commonly known as William Busch and later in life as Billie (Billy) Busch. He was also a member of the Paragon Trio which became the Lelliott Busch Lelliott musical act.
Elizabeth was slightly more complicated, using the stage name of Dora De Vere from 1883, and then after her marriage in 1888 becoming Dora Busch, until such time as she arrived in the USA, reverting to Dora Devere. The Dora Busch usage is supported by the death certificate for her first child Dorothy (Victorian Death Certificate Reg. No.1889/17857).
“Dora Busch (round Maoriland in '03 with Cogill Bros.), in India with Hudson's Surprise Party, now calls herself Devere. Dora, when a member of Frank M. Clark's Silk Stockings Variety Company, was known as Dora De Vere” Otago Witness 24/1/1895.
It is often claimed that Mae’s mother was an opera singer and her father conducted all manner of symphony orchestras, including the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. There is no evidence to suggest Frederick conducted any major orchestras and Elizabeth only did a few performances of serious opera to mixed reviews. As the Melbourne Symphony was not founded until 1906 it is not possible for William Busch to have had any part in this orchestra as he had left the country in 1896, 10 years earlier. Newspaper articles leave no doubt that their musical background was vaudeville/burlesque.
“The Simonsen opera season at the Royal is a frost. A weak company, an indifferent chorus, and cheap mounting are not sufficient to arouse any special enthusiasm in us these hard times. The attendance during the week has been decidedly poor. On Saturday "II Trovatore was attempted, and met with very slight success. Miss Elsa May was an unsatisfactory Leonora and Miss Dora Busch was worse as Azucena”. Otago Witness 30/10/1890
In December 1890 they were reunited with Frank M. Clark and toured Australia until mid 1894 apart from a 5 month break when Annie May Busch was born, on 16th June 1891, at 57 Page St. South Melbourne, Victoria (now Albert Park). It is not known who looked after Annie May while they toured although William parents were living in Melbourne at the time. They certainly had Annie with them on the 1896 tour of New Zealand as the family left from there for the journey to America. This would no doubt have given Annie a taste of touring life that would be a great help in her future career.
A tour of India with Hudson’s Surprise Party took place 1894 – 1895.
“Dora Busch (Mrs Muldoon, in Muldoon's Picnic" with Cogills) has accepted an engagement as leading contralto with Manning's Opera Company for the West Australian tour. The season opens in Perth March 15 1894” Otago Witness 8/3/1894
“Miss Dora Busch was uncongenially placed as the wife of the grandee, and her enunciation was so bad as to occasionally seriously impair the success of the scenes in which she took part.” West Australian 27/3/1894
In spite of the above Dora must have had a good voice as later reviews offer much praise.
“Miss Dora Busch, as Lazarillo, and Mr. Wentworth (King of Spain) as before, delighted the audience with their acting. Miss Busch had the audience with her in her beautiful rendering of "Alas, those Chimes," which, as on all previous occasions on which she has sung it, received the warmest applause.” West Australian 11/4/1894
There are not many press mentions for William until the establishment of the Paragon Trio in 1894. The first press mention of William Busch is in an advertisement for the Santley Tour where he is listed as second violin. Argus (Melbourne) 18/5/1889
“Melbourne Town Hall: In the performance of the “Messiah” "The trumpet shall sound," the trumpet obbligato being well played by Mr. F. W. Busch; in " But who may abide the day of His coming " and " The people that walked in darkness " he evinced an inclination to revert to the measured, pumping style which was so noticeable a year or two ago, and which he should endeavour to carefully avoid”. Argus (Melbourne) 26/12/1891
There are hundreds of newspaper advertisements and articles in the Australian and New Zealand press for the period 1885 to 1896, the majority for Dora Devere/Busch. The newspaper articles indicate that for a great part of the time from 1888 to 1895 they were in separate parts of the country as part of their performing duties. It is possible that in some cases William may have been part of the musical group supporting Dora Devere/Busch.
After 1894 with the establishment of the Paragon Trio, later known as Lelliott Busch & Lelliott, it can be seen that William & Elizabeth were members of the same touring companies. The Paragon Trio was made up of William Busch, Arthur and Harry Elliott, brothers from Deniliquin in NSW. The Lelliot’s went to the USA with William & Dora and performed together until July 1900.
“Theatre Royal Adelaide: The Paragon Trio made their first appearance in Adelaide and played with a fair amount of success on two mandolins and a guitar, two cornets and a slide trombone, three xylophones, concluding their performance with a clever exposition of bell-ringing, which brought down the house”. Chronicle (SA) 9/11/1895
“William Busch through Maoriland with Cogill Bros in ‘93, has joined hands with the two Lelliotts and makes up the Paragon Trio with Percy St. John's Cambridge Company at Adelaide Royal”. Otago Witness 21/11/1895
“Miss Dora Busch Baby eyes," Miss Lempriere and Look back," Miss Wilroot. A feature of the performance was the Girls of '95" ballet, which was received with quite enthusiastic applause. The pretty Primrose ballet was also gone through, while Mons Abosaleh repeated his capital gun-spinning performance. Miss Addie Favart again charmed the audience with her specialties, while the Paragon Trio—Messrs Lelliott, Busch and Lelliott— gave another exhibition of their skill in bellringing. To-night the same bill will be repeated”. Otago Daily Times 6/1/1896 Click here to view this newspaper article
“Miss Dora Busch who possesses a very good voice, sang in pleasing style as a scena, "Remember Me no More," bowing her acknowledgments to an encore. One of the best items of the programme was the musical melange of Herr Busch and the Lelliot Bros, who gave a quarter of an hour's performance on several instruments, which so pleased the audience that a repetition was insisted on. The Trilby Ballet was a very pretty and piquant item, and in response to rounds of applause the young ladies repeated it. Mr Will Stevens's vocal absurdities pleased the audience immensely, and he was not allowed to depart without a. triple encore. All through, the performance was an extremely mirth-provoking one. Humpty- Dumpty will be repeated this evening.” Star 7/4/1896 Click here to view this newspaper article
The Busch family and Lelliott Brothers departed New Zealand in August 1896.
Departures: Auckland: S.S. Richmond for Rarotonga and Tahiti. Passengers: Mr & Mrs Fredo and two children, Mr & Mrs Busch and child, Messrs H. Crawford, Montague, Lelliott (2), B. Wilson and H.H. Hemus. Auckland Star 8/8/1896 Page 4.
The following article puts their arrival in the USA sometime prior to February 1897 and given the sailing time between New Zealand and San Francisco plus a short stop in Tahiti indicates an arrival early in 1897. This is supported by William’s entry on the 1930 US Census which indicates ‘year of immigration’ as 1897
“The Orpheum. Several new "acts" were introduced last night, and all of them were successes, though widely differing in style. The Grand Opera Quartet — composed of Guille, tenor; Miss Julia Cotie, soprano; Miss Dora Busch, contralto, and Signer Abramhoff, basso — made the hit of the evening, and the rendering of the quartet from "Rigoletto" was loudly applauded.” San Francisco Call 16/2/1897
“Instrumental musical pot- pourri, by the noted trio Lelliott Busch & Lelliott. By the kind permission of the manager of the Orpheum”. San Fransisco Call 14/3/1897
After a brief stop in San Francisco where they were employed by the Orpheum Theatre they moved to New York, with stops in Chicago, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids.
“KEITH'S UNION SQUARE, NY—A special production of the animated song sheet was the feature of the bill. Lelliott Busch & Lelliott, made their New York debut with considerable success. They do a musical turn which is out of the ordinary run.” NY Dramatic Mirror 5/2/1898
Lelliott Busch Lelliott do a season with Al G Field’s Merry Minstrels and team up with Dora Devere in a concert in London Ontario in January 1899 They do their last performance in April 1900 when the Lelliotts team up with Ethel Clerice.
“Cook Opera House Rochester A comedy and instrumental musical act will be given by Lelliott, Busch and Lelliott, who are said to be experts on the hand bells, slide trombone, cornet, violin, and other instruments. They come from Australia.” Rochester Chronicle 29/4/1900
From September 1900 to August 1903 William & Dora Devere perform a duet act with some success, doing a tour with the Ramblers Burlesquers.
“Billy Bush and Dora Devere in Illustrative songs, with a style of their own, are good.” Brooklyn Eagle 28/1/1902
“Will Busch and Dora Devere in songs, violin and cornet selections delighted the audience.” Minneapolis Journal 13/6/1903
There does not appear to be any further billings for Dora, however William pops up in 1914 – 1915 as the manager of the “Billy Busch Banner Band” and in 1916 as the manager of “The Million Dollar Dolls”
BILLY BUSCH, leader with the Million Dollar Dolls, is also qualifying us a "straight," doing quite a bit of talking from the pit. Mrs. (Dora) Busch is travelling with Billy.
MAY Busch, who has been posing for the past nine months for the Keystone pictures, three
months ago signed a two year contract at a steady increase of salary every quarter. She is now at the Los Angeles, Cal., studios. New York Clipper 2/10/1916
The Final Act
MRS. BILLY BUSCH, known professionally as Dora De Vere. of the Busch De Vere Trio, died Dec. 23 1916 at Providence, R. L Mrs. Busch. who was forty-nine years old, was born In Australia. In her younger days she was a prima donna contralto.Her first American appearance was made at the old Orpheum In San Francisco nineteen years ago when Manager Walters was In charge.
New York Clipper 17th Jan 1917
In loving Remembrance of
MRS. BILLY BUSCH
Who passed away Dec. 23, 1916.
Inserted by her loving Husband and Daughter,
BILLY AND MAY BUSCH.
NY Clipper 19/12/1917
On the 1920 US Census living in Detroit is listed Billy Busch, born Australia, German father and Irish mother, occupation musician. Also listed is a Bessie Busch, born USA age 29 married, occupation actress.
We know without any doubt that William was living with his daughter Mae Busch in Los Angeles at the time of the 1930 Census. (1930 Census return).
point in the story we have confirmed Mae’s birth date as 16th June
1891, her arrival in the USA as 1897 and debunked the myth that her father
conducted the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Apart from parts with touring opera
companies it is fair to say that her mother was not a ‘grand’ opera singer or
from a well to do English family as has been suggested. The simple fact is they
were both well known vaudeville performers of a high standard. Her birth certificate states she was born at number 57 page St. The plaque indicates number 56 - this was as a result of the local council changing the street numbers in 1900.
The issue of the convent schooling is not clear without any firm evidence of how long she was there or if in fact she even went there at all. In an article by Julia Harpman in 1924 Mae says she was twelve when she went to the convent and stayed there for four years. She was not with her parents on the 1900 US Census which suggests at that time she was in the convent, however she would have only been nine at that stage. Attempts to confirm her time at the convent have been unsuccessful. What can be said about the convent story is that she was not put there while her parents toured the world, nor was she put there to train as a nun.
It is from here that we pick up the trail to try and confirm what Mae did up until 1915. The period 1903 to 1908 is an assumption as Mae is not mentioned by name until 1908 however; in August 1903 a new group known as the Busch Devere Trio is first mentioned in advertisements. . NY Dramatic Mirror 22/8/1903. The following articles clearly indicate that in 1908 Mae was a member of the trio and I suspect she joined the group in 1903 at age twelve.
The first newspaper article for Mae Busch is in a review for Miner’s Merry Burlesquers at the Empire, Newark, in early 1908. In addition to her role with the Trio, Mae also has a part in the play, “The Fixer”
Harry Fox, who as a member of Miner’s “Dreamlands" has been attracting favourable attention for two years past, made his debut last week as the feature of Miner’s “Merry Burlesquers” at the Empire, Newark. Fox is a type of comedian rather unusual in burlesque, depending as he does upon his ability as a light comedian, rather than upon any grotesque dialect or character make-up. There is a strong element of distinctiveness in everything he does, and it is a fair prophecy that he will attract a large and valuable personal following. Fox has in his favour a clean, wholesome youthfulness, a most engaging manner and a bright, snappy way of handling dialogue and songs. His start is auspicious for he has been surrounded with a capital organization and a production second to none yet appearing about the city. The vehicle is a two act piece called “The Fixer,” by Guy Fletcher Bragdon. The book tells a consecutive story with a touch of half seriousness toward the end of the second act, an unusual arrangement, but one which works out satisfactorily. The comedy is mostly new and although it is not yet fully developed as it will be after a few weeks of playing, the show makes a first rate laughing entertainment. The foundation is there for an immensely effective piece.
The cast is an unusually large one. There are fourteen principals listed, in addition to the usual chorus of twenty girls. John Price, Ralph Ash and Bob Francisco back up Fox. Price plays an Irishman extremely well, modelling it somewhat on the character as handled by John T. Kelly; Ash is the Hebrew, while Francisco makes a funny German, a la Louis Mann. The trio have worked out several good comedy situations. Among the women principals appear Belle Wilton, as a Gypsy singer, the Millership Sisters, singing and dancing soubrettes, seconded by May Busch and Lydia Fox, while Dora Devere has the comedy character part.
A burlesque organization will have to travel some to beat this array of women.
For dressing they set a swift pace. There are sixteen numbers and the principals have new frocks almost every time they appear. Half a dozen of the numbers have been especially written for the show, perhaps the best of which are “Butterflies of Fashion,” the opening ensemble, a particularly well staged bit, and “The Lobster and the Wee Mermaid," the latter led by Belle Wilton. All the music is up to date, as witness the use of “Come on Down Town,” from “The Yankee Prince” for the finale of the first act. A better working chorus has yet to be seen this season. There are twelve showgirls and eight “ponies.” They make a glittering procession, having ten costume changes in the two acts. A short, snappy olio separates the two pieces. The Millership Sisters open with their neat dancing specialty. The Two Franciscos gave their comedy magic expose to solid laughter. The eccentric comedian of the pair makes his nonsense funny in an old way, and his burlesques are sure fire.
The Busch-Devere Trio closed. May Busch has a new serious recitation with musical accompaniment that scored tremendously.
Rush. Variety 1908
Al Reeves' burlesque entertainment may be lacking in some of the fine points at times but there is always something worthwhile seeing and plenty to laugh at. There is no "olio." The Busch-Devere Trio fill in with an illustrated picture arrangement that for kind applause effort Is a wonder. The pictures are all battleships, soldiers, mother or something of that sort which couldn't fail. The house didn't go crazy over it however. A recitation by Mae Bush almost spoiled the good impression made by Miss Bush previously.
The burlesque saves the show. Mae Busch carries away the feminine honours and
Mae should be handed more to do. A dandy looking girl away from the burlesque type, she is full of life and go, nimble on her feet, can sing above the average and has the right idea about clothes. Variety 17th September 1910
“It would be hard for any manager to secure a better selection of principals or a better company in general than the galaxy of talent which Al Reeves has gathered about him this season. May Busch handles several bits in a competent manner, and leads several numbers in a pleasing style With a little more attention to stage deportment, delivery and gesture, she should someday become famous in her line. A recitation by pretty May Busch and some phenomenal cornet playing by the famous Billy Busch were also included.”
There are more ways than one of keeping cool. At the Union Square theatre, Tuesday night, Manager Buck had some of the "ways" working overtime. Outside the theatre is a sign telling the passersby how many degrees cooler it is inside. Electric fans of two sizes are continually buzzing. One of the pictures had a snow scene. That helped some, but the audience knew beyond all doubt that it was below zero when the Durand trio walked out in heavy overcoats. It's too bad that Manager Buck didn't have a lecture on the Alps during a blizzard. But he had 'em guessing Monday night. And to tell the simon-pure truth those thick cushioned opera chairs almost spoiled all the cooling effects. But the show was a good one for a "pop" bill, and the people didn't seem to mind the heat. Deodata pleased with his magic and finished strong with Old Glory waving around the footlights. They're a patriotic bunch down on 14th street and always on speaking terms with the American flag. Mae Busch did
well with her songs, receiving the most attention with "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
Variety 1st July 1911
—“Mae Busch, a member of the Busch Devere Trio, which was with the Al. Reeves Show during the past season, is doing a single act in vaudeville.” BillBoard 15/7/1911
“The Busch-Devere Trio, two women and a man, had quite a mixture of songs, instrumental music, a recitation and bugle calls. With patriotic airs and "Alexander," the audience didn’t care what became of it. That combination is enough to make anybody happy”. Variety 1912
This is the last mention of the Busch Devere Trio as in February of that year Mae breaks into Broadway in a dramatic fashion.
Lillian Loraine Actress, Who Announced Her Marriage, Misses Two Performances of "Over the River." When the time arrived for yesterday's matinee performance of "Over the River," at the Globe Theatre, Miss Lillian Lorraine, who has one of the leading parts, had not appeared and Miss Mae Busch played her role. Miss Lorraine did not appear in the evening either and Miss Busch again played her role. As told in- the HERALD yesterday. Miss Lorraine, Tuesday night, announced that she had been married to Mr. Frederick Gresheimer, of Chicago, in Jersey City, on Monday last. No record of the marriage could be found, however, and the Registrar said they had applied for a license, but did not obtain one because they didn't have a witness as required. Efforts to communicate with the actress last night at her apartments in the Nevada were unsuccessful. At the Globe no statement was forthcoming as to whether Miss Lorraine has left the company, of which Mr. Eddie Foy is the star.
- New York Herald 28/3/1912
This is the story told by Julia Harpman in 1924 – “Shortly before her graduation she sang at an informal entertainment, where she met Elsie Janis. Miss Janis, upon learning that Mae was anxious to go on the stage, gave her a letter of introduction to Charles Dillingham, who was then ready to produce “Over the River” with Eddie Foy.”
Nice story but hardly true – the informal entertainment would have been nothing less than a rip roaring performance of Al Reeves burlesque show as preparations for “Over the River” took place in December 1911.
Globe theatre. New York, will be closed this week for final dress rehearsals of Eddie Foy's newest musical comedy. "Over the River," which Charles Dillingham will present at the Globe Monday evening January 8th. The book of the new offering is by George V. Hobart and H. A. OuSoucket, and the company includes Maud Lambert. Lillian Lorraine, Josie Sadler, Ken Hunter, Melville Stewart, William Sollery. Osborne Searle. David Andrada, Lester Crawford and Frank Rainger. The musical setting of "Over the River" is by John L. Golden. Syracuse Herald 31/12/1911
In addition to being the understudy for Lillian Lorraine Mae also had a small part in the show and made her first appearance on February 10 well before taking over the lead in March and continuing in that position until the end of the season on 30th April 1912. She would have been twenty years of age.
NOW IN "OVER THE RIVER."
Rose Winters appeared Feb. 10 for the first time In the part of Mrs. Madison Park in support of Eddie Foy. in "Over the River at the Globe Theatre. May Busch also madeher first appearance at the same time in the part of Peaches. New York Clipper 2nd March 1912
In August 1912 Mae signs on to one of the Jesse L. Lasky touring shows, and over the next two years travels the country. At this point I need to address another myth relating to when Mae did her first film. Most articles relating to Mae Busch suggest that her film career started with “The Agitator” and “Water Nymph”; however, there is no supporting evidence that I can find that confirms Mae’s presence in either film, the films are not mentioned in the 1923 Blue Book of the Screen, or by Samuel Goldwyn in a special article he wrote on Mae in 1924, nor is there any mention in The Motion Studio Directory of 1921.
BUSCH, Mae: b. Melbourne, Austr.; educ. Convent, Madison, N.J.; stage career, leads with Eddie Foy; screen career, Keystone, with Eddie Foy, Weber and Fields (“Wife and Auto Trouble,” “Better Late Than Never), Para-Artcraft (“The Grim Game,” “Her Husband’s Friend”). Universal (“The Devil’s Pass Key”). Hght., 5.5; wght., 125; black hair, gray eyes. Studio ad., Universal City, Cal.
“The Agitator” was a short 10 minute film produced by The American Film Manufacturing Company and was released 4th April 1912. It is a western (not really Mae’s scene) and was filmed in La Mesa, California. I cannot find the actual filming dates however if you look at where Mae was in the 6 months prior to 4th April 1912 there is not much opportunity for her to squeeze in a “flying” trip to California. Newspaper advertisements and articles have her working with the Busch Devere Trio until December 1911 and during January she would have been preparing for her debut in “Over the River” on 19th Feb.
Rose Winters and May Busch made their first appearances with Eddie Foy in Over the River on Feb. 19. New York Dynamic Mirror 6/3/1912, and of course she took over the leading role and stayed with the show for the full season.
“The Water Nymph” with Mabel Normand was a Mark Sennett (Keystone) production also filmed in California in Aug/Sept 1912 and released on 23rd September 1912. Once again the timing does not seem right as in early August Mae had joined the Jesse L. Lasky group where she stayed until 1915.
So given the above I suggest that it is very unlikely that Mae was in either production. The following give an indication of her work with the Lasky Company.
MUSICAL ACT SCORES A HIT AT PROCTOR'S
"Some Banjo" at Proctor's for the first half of the week is an act out of the ordinary. Introducing Cotton White and May Busch, with the Melody Lane Girls in a musical act with attractive and novel settings. The girls are headed by May Busch, a lively, captivating young woman, who dances with a vigour which makes one feel that she really enjoys it. Her dancing is exceedingly graceful and sets off the act with the necessary dash it needs to balance it. Mount Vernon Daily Argus 24th September 1912
There are close to thirty entertainers on the new bill which opens at the Orpheum for the week commencing Sunday. Jesse L. Lasky's latest vaudeville, "The Antique Girl," a tabloid musical comedy. The company Presenting this entertaining feature is topped by Doris Wilson, a smashing blonde with a great voice, and Eugene MacGregor and Mae Busch. Goodwins Weekly (Utah) 26th October 1912
Large audiences that filled Proctor's to capacity attended and enjoyed the opening performances of the new vaudeville bill, yesterday. The most original by far, and one of the cleverest tabloid 'musical comedies that have yet been offered here Is "The Antique Girl." which headed the bill and scored so strongly with Monday's crowds.
There are many pretty scenes and songs during the action, as well as some excellent dances by the principals. "The Merry Minuet," a very dainty and clever dancing song was very effectively rendered. Mae Busch, a charming singer and accomplished dancer, played the part of "The Antique Girl" in which she scored an individual success. George, as the proprietor of the Antique Shop, proved a very funny comedian, and divided honours with Miss Busch. The remainder of the large company are all very good. "The Antique Girl" ranks among the best offerings of the season, and is alone worth going to see. Schenectady Gazette January 21, 1913
Diaphanous Gown Worn by Actress
One of the most chic and becoming, if a trifle daring gowns seen this season is that worn by Miss Mae Busch, who plays a prominent part in 'The Water Cure", the Lasky farce which is the Schubert headliner this week. The act itself is a riot of laughter. Alan Brooks is a clever comedian. Utica Daily Press April 1913
Alan Brooks divided the laugh honours of the vaudeville week with Will Cressy. He appeared at the Fifth Avenue under Jesse L. Lasky's direction in “The Water Cure”, a musical adaptation of Cheer Up, by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Cecil B. De Mille. Mr. Brooks is a legitimately clever farceur. He is almost as lanky as Vernon Castle, and his humorous ability comes from his Carle-like grotesque by-play. The Water Cure tells a slight story of a young New York clubman, who comes to a sanitarium that he may recover from an actress's breach of promise suit. From the moment Mr. Brooks appears the playlet becomes consistently funny. Between the spiral staircase of the sanitarium and the unexpected appearance of the actress, the clubman's cure works under difficulties.The other players, headed by Mae Busch, meet their slight opportunities with average success. The Water Cure moves smoothly, revealing good stage direction. It is entertaining and decidedly amusing. In fact, The Water Cure is an effective treatment for a blasé vaudeville patron.NY Dramatic Mirror Oct 1913
Keith's Up To the Mark.
There's a great show for the dear old tired business man at the Grand this week. And he can take his wife and children without fear. There's a bill full of music and comedy.—good music and good comedy, too. And there are a lot of pretty girls who wear a lot of pretty clothes."The Water Cure" presented by Jesse L I.asky, the producer of "The Red Heads" and other musical sketches. The sketch includes a number of songs in which Mae Busch, Helen Bancroft, Gus Bacl and Brooks sing the leads, supported by a quartet of unusually pretty and stylishly gowned women.
Syracuse Herald 11/11/1913
LORA LIEB LEAVES CAST
Out of Lasky's "The Beauties'—soon to be seen in new production. Miss Lora Lieb left the cast of Jesse Lasky's The Beauties on Saturday evening. Miss Lieb has been successfully playing the principal role of the American beauty. Mae Busch follows Miss Lieb, who will shortly be seen in an important part in a new production
NY Dramatic Mirror April 1914
The first Lasky girl act of the season will be “The Society Buds," with Clark and Gergman featured. " The Red Heads " will tour again, with James B. Carson, and " The Beauties " will once more be on view, with Mortimer Welden and Mae Busch in the foremost roles. NY Dramatic Mirror 19/8/1914
Lasky's "The Spring Girl." 30 Mins.; Full Stage.
Orpheum, Harrisburg, Pa. Harrisburg, Sept. 24.
A farce comedy with music, bordering on boisterous hilarity. The scene is laid in a water cure sanatorium built over a spring which gives its name to the piece. Mae Busch, as Minnie Waters, is mistress of the establishment. From the action of the playlet, the scene might rather be a lunatic asylum than a hospital. Allan Brooks is Billie French, a Broadway dude, bordering on delirium tremens, and brings forth the comedy. The turn contains several catchy songs, but the plot is not very well worked out. The piece is not as elaborately staged as the former Lasky acts, and there is no change of costumes for the four girls. The music is by Robert Hood Bowers, and the act written by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Cecil DeMille.
Variety Sept 1914
Mae left Lasky’s in early 1915 and took the leading role in “Damaged Goods” with Edmund Lowe at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco before signing up with Mack Sennett.
Mae Busch, formerly in vaudeville with Lasky’s “beauties” has signed with the Keystone Co,
Variety March 1915
Mae Busch’s Movie Career
The first thing that needs to said is that there is no evidence that Mae knew Mabel Normand prior to 1915 and there is no evidence that Mabel introduced Mae to Mack Sennett. In the previous section I made a case for eliminating “Agitator” and “Water Nymph” as Mae’s first film, so what was her first foray on the silver screen? However let us first look at how Mae got into movies. The following article ‘smells’ like a studio piece put out by Universal to promote “Foolish Wives” which had been released two weeks prior; however there are elements of truth such as the Eddie Foy bit together with the statement about her diving accident(more on that later).
HOW I BECAME A MOVIE STAR By Mae Busch (Universal Star)
Eddie Foy can be blamed for my motion picture career. I had been on the musical comedy stage for several years, playing with some of the well-known New York stars. Four years ago I was starred in a vaudeville act in which I played a madcap part. I was appearing in Los Angeles, at the Orpheum Theatre. Out at Keystone Studios was Eddie Foy, preparing to film a comedy feature.
As I had played with Mr. Foy in "Over the River," he came to the theatre to see me, accompanied by Mack Sennett. They saw my sketch and Mr. Sennett immediately offered me a part in the Eddie Foy comedy and a year's contract with the Keystone Company.
As soon as I could cancel my vaudeville bookings I returned to Los Angeles and began my screen career. I remained with Sennett for two years during which time I had an opportunity to support a number of noted stage stars, such as Weber and Fields, Sam Bernard and William Collier. The last year I was featured in all the Keystone comedies. At the end of two years, I met with an accident in making a dive from a forty-foot pier and was forced to retire for more than eighteen months.
While I was recuperating I made up my mind that I would never appear in comedies again. About that time Eric von Stroheim was selecting his cast for the Universal-Jewel picture, "The Devil's Passkey." I was picked for the role of the Spanish dancer.
Mr. von Stroheim in arranging his cast for the biggest picture ever made, "Foolish Wives," selected me to play the role of one of the masquerading Russian princesses who serve as his confederates. I believe "Foolish Wives" has proven my real opportunity and will seal my stamp of success in the screen drama.
Mae Busch has poise, good looks and backs it up with a keen intelligence and a knack of wearing wonderful clothes, years of experience on the legitimate stage makes screen acting quite easy for her. Adline Philadelphia Presentations 27th February 1922
Mae joined Keystone (Mack Sennett) in early 1915 and by 4th February her first film, “Hogan the Porter” was released. Her role in the film was an indignant guest in the hall in what is classified by the industry as a ‘short’ with a run time of about ten minutes. In all, Mae had a role in twenty one ‘shorts’ during her time at Keystone, all made during the one year she was with the company. Her last Keystone film was “A Bath House Blunder” which was released on 2nd April 1916 which brings us to the September 1915 incident with Mae, Mark and Mabel Normand.
Mae Busch on the right – circa 1915
The Mabel Normand Vase Incident, September 1915
MABEL NORMAND FIGHTING DEATH
While medical science waged a desperate battle for her life, Mabel Normand, famous film star and comedy queen, was unconscious and rapidly sinking today. Her physician, Dr. O. M. Justice, early today stated that the chance for her recovery was slight. Last night the beautiful movie star was in extremely low condition, according to advisors from the sick room, and not once during the night did she rally to consciousness.
Miss Normand, who was Charlie Chaplin's partner in the world of famous comedy acts, was held by thousands to be the most beautiful woman in filmdom. Today these thousands are anxiously awaiting developments from her sick room, and the laughter which she caused to rise to thousands of lips with her clever comedy is hushed by the seriousness of her condition.
According to Dr. Justice, Miss Normand has been unconscious for several days and has not responded to the efforts of science to restore her to normal condition. That no rally is expected today was the intimation given out from her sick room at the Baltic Apartments today.
Miss Normand's illness is attributed to an accident in the studio of the Keystone company, of which she is a leading lady, a little more than a week ago. It is stated that the beautiful star fell, sustaining injuries to her head. Since the fall Miss Normand has suffered concussion of the brain and not once since the accident has she uttered a coherent word.
Los Angeles Herald, September 20, 1915
There are many variations of this story and it remains one of the great Hollywood mysteries - here are four versions
The story told by Minta Durfee in a taped interview with Don Schneider in 1974 is “So that's where I was, we were sleeping there at night. Or rather, that morning we were there, asleep. I wasn't asleep because I've never slept much unfortunately. And when we heard this terrible “Unnhhhh, unnhhhhh” groaning, I was immediately up; Roscoe was asleep; we were sleeping on the front porch, of course all the family were inside. And up comes this cab driver with Mabel with blood all over from top to bottom, where this awful Mae Busch had struck her over the head with a vase.” Mabel Normand Source Book William Thomas Sherman.
Sixty years later you can almost feel the hatred that Minta has for Mae – don’t think she like Mae from day one.
The second story is from Adela Rogers St. John who “asserts that the injury was the result of a failed suicide attempt that involved her jumping off a pier. She attributes this desperate act to Mabel’s disillusionment and despair over the breakup of her engagement to Sennett and whom Mabel had found in bed with Mae Busch, purportedly one of Sennett’s finds.”
The injury Mabel suffered which is referred to here is the one she received the night she walked in on Sennett and Mae Busch together, either in the way of being struck in the head, as told by Minta Durfee, or from being injured in a suicide attempt jumping off Santa Monica pier, as told by Adela Rogers St. John. It is not clear which of the two incidents brought about this story, though Adela Rogers St. Johns version seems the more likely of the two given the serious nature of the emergency. Did her being hit over the head with a vase, as Minta claimed, actually occur at all, or did this take place on a separate occasion? The answer to this is not at all clear. Mabel Normand Source Book William Thomas Sherman.
It does seem odd that Mabel turned up at Minta’s in a taxi, if the injury was as serious as it seems and it is hard to believe Mack or Mae would let her wander out of their apartment covered in blood and catch a taxi!!!
The third story goes like this - We too know that Mabel appeared afterward with a nasty head wound. Where exactly it came from, remains a matter of great debate. One theory is that Mabel walked in on Mack in flagrante with her supposed friend Mae Busch, who-- after Mabel became understandably hysterical-- smashed a vase over her head. Minta Durfee, Mrs. Fatty Arbuckle, would recall that she and her husband were either a) summoned to Mabel's home by a mutual friend who revealed the disconcerted Mabel and her nasty head-wound, or b) Mabel showed up at their doorstep in the same fashion. Fatty rushed Mabel to the hospital where a threatening blood clot was found and instantly corrected through a dangerous operation. Yet, another theory is that Mabel was so heartbroken by her break-up with Mack-- who may or may not have been a philanderer-- that she took one of her famous swan dives from the Santa Monica Pier in the attempt to kill herself. To complicate things further, Adela Rogers St. Johns attested that Mabel attempted this suicide only after her initial head-injury and hospital release, making both versions true. Whatever the case, the story Sennett gave the press was that Mabel had injured herself while doing a stunt with Fatty, who allegedly, accidentally sat on her head. Sennett also claimed that Mabel faked her "illness" to get back at him for going after Busch, a ploy that worked after he complacently set her up in her own studio and gave her the role of a lifetime in Mickey. Arguments against Mae Busch's guilt in the incident have too been made, as she and Mabel were pretty good pals.
La La Land Blog
The final story is even stranger and goes like this -
As Louvish describes it in one of his many felicitous
lines, Sennett made "a great love story out of two people who had plenty
of opportunities to get together but didn't." The fate of that affair was
fixed by Mabel supposedly catching him in bed with another actress, a shock
from which the deceptively nave Normand never recovered. The reality was most
likely that Sennett was secretly gay and was caught in bed with an actor, which
definitely would have crushed the clueless girl he had been stringing along for
The above reference about being caught out comes from Charles Foster’s book on Charlie Chaplin, and is as follows:-
By the time the studio was functioning, the Sennett-Normand romance was in full swing. Charlie Chaplin said, in 1958, that “one morning Sennett was in a wonderful mood and we knew the romance was functioning as romances should. Other mornings he would stomp around the studio scowling at everyone. Mabel would arrive late, also in a black mood, and we knew they had been fighting.”
“At the beginning of 1913 everyone in the studio was part of a gambling syndicate that tried to estimate the day and month when Mack and Mabel would get married. I and Slim Summerville, the actor, were the only ones who said they would never get married. Long after I had left Keystone I had a visit from one of the studio technicians. He gave me a wad of money and said they had decided to wind up the pool. Summerville and I shared the kitty.
“Months later I bumped into Sennett and he jokingly asked why I had bet he would never marry Normand. Equally jokingly, I replied, ‘because we think you are queer Mack.’ He went as white as a sheet and looked down at the ground. ‘How did you know, Charlie, how did you know?’ He dashed away and left me wondering.
I recall Ford Sterling once said, ‘How come none of Mack’s girlfriends get pregnant, like ours do? Maybe the chasing is all show and he is trying to fool us.’ I have wondered from that day on!” “Stardust & Shadows” Charles Foster p.328
So what did happen? Basically we will never know; however there is some evidence to suggest there was something going on between Mack Sennett and Mae which ultimately contributed to the Mabel/Mack split up; whether this was merely of a flirtatious nature or something more meaningful cannot be proven one way or another.
Later in 1915, Mabel was very upset about Mae Busch, whom Mack Sennett took a fancy to. At the time I had a lovely Fiat. I drove it myself, but also I had a driver. We'd sit in the back seat, and drive down to the beach -- maybe Malibu, Santa Monica, or somewhere -- anything to distract her, not to worry about this affair. I think it may have helped a little. Adela Rogers St. Johns – Mabel Normand Source Book William Thomas Sherman p.98
“I made a boob of myself. I made a play for Mae Busch. I was just
funning, so help me, and so was Mae.
Mack Sennett as told to Shipp in “King of Comedy” p.108
While she (Mae
Busch) was in Sennett's organization she became involved in a drama of love,
jealousy and revenge, which had nothing to do with screen performance. The
situation, familiar to many of the Hollywood colony, resulted temporarily in
her professional overthrow.
BEHIND THE SCREEN – By SAMUEL GOLDWYN Brooklyn Daily Eagle Thursday 14th August 1924
In Mabel's own words the situation between Mack and Mabel during this period was under some stress:
“Well, the years slid along. And Nappy ( Mabel’s nickname for Sennett, short for Napoleon) and I battled more and more. I wanted better pictures, and I was becoming financially independent. Also, I was getting tired of grinding out short comedies to bolster up programs in which other stars in other companies, as well as our own, were featured in pretentious films and were paid far more than I was.
“Mack accused me of being temperamental and hard to control, both in and out of the studio. I accused him of experimenting with new faces and names, giving them fine pictures, while using me to keep the cash rolling in.
Liberty September 13th 1930 – Pt2 of Madcap Mabel Normand by Sidney Sutherland
Given the stress that Mack and Mabel were under at that stage (based on Mabel’s own statement) any sort of “affair” would be the final straw as far as the relationship between Mack and Mabel was concerned both romantically and professionally as events were to prove. So where did the vase story come from?The first mention is in 1953 in an unpublished autobiography by Minta Durfee, ( Collections of the Margaret Herrick Library),there is nothing prior to that date and every book or article post 1953 uses the Minta Durfee story with degrees of variation. So who was Minta Durfee?
Minta was the wife of Rosco “Fatty” Arbuckle, both members of the early Keystone group. She was extremely loyal and protective of Mabel Normand and expresses a strong dislike of Mae Busch (refer interview with Schnieder) and importantly she was indebted to Mack Sennett; not only as her employer but also as a supporter following the unfortunate Rosco incident.
Rosco “Fatty” Arbuckle’s widow, Minta Durfee, talked to reporters after Sennett’s death. “He kept me on at the studio after the trial destroyed Rosco’s career. He paid me double my usual salary because he knew we had little money. And, without any fanfare, he paid all the lawyers’ fees for the three trials my husband had to endure.”
“Stardust & Shadows” Charles Foster p.337
At the time (1953) Minta was writing her autobiography Mack Sennett was also preparing ”The Comedy King” with Cameron Shipp. It is known that Shipp, Sennett and Minta spend a lot of time together; mainly Shipp using Minta as a sounding board to try and verify a lot of the statements that Mack could not back up with any facts. In short Mack was telling stories. In 1953 both Mabel and Mae had long since passed away so the only surviving cast member of the 1915 event was Mack Sennett and if he told Minta his version of events she would have no reason not to believe him, especially if it paints Mabel as the innocent victim.
In this period two other major events were to impact on Mae’s life. The first, not long after the Mabel incident was her marriage to Francis McDonald on 12th December 1915. The second was the death of her mother in December 1816.
WHIRLWIND COURTSHIP FOR PHOTOPLAY STAR Mae Busch
Mae Busch, movie star, has been vanquished by Cupid. She was wooed and won by Francis James McDonald, popular Photoplay actor, in just seven days. The activity of the many friends of the couple nearly made the ceremony a comedy in real life. The groom got flustered and put the ring on the bride's thumb. She came to his aid and at last the words were finally spoken that made them man and wife. The newlyweds have a bungalow at Hollywood, CaL Day Book (Chicago) 14th March 1916
This marriage was a disaster and they were divorced without any fuss. They did however remain good friends.
Mae Busch and J. Francis MacDonald may bob up at any public place for a cup of tea. They, too, used to be married, found the wedded stage trying, and divorce a happy, solution. They enjoy being together immensely now.
"Our marriage trouble was just the combined effect of small differences—not any outstanding complaint," explains Miss Busch. "Mr. MacDonald and I enjoy each other's company very much for just so long. After that we don't get along at all. When we were married we grated on each other. "As soon as the judge said 'Decree granted' our animosities seemed to vanish into thin air and we became good friends again.
"After all there is a bond between ex husbands and wives. I think most women will agree that an ex-husband is like a bad habit. You never quite outgrow him."
MacDonald smiles and says ex-husbands feel that way about their former wives, too.
Jackie Saunders Buffalo Express 28/6/1925
Life After Keystone
Fred Niblo – What makes them stars –
The difference between directing Mae Busch and Barbara La Marr is that, with Miss La Marr, the rain comes first,
Restless, impatient, changing moods as an opal changes colors, flaring from one emotion to another, she has yet back —
She is the sort of an actress who must feel — actually feel — every' scene she does, and whose work leaves her as
Fred Niblo was a famous actor and director in the early days of Hollywood. Photoplay Nov. 1923
From early 1916 until mid 1919 Mae only had parts in three films made by smaller studios and it has been suggested that this was a result of her falling out with the Hollywood colony as suggested by Samuel Goldwyn. However you will recall the following statement, “ At the end of two years, I met with an accident in making a dive from a forty-foot pier and was forced to retire for more than eighteen months.” This corresponds with the period December 1917 and October 1919 when she made no film appearances. Did the diving accident really happen or was this an excuse to cover up for her inability to get work?
In 1920 she was offered a part in “The Devils Passkey” directed by von Stromheim, with The New York Times later calling it "One of the best photodramatic productions of the year". Unfortunately no copies of the film exist.
Five other films followed until Mae featured in another von Stromheim full length film called “Foolish Wives”
"According to the Universal's press department, the picture cost $1,103,736.38; was 11 months and six days in filming; six months in assembling and editing; consumed 320,000 feet of negative, and employed as many as 15,000 extras for atmosphere. Foolish Wives shows the cost – in the sets, beautiful backgrounds and massive interiors that carry a complete suggestion of the atmosphere of Monte Carlo, the locale of the story. And the sets, together with a thoroughly capable cast, are about all the picture has for all the heavy dough expended. Obviously intended to be a sensational sex melodrama, Foolish Wives is at the same time frankly salacious...Erich von Stroheim wrote the script, directed, and is the featured player. He's all over the lot every minute." Variety
Mae Busch Admits She Was Second in Bobbed Hair Race
Irene Cassle was probably the first woman to bob her hair here, but it had never been definitely determined before who was the second. Now it is known, and the news comes straight from the lady herself—Mae Busch. Furthermore, Miss Busch is the first woman in the motion picture world thus to have distinguished herself. She was with Mack Sennett at the time, and those were the days when, unless one was a star, one remained nameless on the screen. Miss Busch then was nameless—but not unidentified. "The girl with the bobbed hair" they used to say in the amused tones that are now employed in referring to girls whose hair is not bobbed.
With Maurice Tourneur and Richard Dix she has just returned from England, - where for six weeks they had been filming exteriors for the screen version of "The Christian" which Goldwyn is making. They landed at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and were scheduled to leave for the Coast at 3:40 the following afternoon—less than twenty-four hours in which to see one's friends in New York. But Mae was grateful even for that. If the boat had got in on time they would have gone direct to the train.
She was radiant and enthusiastic over her trip, her part in the picture; sunburned from playing deck tennis for eight days; a little fuller of face (from drinking ale In England, she explained) than when she had left New York two months before; becomingly garbed in a gorgeous new sand-coloured suit—from. Lucille's—and an equally beautiful hat, purple, of varying shades. She carried a smart looking ivory-headed black walking stick. This, she said, was her one typically English acquisition, and the one thing that the customs inspector had been suspicious of. The chief use of a cane nowadays, he maintained, was as a container for the stuff that people are going abroad for. But when Miss Busch hastened to offer it for his inspection he didn't want to. Besides the cane she had three other souvenirs of her trip which she displayed proudly. One was a white woolly dog, of the stuffed variety, so large that she had had to carry it all the way from London because it couldn't be squeezed into her trunk. This had been given her by Mr. Tourneur and was in turn to be presented to a very small boy out at the Coast.
The second was a ten shilling note won playing shuffleboard on the ship and inscribed by King George (per Frank Crown in shield), and the third a gold sovereign given her by Hall Caine's son, at whose home outside of London some of the scenes were taken. It was here, she said, that she saw Hall Caine f o r the first time. She had been rather hesitant about meeting him, fearful of how he might regard her as a Glory Quayle. He, it seems, had been fearful too. But all qualms were promptly banished when the meeting finally took place. He said: "Miss Busch, my mind is at rest. I couldn't have asked for a better Glory."
After that tribute it wasn't to be wondered at that Miss Busch was smiling and happy. Furthermore, she explained, the hardest part of the picture for her was—at least the only part she had been disturbed about. Glory first enters the story as a child of about fourteen or fifteen, and Miss Busch wasn't sure whether she could assume that youth successfully. With her slim, straight figure, small oval f a c e and bobbed hair this shouldn't have been difficult as far as appearance is concerned. But anyway, she had been worried; so when those scenes were completed and she finally saw them on the screen in Goldwyn's London office she was happily reassured. The rest, she thought, would be clear sailing. NY Tribune 2nd July 1922
The following article from Samuel Goldwyn basically sums up Mae’s career to 1923, although at the time the article was written Mae was under contract to Goldwyn.
BEHIND THE SCREEN – By SAMUEL GOLDWYN -
Because of his own struggles Von Stroheim is often exceedingly kind to those trying to get a foothold in the profession. Mae Busch, for example, speaks glowingly of Von Stroheim's helpfulness and says that it is to him she owes the chance which proved a turning point in her career. The mention of Mae carries me to one of the most forceful examples of the fact "that few screen careers are achieved" without experiencing reverses.
In about the second year of the Lasky Company's existence, Mae Busch, a little Australian girl with big hazel eyes fringed by incredibly long lashes, was acting in one of Lasky's vaudeville companies. For some reason or other she left the show in Los Angeles and soon after this she made her first appearance in pictures as one of Mack Sennett's famous bathing girls. While she was in Sennett's organization she became involved in a drama of love, jealousy and revenge, which had nothing to do with screen performance. The situation, familiar to many of the Hollywood colony, resulted temporarily in her professional overthrow. A pathetic little figure, she wandered from studio to studio in search of work. Unable to find it, she finally married. Perhaps, as one of her friends has suggested, the marriage was the result of gratitude on her part to the man who did not let the world's desertion shake his love for her.
Be that as it may, the marriage proved disastrous and for some years the pretty little Australian girl went down under the deep waters which have submerged so many others in the profession. Poor, unhappily married, the victim of several severe illnesses, who would have believed that Mae Busch would ever come back?
Those who found this belief difficult did not reckon with the mettle which is her distinguishing quality. One day she said to herself—this is the story as she tells it - "This, has
got to stop, others are getting away with it, why not I?"..This crystallization brought her to Von Stroheim, who gave her a part in "Foolish Wives." Small as the part was she made it stand out. Von Stroheim praised her work. So too did no less a person than Charlie Chaplin. The latter, in fact, promised her a big part in his next picture.
It was about the time when she had come to an agreement with Chaplin that the Goldwyn Company was absorbed in the problem of finding an ideal Glory Quayle for its production of "The Christian”- This search is an answer to those who complain that the picture organizations are content with inferior dramatic talent and with types falling short of any real characterization. We literally sifted the country for Hall Caine's heroine. Beautiful and near beautiful, famous and obscure, East and West, young and middle-aged—all were represented in those 4,000 women of whom we made tests.
Of course everybody in the industry had heard of our search, but it was not until the contest had been going on for some time that the idea of entering it occurred to Mae Busch. When she finally did come to the studio she has often said that it was with no expectation of being victorious. Nobody was more surprised than she herself when out of those 4,000 applicants we chose her for Glory Quayle!
How-did she do it! This is the way she herself tells of the experience: "When they told me I'd have to be a 14-year-old girl in one test I just almost swooned. Imagine me—after all I had been through—trying to look a kid like that. But I thought to myself, "Well, you're here now and you might as well stay by. So I put on the short dress and—funny! — I guess I was just in the mood for it—but when I stood in front of that camera I got to feeling just exactly the way I did when I was a youngster out in Australia. Of course!" she adds quickly, "there was a great deal in this. I didn't really care whether I won out or not—I mean I wasn't all keyed up and nervous about it—for you see Charlie had promised me that part and so I didn't have everything at stake."
These last remarks draw attention to one of the acid experiences of the screen performer. No matter how often he or she has been subjected to these tryouts the latest challenge always seems to make them feel as uneasy as the first. They become rigid with fear of what the new director may think of them and so naturally, defeat the very results they so much desire.
In speaking of Mae Busch, Charlie Chaplin once said, "I always remember Mae at a party one evening when she suddenly thumped herself on the chest. 'It's here' she said fiercely, 'something inside me---something I've got to get out" That impressed me a whole lot," added he, "for I haven't heard so awfully many screen actresses in my time complaining of any Inner weight of talent oppressing them."
It was, of course, this real fire of histrionic energy which burned down every obstacle before It. That, together with all the suffering she had undergone, counts enormously in her work on the screen and removes her many degrees from the puppet types which have, cast discredit upon the profession. The moment you meet Mae you recognize her as "good copy." This is so because she is perfectly natural, and being natural with her means saying exactly what she thinks. She says it graphically, pungently, often slangily, so that almost every sentence she utters lingers in your mind as a vivid picture of some phase of experience far from being a high blown herself, she is one of those vivid types in which the real highbrow delights. Brooklyn Daily Eagle Thursday 14th August 1924
Thirty four movies were made between 1923 and 1929 and Mae was at the height of her career. Just a few of the movies in this period were:-
Nellie, The Beautiful Cloak Model 1924
The Name of the Man 1924
A Gown for Broken Barriers 1924
Unholy Three 1925
At this point in time Mae was entering the most successful period of her career with a contract with Samuel Goldwyn and full length films behind her. All of a sudden she was ‘good copy’ and substantial articles started to appear in newspapers across the country and indeed also in Australia. No doubt these were in part driven by the Goldwyn publicity machine but they do add some colour to what Mae was all about. Some of the major articles follow:
Inside Dope On The Movie Stars
Tragic Mae Busch Scores in Poetry as Well as Film
By Julia Harpman Mae Busch of the heavy tragic droop and grey green eyes has what she calls a “philosophy of life”. This philosophy assays about 100% in the quality known as blah and, whether she knows it or not, probably was absorbed from the gurgle and goo departments of the movie magazines. But don’t walk out just yet. For this girl has got something. She writes a far better line of poetry than you’ll find in a six months’ trial subscription to any of the horn rimmed magazines and as far as our information she writes it herself without any assistance from a $75 a week intellectual press agent or any recourse to the old published works of obscure but meritorious poets. Mae writes free verse – so wild and free that it just barely stays within the law.
Perhaps you will be able to forgive her even such meaningless cackle as “A man will rather lie than argue”, which is one of her utterances given out with philosophical intent, after you have read this of her:
Never to see your image in my arm nestling at my breast-
Tiny lips draining the milk of my life
Tiny hands clutching the tendrils of my heart-
Why does God create barren soil, when he forever fertilizes it with his rain?
His sun, his softly warm wind?
Is life forever to go on wanting?
With naught for my arms but the head of men-
Naught for my heart but their lash?
One’s perspective is knocked out of joint in Hollywood. So it is not surprising that Mae, intent on being a movie vamp, kept secret her gift for turning cold words into burning phrases. Mae knew that no poet ever lived who made as much in six months as she gets in her pay envelope every week.
Robert Hughes, in whose production “Souls for Sale”, Miss Busch recently worked, is credited with discovering the poet in the actress. One of the best things in her scrapbook is entitled
“My Sweetheart”, it reads:
Your eyes – the glow of altar candles;
Your lips – a virgin’s breast;
Your smile – a rainbow;
Your touch – a butterfly’s wing;
Your skin – moss on a bank;
Your walk – gentle swaying of willows;
Your voice – hushed wing;
Your heart – a mother’s faith;
Your soul – a baby’s prayer;
Oh yes, Mae should be forgiven even such epigrams as “Live with men only on the surface, Expect nothing, Ask nothing, Fear nothing and you will hold them longer, stay younger and keep happier”. “I never ask men any questions because I know that they never tell the truth.” Says Mae. She sounds cynical, but she really isn’t. She says she is just not a simpleton any longer. Her philosophy is a form of self protection, evolved when she discovered that life was not all she expected it to be. It was devised after her divorce from Francis McDonald – after filing a letter from her former husband as evidence of his desertion. The letter read:
“Mae – This is the finish. You can rest assured by tomorrow morning everything will be over between us. But remember I have kept my end of the bargain. Do not try to get me at the studio, and I won’t answer the phone. By-by. MAC”
Mae married McDonald in Los Angeles Dec. 13 1915 – note the date – and they parted four years later, almost to the day. She was granted an interlocutory decree of divorce in October 1922 and the final decree was signed a year and a day later.
“I have had a very unhappy experience in my life “says Mae. “one never learns this sort of thing in any other way and the thing that I have learned is to save myself worry about men. You can do that simply by not expecting anything much from them beneath the surface pleasantries. Then you can’t ever be disappointed and you might be delightfully surprised.”
Mae Busch is an interesting personality, clear visioned and quick witted. She has not assumed the absurd graces of so many of the movie stars. She is paradoxically, seeming tragically unhappy, and yet she is possessed of a sense of humour. They tell the story of some new made star who, having become unbearably conceited, tried to high hat the fair Mae.
“Oh, don’t you remember me? Cooed Mae. “We used to work on the lot together and you used to borrow my shirt.”
When Mae was sixteen years old she played in a musical act on the same vaudeville program as Sarah Bernhardt. Sarah the Divine, after watching the girl from the wings, told Mae, “some day if you suffer, my dear child, you will become a great actress”. Mae claims to have suffered enough to make good the prophecy of Bernhardt.
She is a versatile actress. Recently she reformed from vampish parts to appear in a comedy role in “Nellie the Beautiful Cloak Model”. She is one of the greatest emotional actresses on the screen, having received great praise, especially for her acting in “Name the Man” which was taken from Hall Caine’s “The Master of Men”.
Mae Busch is unusual in still another way. She is one of the few moving picture actresses who really was educated in a convent.
Won’t Tell Age.
She was born in Melbourne, Australia, on June 18, of what year she refuses to say, although she looks less than thirty. Her father was conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and her mother, an English woman, was an opera singer. So it appears that Mae’s stage career was fore ordained.
She was sent to St. Elizabeth convent in Madison. N.J., when she was twelve years old, there she remained for nearly four years. She had a good singing voice, which was trained during her residence at the convent. Shortly before her graduation she sang at an informal entertainment, where she met Elsie Janis. Miss Janis, upon learning that Mae was anxious to go on the stage, gave her a letter of introduction to Charles Dillingham, who was then ready to produce “Over the River” with Eddie Foy. Mae lost no time in getting to the Globe Theatre where rehearsals were being held. Dillingham gave her the job of understudying Lillian Lorraine, who had the leading feminine role.
Nothing is truer of Broadway than one girl’s loss is another girl’s gain. Mae Busc’s rise to fame was one of those spectacular happenings which have formed the plots of many plays and pictures but which rarely are heard of along the world’s brightest street. It was the story of the leading lady suddenly deserting the show and the unknown understudy taking her place and walking off with the laurels. Mae played the whole season through on Broadway.
Then she played in a girl show, called “The Beauties” which Jesse L. Lasky put on the Orpheum circuit. Mack Sennett saw her in Los Angeles and offered her a job with his bathing beauties, all of whom have become famous in the pictures.
She married and retired from the screen for two years, returning to play “The Devil’s Passkey” for Universal. Her success in that led to an important part in “Foolish Wives” and to other vampish roles.
Her divorce was conducted in a quiet and unsensational manner. No other woman was named and no charge of cruelty was preferred. But it involved Miss Busch in a marital situation hard to find outside Hollywood or our best society circles.
Quarrels with Mabel Normand
After Miss Busch divorced McDonald, he married Belle Roscoe, the divorced wife of Albert Roscoe, who married Barbara Bedford, who in May, 1921, announced her engagement to Irvin Willatt, the producer, who since married Billie Dove, whose real name is Lillian Bohney.
Mae Busch was reported engaged to Al White, a press agent, last year but they didn’t marry. Recently she admitted she was engaged, but wouldn’t say who her second husband is to be.
Hollywood rejoiced recently when Mabel Normand was invited to attend Mae’s birthday celebration at Montmartre. The friendship of the two actresses, which began when Mabel was a Mack Sennett star and Mae was doing small bits for the same producer, was jarred by a fierce quarrel several years ago. It was common gossip that the quarrel concerned the attentions of Mack Sennett.
Mae is now under contract with Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and has appeared in several of their biggest pictures. Some of her recent successes were “Brothers under the Skin”, “The Christian”, “Souls for Sale” and “Bread”. – Syndicated Article Buffalo Sunday Express 16th November 1924
Behind The Silver Sheet
Mae Busch, the Australian “Puck” of the Pictures
A blithe spirit of mischief that delights to shock and surprise, to pull an impish face at disproving “Mrs Grundy” and generally disregarding in reckless fashion all rigid codes and troublesome conventions, is Mae Busch, the Australian star, with her mop of nut-brown curls and grey sparkling eyes.
In striking contrast to her vivacious self are the roles in which she is frequently seen. Weighed down by the toils, trials, and tribulations of life, she is doomed to a lugubrious screen career of sepulchral tragedy. Seem dimly through a veil of tears, she appears as the persecuted wife in “Name the Man” and as Glory, the lovely and innocent cause of the downfall of “The Christian”, two pictures which were faithfully adapted from the pen of the famous English novelist Sir Hall Caine.
In “Time the Comedian”, the new film opus in which she co-stars with Lew Cody, the rake and the devil-may-care, she wrings our hearts in a pitiful scene, weeping more copiously than ever before.
According to the camera man who turns the crank for this production, he ground out footage of film for ten hours without interruption while Mae wept silent and inconsolable under the dazzling lights of the “Kleigs”.
On the screen the piquant Australian star is always suffering for someone or something. Off the screen she is Puck incarnate. She keeps the entire company in gales of
laughter, and every now and then is guilty of breaking up a heavy dramatic scene with some merry quip or sally.
All the wits of the studio are to be found in the cheerful circle surrounding her small but scintillating figure. Other members of the cast may be jaded or bored, their nerves worn to a frazzle with the long waits, the fussing with lights; but Mae will come singing onto the set.
Her own career has not been free from the rebuffs of fickle fortune. For, true to her inquisitive prototype Puck, Mae must ever be seeking the new untried path. One cannot image this airy sprite reclining on a bed of roses. She needs must investigate that patch of nettles, or poke her pretty nose into yonder prickly pear, even though discretion would be the better part of valour.
Without affectation or cant she tells of the hardships of those early days. She seems even to be heartily thankful for the reverses she experienced, for this gifted daughter of Australia has a Spartan belief in the value of pain, its place in the cosmos,
and its efficacy in the building of human character.
Inheriting a bent for music from her father, the conductor of the Australian Symphony Orchestra at Melbourne, and from her mother, a grand opera singer, Mae was obviously destined for an artistic career from the first.
At an age when even the most precocious children are still seen and not heard she played the piano with such astonishing dash and flourish that she was regarded as a musical prodigy by all who heard her. Later, at Tahiti, where she passed much of her childhood, she dreamed of some day being a prima-donna, and with this dizzy goal still in view Mae afterwards studied voice at St. Elizabeth’s Convent at Madison, New Jersey. Fate decreed otherwise, however, and Mae’s artistic debut was made, not on the concert platform, but on the dramatic stage in “The Great Success”. Soon she was playing leading roles, appearing opposite Willie Collier, Sam Bernard, and Eddie Foy. Later she joined the Webber and Fields Company.
Entering the silent drama by way of the old Keystone Company, she graduated from Mack Sennett comedy to feature films, and after playing one of the feminine leads in Eric Stroheim’s “Foolish Wives” her screen future was assured. Noted directors such as Seastrom, von Stroheim, and Niblo pay tribute to the strange compelling quality of Mae Busch’s acting. Witty, unexpected, surprising, spontaneous, utterly unself-conscious or coy, her characterisations are modelled from the living, throbbing clay of human experience, with an elfish mixture of pixie perversity that is as quaint as it is spontaneous. Every sequence, to her, is a miniature drama, often intense, as it passes through the dramatic imagery of her mind. A rhythmical instinct, inherited from her musical parents, adds ease and sureness to her interpretative force.
Briefly, Mae Busch “lives” her characters. She impersonates them with a deftness of gesture and a delicacy of conception that conjures before the spectator the clear-cut vital image or the subtle, fleeting impression. Every human emotion, ranging from those expressed in the high ideals of virtuous life to the base passions of misguided beings, is sounded in the repertoire of this amazing girl. One feels that she has an uncanny, intuitive sense that penetrates the shallow, superficial exterior – the human screen thrown up by timorous humans between themselves and a cold calculating world.
Originality is the keynote of Mae’s success. It singled her out from a bevy of bathing beauties in Mack Sennett comedies, and carried her on a triumphant wave to stardom. No one has flashed the spotlight of cinema fame upon her. In support of a dozen famous actors, few of whom were her equals in dramatic calibre, she has consistently wrung sympathy from the oddest situations and the most improbable characters. Sheer talent and personality have won her the coveted place among the cinema kings and queens. In thus crowning herself she has crowned also her native Australia. Sydney Mail 28th April 1926 by Kathleen Ussher
It was not all good news as the following article explains
Daily Squint at the Movie Stars
By Dan Thomas - Hollywood, California- Feb. 21st 1929
—"I'm broke because I'm a fool."'That's what Mae Busch told me after revealing in a Los Angeles court that she had only S418 to her name. The film actress went to court to ask for the release of an attachment filed by an agent for that sum. Miss Busch stated that if the attachment was not released she and her sick father, whom she supports, would suffer real want.
I am not worried over the fact that I am virtually broke," continued Mae. I have thrown away thousands and thousands of dollars but I am 'coming back' and I am going to save my money from now on. I've learned my lesson—learned that trying to keep pace with Hollywood doesn't pay."
Judge Marshall F. McComb released the attachment on her "fortune." That money, declared Mae will keep both her and her father until she gets another job.
"Before I came to Hollywood I did not know what wealth and luxury were," Miss Busch said.
"Then I broke into pictures and met with almost immediate success. Before I realized what was happening more money than I had ever dreamed of started pouring in on me. I guess having so much money turned my head. I started spending it recklessly without a thought of the future. "My chief ambition was to outdo everyone else In the picture business. And since there are many others with the same idea it proved to be a pretty difficult task. If one of my friends gave a party, I would give one a week or so later on an even more lavish scale. And if I saw another actress riding in a car which cost more than mine, I couldn't rest until I had bought an even more expensive one. I never stopped to think that someday the flow of gold would stop.
That is Hollywood's greatest curse—it makes lavish spenders and poor thinkers.
"There were other things too, a pretentious home, servants and clothes. And they all cost money.
I used to spend upwards of $18,000 a year for clothes. I never would wear an evening gown on two consecutive nights so I kept at least 12 of them in my wardrobe all the time. And I figured that I had to have at least three evening wraps a year, costing $500 or more each. "I had to keep a cook and servants in my home and have a liveried chauffeur to drive my expensive cars. A private secretary was a necessity. So was a business agent, a personal publicity man and a personal maid to go to the studio with me. Besides that I gave thousands to friends that I never got back.
'However, those days are a past chapter. I have learned how recklessly I threw money away. I have awakened and know now how to live sensibly and I also know that it won't hurt my standing as a film star. I have just completed “Alibi” for United Artists. It is my first talking picture and I feel confident that it is my first step toward staging a comeback." Miss Busch's experience is little different than that of many other stars. And many of them are nearly as bad off financially as
she is. Syndicated Article appeared Feb. 1929
It would appear that Mae learnt her lesson, her first “talkie”, “Alibi” was released on the 20th April 1929 and more importantly the first Laurel & Hardy “Talkie”, “Unaccustomed as We Are” was released the following month. This was her second movie for Hal Roach with Laurel & Hardie, the first being “Love ‘em and Weep” which was released on 12th June 1927. In total Mae was involved in fourteen Laurel & Hardie movies between 1927 and 1936. In addition to the Hal Roach films Mae appeared in another thirty six movies, some of which were:-
Chickens Come Home 1931 with Thelma Todd
Their First Mistake 1932
Sons of the Desert 1933
Oliver the Eighth 1934
The Fixer Uppers 1935
Between 1937 and her death in 1946 Mae had parts in a further 21 films, mostly small uncredited parts, however when you look at her total output of 129 films, between 1915 and 1946, it is a remarkable achievement. She witnessed massive change within the industry from the days of ‘shorts’ when it was felt that audiences would be bored after fifteen minutes, to the introduction of sound and colour. She worked with most famous stars of the day and spanned a period from Sarah Bernhardt to Lana Turner.
By HARRISON CARROLL
Will Hollywood be surprised to learn that Mae Busch, star of the silent films, picked Lana Turner out as a prospective screen actress 15 years ago? Lana's mother recalls an incident. It happened in Wallace, Idaho, when Director Victor Sohertzinger came up with a troupe of movie players on location for the picture, "Frivolous Sal." One noon, Mae Busch dropped into a store and saw Lana, then four years old. She was so impressed that she urged Mrs. Turner to bring the future star to
Hollywood. The story might never have come to light if Mae hadn't been signed to play a small part in "Ziegfeld Girl." Mrs. Turner told Lana and Lana told Mae, who not only recalled the incident but the fact that Schertzinger had bawled her out for urging people to bring children to Hollywood. King Features Syndicate Writer Hollywood— 1941
Mae and Marriage
Busch married three times: to actor Francis McDonald from 1915–1922; although they were only together for three months to John Earl Cassell from 1926–29; and to civil engineer Thomas C. Tate from 1936 until her death. There is a suggestion that she was also married to John Holland as they are together on the 1930 US Census and listed as married. Mae’s father is also living with them at the time.
The Final Act
There is a strange story that after the death of Mae Busch Tate, which occurred at the Motion Picture Home Hospital, April 20, 1946( State of Cal. Death Certificate 1801/7081), of pneumonia where she had been hospitalized for five months with rectal cancer; her ashes were not claimed until 1970 when the Way Out West Tent realized that no one had laid her to rest. They paid to have her placed at Chapel of the Pines. Her grave is located at Chapel of the Pines Crematory. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Mae Busch has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
“Mae Busch – eternally ever popular.”
TWO ADDITIONS To Foxfilm Comedy Forces
Los Angeles, May 18.—Two new players hare been added to the Foxfilm comedy forces at the Hollywood studios. One of these is Mae Busch well known throughout the country as a musical comedy star, and the other is Paddy McGuire, formerly with the Vogue Comedy Company. Billboard 26th May 1917
Mae Busch Guards Her Secrets.
If anything- Mae Busch is different from the ordinary run of mortals. She refuses now to throw her secrets into the waste paper basket. She declares the basket already knows too many of her secrets. She has constructed a tiny incinerator, into which go those secrets of which she is so jealous. Tonawanda Evening News 20th July 1917
Next week "Her Marriage Vow" goes into production at Warner's, with Monte Blue, Willard Louis, and Mae Busch in the leading roles. This Mae Busch must be working nights and Sundays, judging by the number of pictures in which it is announced she will appear. More power to her—the oftener we see her, the better we'll like It. New York Evening Post 14th May 1924
At the Strand.
Some of the most thrilling scenes ever "shot" for any motion picture were made by Director Emmett Flynn during his two weeks in New York filming exteriors for "Nellie!
the Beautiful Cloak Model," which will be the offering at the Strand theatre tonight, Saturday and Sunday. Two real automobile smash ups (without doubles),-an elevated train scene and a fight on a fire escape} between Lowe and Cody were some of the features. All important phases of New York life—In Fifth avenue, in Broadway and in tho tenement districts—were photographed.
Mae Busch was injured when a taxicab in which she was driving with Raymond Griffith with Director Flynn and the cameraman taking the scene on a platform in front of the machine, bumped the rear of an automobile. Her head was gashed and she hurt her knee so that she limped for a few weeks thereafter. Amsterdam Evening Recorder 18th July 1924
Filmography- Showing Release Dates
7th Feb 1947 Ladies Man Paramount Woman in the Automat
10th Jan 1947 Cross My Heart Paramount Juror (uncredited)
11th Jul 1946 The Bride Wore Boots Paramount Minor Role (uncredited)
19th May 1946 The Blue Dahlia Paramount Jenny - Maid (uncredited)
28th Dec 1945 The Stork Club B.G. Desylva Vera (uncredited)
3rd Dec 1945 Masquerade in Mexico Paramount Party Guest (uncredited)
15th May 1942 The Mad Monster Producers Susan
23rd Apr 1942 Hello, Annapolis Columbia Miss Jenkins
27th Jun 1941 French Fried Patootie (short) Columbia
25th Apr 1941 Ziegfeld Girl Leow’s MGM Jenny - Wardrobe Woman
15th Mar 1940 Women Without Names Paramount Rose
1939 Fangs of the Wild Metropolitan Mae Barnes
19th Nov 1938 Nancy Drew: Detective Warner Bros Miss Tyson, the Nurse
26th Aug 1938 Marie Antoinette Leow’s MGM Mme. La Motte (uncredited)
17th Jun 1938 Prison Farm Paramount Trixie (uncredited)
11th Feb 1938 Scandal Street Paramount Gwen (uncredited)
11th Feb 1938 The Big Broadcast of 1938 Paramount Chaperone (uncredited)
4th Feb 1938 The Buccaneer Paramount Bit Role (uncredited)
17th Dec 1937 Daughter of Shanghai Paramount Lil (uncredited)
17th Nov 1936 The Accusing Finger Paramount Woman on Bus (uncredited)
6th Nov 1936 Easy to Take Paramount Relative (uncredited)
18th Apr 1936 The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand
Weiss Mrs. Paul Gironda
14th Feb 1936 The Bohemian Girl Hal Roach Mrs. Hardy
1st Sep 1935 The Affair of Susan Universal Mrs. Hogan (uncredited)
9th Feb 1935 The Fixer Uppers (short) Hal Roach Madame Pierre Gustave
5th Jan 1935 Tit for Tat (short) Hal Roach Grocer's Wife
8th Dec 1934 The Live Ghost (short) Hal Roach Maisie the Vamp - Blonde Floozy
21st Jul 1934 Them Thar Hills (short) Hal Roach Mrs. Hall
23rd Jun1934 Going Bye-Bye! (short) Hal Roach Butch's Girlfriend
24th Apr 1934 Picture Brides Allied Gwen, British Bride
1st Apr 1934 I Like It That Way Universal Elsie
15th May 1934 The Road to Ruin Wills Kent Mrs. Monroe (uncredited)
22nd Jan 1934 Beloved Universal Marie
13th Jan 1934 Oliver the Eighth (short) Hal Roach Mrs. Fox - Widow
29th Dec 1933 Sons of the Desert Hal Roach Mrs. Lottie Hardy
1st Sep 1933 Dance, Girl, Dance Invincible Lou Kendall
30th Aug 1933 Secrets of Hollywood Lester Scott Veteran Actress
13th May 1933 Lilly Turner First National Hazel
1st May 1933 Cheating Blondes Equitable Mrs. Jennie Carter
8th Apr 1933 Out All Night Universal Woman on the train (uncredited)
1st Mar 1933 Blondie Johnson First National Mae
1st Mar 1933 Sucker Money Wills Kent Mame
31st Dec 1932 The Racing Strain Wills Kent Tia Juana Lil
1st Jan 1932 Women Won't Tell Chesterfield Mrs. Ruth Howard
5th Nov 1932 Their First Mistake (short) Hal Roach Mrs. Arabella Hardy
12th Nov 1932 Scarlet Dawn Warner Bros French Wedding Witness (uncredited)
18th Oct 1932 The Heart Punch Mayfair Goldie
27th Aug 1932 Doctor X First National Cathouse Madame
23rd Jul 1932 The Purchase Price Warner Bros Queenie - Girl on Train (uncredited)
17th Jul 1932 The Man Called Back KBS, Tiffany Rosie
11th Jul 1932 High Hats and Low Brows (short) RKO, Pathe Stale Annie
24th Ap 1932 The Rider of Death Valley Universal Tillie
2nd Jan 1932 Without Honor Weiss Bros Mary Ryan
1932 Zwei Ritter ohne Furcht und Tadel MGM Released in Austria
19th Oct 1931 Slow Poison (short) RKO Pathe
4th Oct 1931 Wicked Fox Film Co. Arlene
19th Sep 1931 Come Clean (short) Hal Roach Kate
30th May 1931 Fly My Kite (short) Hal Roach Dan's new wife
24th May 1931 Defenders of the Law Larry Damour Mae Ward - Undercover Policewoman
21st Feb 1931 Chickens Come Home (short) Hal Roach Ollie's Old Time Flame (uncredited)
8th Jun 1930 Young Desire Universal May Roberts
25th May 1929 A Man's Man MGM Violet
4th May 1929 Unaccustomed As We Are (short) Hal Roach Mrs. Hardy
20th Apr 1929 Alibi Feature Prod. Daisy Thomas
24th Nov 1928 West of Zanzibar MGM Bit Role (uncredited)
Sep 1928 Sisters of Eve Trem Carr Pics.
15th Sep 1928 While the City Sleeps MGM Bessie Ward
31st Aug 1928 Black Butterflies Carlos Prod. Kitty Perkins
4th Jun 1928 Fazil Fox Film Co. Helen Dubreuze
May 1928 San Francisco Nights Gotham Prod. Flo
1928 The Bride of the Colorado DeMille (uncredited)
12th Jun 1927 Love 'em and Weep (short) Hal Roach Peaches - the Old Flame
15th Apr 1927 The Beauty Shoppers Tiffany Mabel Hines
6th Mar 1927 Perch of the Devil Universal Ida Hook
15th Feb 1927 Husband Hunters Tiffany Marie Devere
27th Feb 1927 Tongues of Scandal Sterling Helen Hanby
20th Nov 1926 The Truthful Sex Columbia Sally Carey Mapes
1st Oct 1926 Fools of Fashion Tiffany Enid Alden
28th Mar 1926 The Nutcracker (short) Assc. Film Martha Slipaway
28th Feb 1926 The Miracle of Life SEV Taylor Janet Howell
8th Nov 1925 Time, the Comedian Metro Nora Dakon
1st Nov 1925 Camille of the Barbary Coast Associated Camille Balishaw
16th Aug 1925 The Unholy Three Metro Rosie O'Grady
4th Jan 1925 Flaming Love J.K McDonald Sal Flood
15TH Dec 1924 The Triflers B.P Schulberg Marjorie Stockton
27th Oct 1924 Married Flirts Metro Goldwyn Jill Wetherell
18th Aug 1924 Broken Barriers Metro Goldwyn Irene Kirby
4th Aug 1924 Bread Metro Goldwyn Jeanette Sturgis
7th Jul 1924 A Woman Who Sinned Robertson Mrs. Hillburn
16th Apr 1924 Nellie the Beautiful Cloak Model Goldwyn Polly Joy
16th Apr 1924 The Shooting of Dan McGrew Metro Sawyer Flo Dupont
27th Jan 1924 Name the Man Goldwyn Bessie Collister
22nd Apr 1923 Souls for Sale Goldwyn Robina Teele
14th Jan 1923 The Christian Goldwyn Glory Quayle
15th Dec 1922 Only a Shop Girl Columbia Josie Jerome
19th Nov 1922 Brothers Under the Skin Goldwyn Flo Bulger
5th Mar 1922 Pardon My Nerve! Fox Film Marie
11th Feb 1922 Foolish Wives Universal Her Cousin - Princess Vera Petchnikoff
Jan 1922 Her Own Money Lasky Corp Flora Conroy
5th Dec 1921 A Parisian Scandal Universal Mamselle Sari
Nov 1921 The Love Charm Realart Corp. Hattie Nast
14th Nov 1920 Her Husband's Friend Thomas Ince Clarice
1920 The Lone Ranger (short) Universal
8th Aug 1920 The Devil's Passkey Universal La Belle Odera
12th Oct 1919 The Grim Game Paramount Ethel Delmead
17th Dec 1917 The Fair Barbarian Pallas Lucia
23rd Feb 1917 The Folly of Fanchette (short) Independent Mrs. Rayburg
2nd Apr 1916 A Bath House Blunder (short) Keystone Swimming Instructor
5th Mar 1916 Wife and Auto Trouble (short) Keystone A speedy stenographer
8th Feb 1916 Better Late Than Never (short) Keystone
16th Feb 1916 Because He Loved Her (short) Keystone
2nd Jan 1916 The Worst of Friends (short) Keystone
15th Dec 1915 Fatty and the Broadway Stars (short) Keystone Actress
5th Dec 1915 The Best of Enemies (short) Keystone The Girl
14th Nov 1915 A Favorite Fool (short) Keystone The Farmer's Daughter
9th Aug 1915 A Rascal's Foolish Way (short) Keystone May - the Million Dollar Heiress
12th Jun 1915 Merely a Married Man (short) Keystone The Wife
7th Jun 1915 Those Bitter Sweets (short) Keystone The Sweetheart
22nd May 1915 For Better - But Worse (short) Keystone The Police Chief's Daughter
8th May 1915 A Human Hound's Triumph (short) Keystone The Farmer's Daughter
8th Apr 1915 The Rent Jumpers (short) Keystone The Landlord's Daughter
29th Mar 1915 Settled at the Seaside (short) Keystone Girlfriend
22nd Mar 1915 A One Night Stand (short) Keystone The Actress
11th Mar 1915 Love in Armor (short) Keystone The Sweetheart
1st Mar 1915 Ambrose's Sour Grapes (short) Keystone Walrus's Sweetheart
18th Feb 1915 Ye Olden Grafter (short) Keystone The Lady
11th Feb 1915 Mabel and Fatty's Married Life (short) Keystone Woman in Black (uncredited)
4th Feb 1915 Hogan, the Porter (short) Keystone Indignant Guest in Hallway