Dorothy Mackaill

Dorothy Mackaill (March 4, 1903[1][2] – August 12, 1990) was a British-American actress, most notably of the silent-film era and into the early 1930s.

Dorothy Mackaill
Publicity photo of Mackaill from Stars of the Photoplay, 1924
Born(1903-03-04)March 4, 1903
DiedAugust 12, 1990(1990-08-12) (aged 87)
EducationThoresby Primary School
Years active19201937; 19761980
Spouse(s)Lothar Mendes
(m. 1926-div.1928)
Neil Miller
(m. 1931-div.1934)
Harold Patterson
(m. 1947-div.1948)

Early life

Born in Sculcoates, Kingston upon Hull in 1903 (although she later would claim 1904 or 1905 as her year of birth, including on her petition for naturalization as a United States citizen, giving 1904 as the year), Mackaill lived with her father after her parents separated when she was around eleven years old. She attended Thoresby Primary School. As a teenager, Mackaill ran away to London to pursue a stage career as an actress.[3]

After temporarily relocating to Paris, she met a Broadway stage choreographer who persuaded her to move to New York City where she became involved in the Ziegfeld Follies and befriended future motion picture actresses Marion Davies and Nita Naldi.


By 1920, Mackaill had begun making the transition from "Follies Girl" to film actress. That same year she appeared in her first film, a Wilfred Noy-directed mystery, The Face at the Window.[3] Mackaill also appeared in several comedies of 1920 opposite actor Johnny Hines. In 1921 she appeared opposite Anna May Wong, Noah Beery and Lon Chaney in the Marshall Neilan-directed drama Bits of Life. In the following years, Mackaill would appear opposite such popular actors as Richard Barthelmess, Rod La Rocque, Colleen Moore, John Barrymore, George O'Brien, Bebe Daniels, Milton Sills and Anna Q. Nilsson.[4]

In 1924, Mackaill rose to leading-lady status in the drama The Man Who Came Back, opposite rugged matinee idol George O'Brien. Her role of the nightclub chanteuse Marcelle catapulted Mackaill into a genuine Hollywood star, and her career continued to flourish throughout the remainder of the 1920s. In early 1924 she starred in the western film The Mine with the Iron Door, shot on location outside of Tucson, Arizona. That same year the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers in the United States presented Mackaill one of its WAMPAS Baby Stars awards, which each year honored thirteen young women who the association believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom. Other notable recipients of the award in 1924 were Clara Bow, Julanne Johnston and Lucille Ricksen.[5]

Later career and retirement

Mackaill made a smooth transition to sound with the part-talkie The Barker (1928) and had success in talkies for the next couple of years. In September 1928, First National Pictures was acquired by Warner Bros., and her contract with First National was not renewed upon its expiration in 1931. Perhaps her most memorable role of this era was the 1932 Columbia Pictures B film release Love Affair with a young Humphrey Bogart as her leading man. She made several films for MGM, Paramount and Columbia before retiring in 1937 to care for her aging mother.

In 1955, Mackaill moved to Honolulu, Hawaii.[6] She had fallen in love with the islands while filming His Captive Woman in 1929.[7] Mackaill lived at the luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel on the beach at Waikiki as a sort of celebrity-in-residence and enjoyed swimming in the ocean nearly every day.[8]

She occasionally came out of retirement to appear in roles for television, notably in two episodes of Hawaii Five-O in 1976 and 1980, which was filmed on location in Hawaii.[9]

Personal life

Mackaill was married three times. Her first marriage was to German film director Lothar Mendes, on November 17, 1926.[10] They divorced in August 1928.[11]

On November 4, 1931, she married radio singer Neil Albert Miller.[12] They divorced in February 1934.[13] Her third and final marriage was to horticulturist Harold Patterson in June 1947.[14][15] She filed for divorce in December 1948.[16] Mackaill had no children.

Naturalization as United States citizen

Mackaill became a naturalized United States citizen in 1926, giving 1904 as her year of birth, and her age as 22.[17][18]


Mackaill resided in Honolulu, Hawaii, during the last 35 years of her life.[19] She died there of liver failure in her room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on August 12, 1990.[19] She was cremated and her ashes were scattered at sea off Waikiki Beach.[20]


Year Film Role Notes
1920 The Face at the Window
Torchy Short film
Torchy's Millions Short film
1921 Torchy's Promotion Short film
Bits of Life Lost film
The Lotus Eater Uncredited
Lost film
1922 Isle of Doubt Eleanor Warburton
A Woman's Woman Sally Plummer
The Streets of New York Sally Ann
The Inner Man Sally
1923 Mighty Lak' a Rose Rose Duncan Lost film
The Broken Violin Constance Morley
The Fighting Blade Thomsine Musgrove
The Fair Cheat Camilla
His Children's Children Sheila
Twenty-One Lynnie Willis
1924 The Next Corner Elsie Maury Lost film
What Shall I Do? Jeanie Andrews
The Man Who Came Back Marcelle
The Painted Lady Violet
The Mine with the Iron Door Marta Hillgrove
1925 The Bridge of Sighs Linda Harper Lost film
One Year to Live Marthe Lost film
Chickie Chickie Lost film
The Making of O'Malley Lucille Thayer Lost film
Shore Leave Connie Martin
Joanna Joanna Manners Lost film
The Dancer of Paris Consuelo Cox Lost film
1926 Ranson's Folly Mary Cahill
Subway Sadie Sadie Hermann Lost film
Just Another Blonde Jeanne Cavanaugh Alternative title: The Girl from Coney Island
1927 The Lunatic at Large Beatrix Staynes Lost film
Convoy Sylvia Dodge Lost film
Smile, Brother, Smile Mildred Marvin Lost film
The Crystal Cup Gita Carteret Lost film
Man Crazy Clarissa Janeway Lost film
1928 Ladies' Night in a Turkish Bath Helen Slocum
Lady Be Good Mary Lost film
The Whip Lady Diana
Waterfront Peggy Ann Andrews
The Barker Lou
1929 His Captive Woman Anna Janssen
Children of the Ritz Angela Pennington Lost film
Two Weeks Off Kitty Weaver Lost film
Hard to Get Bobby Martin Lost film
Alternative title: Classified
The Great Divide Ruth Jordan
The Love Racket Betty Brown Lost film
1930 Strictly Modern Kate Lost film
The Flirting Widow Celia
The Office Wife Anne Murdock
Man Trouble Joan
Bright Lights Louanne Alternative title: Adventures in Africa
1931 Once a Sinner Diana Barry
Kept Husbands Dorothea "Dot" Parker Brunton
Party Husband Laura
Their Mad Moment Emily Stanley Alternative title: Basquerie
The Reckless Hour Margaret "Margie" Nichols
Safe in Hell Gilda Carlson - aka Gilda Erickson
1932 Love Affair Carol Owen
No Man of Her Own Kay Everly
1933 Neighbors' Wives Helen McGrath
Curtain at Eight Lola Cresmer Alternative title: Backstage Mystery
The Chief Dixie Dean
1934 Picture Brides Mame Smith
Cheaters Mabel
1937 Bulldog Drummond at Bay Doris Thompson
Year Title Role Notes
1953 Studio One in Hollywood Episode: "The Magic Lantern"
1976-1980 Hawaii Five-O Various roles 2 episodes


  1. Dorothy Mackaill birth registration (2nd Quarter (April-May-June), 1903, England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915; accessed May 19, 2018.
  2. Dorothy Mackaill entry, 1911 England Census,; accessed May 19, 2018.
  3. Slide, Anthony (2010). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813137454. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  4. Shackleton, Kay. "Dorothy Mackaill".
  5. Anderson, Chuck. "WAMPAS Baby Stars".
  6. "Deaths". USA Today. August 14, 1990. p. 2A.
  7. Los Angeles Times, August 15, 1990
  8. Honolulu Advertiser, May 11, 2008.
  9. "Dorothy Mackaill". IMDb. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  10. "Star Takes Time Off To Be Married". The Border Cities Star. November 18, 1926. p. 1. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  11. "Divorce For Movie Actress". Reading Eagle. August 3, 1928. p. 4. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  12. "Dorothy Mackaill Wed; Screen Star and Radio Singer Married in Arizona". The New York Times. November 4, 1931.
  13. "Nagging Charge Wins Divorce". The Southeast Missourian. February 17, 1934. p. 1. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  14. "Orchid Beau Wins Dorothy Mackaill". Milwaukee Sentinel. March 3, 1947. p. 1. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  15. "Miss Mackaill Marries Was Former Actress". The Hartford Courant. June 14, 1947. p. 3.
  16. "Fight to Unseat Taft Planned". Los Angeles Times. December 31, 1948. p. 4.
  17. "Ancestry Library Edition". Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  18. "Ancestry Library Edition". Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  19. Obituary, The New York Times, August 16, 1990; retrieved January 22, 2018.
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