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Mary Miles Minter

Mary Miles Minter (April 1, 1902 - August 4, 1984) was a popular American silent film actress.

Early life and rise to stardom

Born Juliet Reilly in Shreveport, Louisiana, Minter was the daughter of Broadway actress Charlotte Shelby. Shelby pushed both her daughters towards stage careers. At the age of 5 she was brought along on an audition for her older sister Margaret only because no baby sitter was available. She was noticed by the director and given her first part. After this she was rarely unemployed, widely noted for both her talent and visual appeal. To avoid child labour laws in Chicago while her daughter was appearing in a play, Shelby obtained the birth certificate of a cousin and changed Juliet's name to Mary Miles Minter. She made her first feature film in 1915 and her career grew steadily.

Minter specialised in playing demure and innocent young girls. With her photogenic "registration", even features, "periwinkle blue eyes" and curly hair she emulated and later rivaled Mary Pickford.

Her first film for director William Desmond Taylor was Anne of Green Gables in 1919. The picture was well-received and Taylor actively promoted Minter as a star of great potential. A romantic relationship developed between them which she later described as "a beautiful white flame." However, according to Minter (who had grown up without a father), Taylor had reservations from the outset and later curtailed the romance, citing the 30 year difference in their ages.

Scandal

In 1922, Taylor was murdered in his home. In a 1970 interview during which she described Taylor as her "mate," Minter recalled how she broke down and sobbed when she was allowed to view (and touch) the director's body in a morgue.

The ensuing scandal, coming in the wake of the Roscoe Arbuckle murder trial, was the subject of widespread media speculation and embellishment. Newspapers reported that coded love letters written by Minter had been found in his bungalow after his death (these were later shown to have been written three years earlier, in 1919). Minter was at the height of her success, having starred in more than 50 films and sensationalistic newspaper revelations of the twenty-year-old film star's association with a forty-nine-year-old murdered director caused rolling scandals.

There were several suspects (including her mother Charlotte Shelby) in the long investigation of Taylor's murder. In 1937, Minter publicly announced to the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper, "Now I demand that I either be prosecuted for the murder committed fifteen years ago, or exonerated completely. If the District Attorney has any evidence, he should prosecute. If not, then I should be exonerated... Shadows have been cast upon my reputation".

Later life

Following Taylor's death Minter made four more films for Paramount. Her last film, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, was released in 1923. When the studio did not renew her contract she received many other offers but declined them all, saying she had never been happy as an actress. In 1925 she sued her mother for an accounting of the money Shelby had received for her during her screen career. The case was settled out of court, with the settlement being signed by Minter and Shelby at the American Consul in Paris, France, on January 24, 1927.

Minter commented she was content to live without her Hollywood career. She reconciled fully with her mother and proclaimed her love for Taylor throughout her long life. Minter had invested in Los Angeles real estate and seems to have lived in relative comfort and prosperity, although she was later the victim of several robberies during the 1970s and early '80s. Police described her as a frail old woman and people were often shocked to learn she had once been a famous movie star. She died in 1984 from a stroke in Santa Monica, California.

For her contributions to the motion picture industry Mary Miles Minter has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1724 Vine Street.

Film legacy

By 1999, all prints of her film Anne of Green Gables were believed to have been lost. A print of her 1919 film, The Ghost of Rosy Taylor surfaced in New Zealand in the 1990s. This film depicted her as an orphaned French girl buffeted from job to job and escaping from a workhouse prison. Other known surviving films include A Dream or Two Ago (1916), Innocence of Lizette (1916), The Eyes of Julia Deep (1918) and Nurse Marjorie (1920, directed by William Desmond Taylor).

Filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1912 The Nurse - as Juliet Shelby
1915 The Fairy and the Waif Viola Drayton, the Fairy
Always in the Way Dorothy North
Emmy of Stork's Nest Emmy Garrett
Barbara Frietchie Barbara, Mrs. Frietchie's granddaughter
1916 Rose of the Alley Nell Drogan
Dimples Dimples
Lovely Mary Mary Lane
Youth's Endearing Charm Mary Wade
Dulcie's Adventure Dulcie
Faith Faith
A Dream or Two Ago Millicent Hawthorne
Innocence of Lizette Lizette
1917 The Gentle Intruder Sylvia
Environment Liz Simpkins
Annie-for-Spite Annie Johnson
Periwinkle Periwinkle
Melissa of the Hills Melissa Stark
Somewhere in America Rose Dorgan
Charity Castle Charity
Her Country's Call Jess Slocum
Peggy Leads the Way Peggy Manners
The Mate of the Sally Ann Sally
1918 Beauty and the Rogue Roberta Lee
Powers That Prey Sylvia Grant
A Bit of Jade Phyllis King
Social Briars Iris Lee
The Ghost of Rosy Taylor Rhoda Eldridge Sayles
The Eyes of Julia Deep Julia Deep
Rosemary Climbs the Heights Rosemary Van Voort
Wives and Other Wives Robin Challoner
1919 The Amazing Impostor Joan Hope
The Intrusion of Isabel Isabel Trevor
A Bachelor's Wife Mary O'Rourke
Yvonne from Paris Yvonne Halbert
Anne of Green Gables Anne Shirley
1920 Judy of Rogue's Harbor Judy
Nurse Marjorie Lady Marjorie Killonan
Jenny Be Good Jenny Riano
A Cumberland Romance Easter Hicks
Sweet Lavender Lavender
Eyes of the Heart Laura
1921 All Souls' Eve Alice Heath/Nora O'Hallahan
The Little Clown Pat
Don't Call Me Little Girl Jerry
Moonlight and Honeysuckle Judith Baldwin
Her Winning Way Ann Annington
1922 Tillie Tillie Getz
The Heart Specialist Rosalie Beckwith
South of Suva Phyllis Latimer
The Cowboy and the Lady Jessica Westoon
1923 Drums of Fate Carol Dolliver
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine June Tolliver

References

External links

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