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Mae Busch

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Mae Busch
Busch featured in The Blue Book
of the Screen
, 1923
Annie May Busch

(1891-06-18)18 June 1891
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died20 April 1946(1946-04-20) (aged 54)
San Fernando Valley, California, U.S.
Resting placeChapel of the Pines Crematory
Years active1912–1946
(m. 1915; div. 1922)
John Earl Cassell
(m. 1926; div. 1929)
Thomas C. Tate
(m. 1936)

Mae Busch (born Annie May Busch; 18 June 1891 – 20 April 1946)[1][2][3] was an Australian-born actress who worked in both silent and sound films in early Hollywood. In the latter part of her career she appeared in many Laurel and Hardy comedies, frequently playing Hardy's shrewish wife.

Early life and career[edit]

Busch in the film publication the Stars of the Photoplay, 1924

Busch was born in Melbourne, Victoria to popular Australian vaudeville performers Elizabeth Maria Lay and Frederick William Busch.[4] Her mother had been active since 1883 under the stage names Dora Devere and then Dora Busch; she toured India with Hudson's Surprise Party and toured New Zealand twice.[5] They continued to tour with various companies with short breaks when their two children were born, Dorothy in 1889 (who lived for only four months) and Annie May in 1891. Following a concert tour of New Zealand, the family left for the United States via Tahiti.[6] They departed on 8 August 1896 and arrived in San Francisco at the end of 1896 or in early 1897.

While her parents were touring the United States, six-year-old Annie May was placed in a convent school in New Jersey. At age 12, she joined her parents as the Busch Devere Trio, which was active from 1903 until 1912. As Mae Busch, she performed with her mother in Guy Fletch Bragdon's The Fixer to good reviews, and in 1911, they featured in Tom Reeves' Big Show Burlesque. Mae's big break came in March 1912 when she replaced Lillian Lorraine as the lead female in Over the River with Eddie Foy.[7]

Mae's first film appearances are reputed to be in The Agitator and The Water Nymph, both released in 1912. There is some doubt about Mae's being in these films as the production of both films in California appears to clash with Busch's commitments in New York.[citation needed] In 1915 she began working at Keystone Studios, where she appeared in comedy two-reelers. Her dalliance with studio chief Mack Sennett famously ended his engagement to actress Mabel Normand—who had actually been Busch's mentor and friend—when Normand walked in on the pair. According to Minta Durfee's unverifiable claim, Busch, who was known for pinpoint throwing accuracy, inflicted a serious head injury on Normand by striking her with a vase.[citation needed]

At the pinnacle of her film career, Busch was known as the "versatile vamp". She starred in such feature films as The Devil's Pass Key (1920) and Foolish Wives (1923), both directed by Erich von Stroheim, and in The Unholy Three (1925), with Lon Chaney. She soon walked out on her contract at Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer and had a nervous breakdown.[8] She regained her health and resumed working at both major and minor studios; her best opportunity was a starring role in Universal's 1927 drama Perch of the Devil, with Busch cast against type as a sympathetic young bride confronted by a rival. The film's climax was a spectacular flood sequence; this footage from Perch of the Devil was reused in later Universal productions for more than a decade.

In 1926, producer Hal Roach began casting "name" dramatic stars in his short comedies: Priscilla Dean, Theda Bara, Herbert Rawlinson, Agnes Ayres, and Lionel Barrymore among them. Mae Busch joined Roach's "All Stars" for a leading role in Love 'em and Weep (1927), which began her long association with Laurel and Hardy. The short received good distribution and resulted in Busch resuming her feature-film career, including a return to MGM for the 1928 Lon Chaney feature While the City Sleeps.

In 1929, many stars of silent films faced an uncertain future, with their talents less in demand as talking pictures caught on. When a short-subject assignment came along, Busch grabbed it. It was again for the Hal Roach studio in the Laurel & Hardy comedy Unaccustomed as We Are (1929). It was the team's first "all-talking" comedy, and stage-trained Mae Busch handled her dialogue well as Hardy's put-upon wife. She appeared in 12 more Laurel and Hardy comedies, often displaying her versatility. She alternated between shrewish, gold-digging floozies (Chickens Come Home, Come Clean), Oliver Hardy's volatile wife (Sons of the Desert, Their First Mistake), and more sympathetic roles (Them Thar Hills, Tit for Tat, The Fixer Uppers). Her last role in a Laurel and Hardy film was in The Bohemian Girl, again as Hardy's combative spouse, released in 1936.

The same year, she was featured in the low-budget serial The Clutching Hand, but it did not advance her career. From then, her film roles were often uncredited. Overall, she had roles in approximately 130 movies from 1912 to 1946. Jackie Gleason later mentioned her name on his TV show as "the ever-popular Mae Busch".

In 2014 The Grim Game, the believed-lost 1919 film that was the first feature to star Harry Houdini, was discovered and restored by Rick Schmidlin for Turner Classic Movies.[9] Busch appears, credited as Bush.

Personal life and death[edit]

Busch and her third husband Thomas Tate

Busch was married three times: to actor Francis McDonald (1915–22), to John Earl Cassell (1926–29), and to civil engineer Thomas C. Tate (1936–her death).

Busch died on 20 April 1946, age 54, at a San Fernando Valley sanitarium where she had been ill for five months with colon cancer.[10]

For her contributions to the film industry, Busch was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 with a motion pictures star located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.[11]

In the 1970s it was discovered that her ashes had remained unclaimed and were in vaultage at Chapel of the Pines Crematory. The Way Out West Tent, a chapter of The Sons of the Desert (the international Laurel and Hardy appreciation society), paid for their removal from vaultage and placement in a publicly accessible niche at Chapel of the Pines.[12] The memorial plaque incorrectly lists her year of birth as 1901.[13]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1912 The Water Nymph (uncredited?) Short subject
Alternative title: The Beach Flirt
1915 Mabel and Fatty's Married Life (uncredited) Short subject
1919 The Grim Game Ethel Delmead Credited as Mae Bush
1920 Her Husband's Friends Clarice
The Devil's Pass Key La Belle Odera Lost film
1921 A Parisian Scandal Mamselle Sari Lost film
1922 Foolish Wives Princess Vera Petchnikoff
Brothers Under the Skin Flo Bulger Incomplete
Only a Shop Girl Josie Jerome Lost film
1923 Souls for Sale Robina Teele
The Christian Glory Quayle
1924 Name the Man Bessie Collister
Nellie, the Beautiful Cloak Model Polly Joy
Bread Jeanette Sturgis Lost film
Broken Barriers Irene Kirby Lost film
Married Flirts Jill Wetherell Lost film
The Triflers Marjorie Stockton
1925 The Unholy Three Rosie O'Grady
1925 Camille of the Barbary Coast Camille
1926 Fools of Fashion Enid Alden
The Miracle of Life Janet Howell
The Nutcracker Martha Slipaway
1927 Love 'em and Weep Old flame Short subject
Husband Hunters Marie Devere
Perch of the Devil Ida Hook
Tongues of Scandal Helen Hanby
1928 While the City Sleeps Bessie
1929 Alibi Daisy Thomas
Unaccustomed As We Are Mrs. Hardy Short subject
A Man's Man Violet
1930 Young Desire May Roberts
1931 Chickens Come Home Ollie's Old Time Flame Short subject
Fly My Kite Dan's new wife Short subject
Come Clean Kate Short subject
1932 Their First Mistake Mrs. Arabella Hardy Short subject
Doctor X Cathouse Madame
1933 Blondie Johnson Mae
Lilly Turner Hazel
Cheating Blondes Mrs. Jennie Carter
Sons of the Desert Mrs. Lottie Hardy Alternative title: Fraternally Yours
Dance Girl Dance Lou Kendall
1934 Oliver the Eighth Widow Short subject
Alternative title: The Private Life of Oliver the Eighth
The Road to Ruin Mrs. Monroe Uncredited
Going Bye-Bye! Butch's girlfriend Short subject
Them Thar Hills Mrs. Hall Short subject
The Live Ghost Maisie the Vamp, Blonde Floozy Short subject
1935 Tit for Tat Mrs. Hall, Grocer's wife
The Fixer Uppers Madame Pierre Gustave Short subject
1936 The Bohemian Girl Mrs. Hardy
The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand Mrs. Gironda 15-episode serial
1938 Daughter of Shanghai Lil Uncredited
Alternative title: Daughter of the Orient
The Buccaneer Bit Role Uncredited
Marie Antoinette Madame La Motte Uncredited
1940 Women Without Names Rose
1941 Ziegfeld Girl Jenny
1942 The Mad Monster Susan
1946 The Blue Dahlia Jenny – Maid Uncredited
The Bride Wore Boots Woman Uncredited
1947 Ladies' Man Woman in Automat Uncredited


  1. ^ Springer, John S.; Hamilton, Jack D. (1974). They Had Faces Then. Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-0300-9.
  2. ^ Gehring, Wes D. (1990). Laurel and Hardy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-25172-X.
  3. ^ Smith, Ronald L. (1993). Comic Support. Carol Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8065-1399-3.
  4. ^ The Age, 20 June 1891, P.5 Accessed 3/12/2016
  5. ^ Otago Witness (NZ) 24 January 1895 p.37
  6. ^ Auckland Star 8 August 1896
  7. ^ New York Herald 28 March 1912
  8. ^ Maltin 1973, p. 112
  9. ^ King, Susan (26 March 2015). "Classic Hollywood: Once thought lost, Harry Houdini's 'Grim Game' film reappears". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ State of California Death Certificate, County of Los Angeles, District 1801, Registrar's Number 7081
  11. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame – Mae Busch". walkoffame.com. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Mae Busch". Way Out West Tent.
  13. ^ "Mae Busch". 5 August 2019.
  • "Death Claims Mae Busch, 54". The Los Angeles Times. p. A1.
  • Maltin, Leonard (1973). The Laurel and Hardy Book. New York: Curtis.

External links[edit]