154: Marie Dressler, the First Female Star to Conquer Hollywood’s Ageism (Make Me Over, Episode 3)
In 1933, the biggest female star in American movies wasn’t a sex symbol like Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow or Marlene Dietrich. It was Marie Dressler — homely, overweight and over 60 years old. The public loved nothing better than to see their Marie play a drunk or a dowager and steal every scene from the glamour girls less than half her age. Dressler had been down and out for most of the 1920s. That she became a star at age 60 was an achievement that told Depression-battered audiences it was never too late. Today we take a look at the life of Marie Dressler; from Broadway, to the picket lines, to the breadline and to the Oscar podium, she proved that in some cases, Hollywood stardom can be more than skin-deep. This episode was written and performed by Farran Smith Nehme, who has written about film and film history for the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, the New York Times, Film Comment, Sight & Sound, Criterion and at her blog, Self-Styled Siren. Her novel, Missing Reels, was published in 2014.
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