Mae Busch

Mae 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, where she frequently played Hardy's shrewish wife.

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
Francis McDonald
(m. 1915; div. 1922)

John Earl Cassell
(m. 1926; div. 1929)

Thomas C. Tate
(m. 1936; her death 1946)

Early life and career

Mae Busch was born Annie May Busch 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 4 months) and Annie May in 1891. Following a concert tour of New Zealand, the family left for the USA 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, 6-year-old Annie May was placed in a convent school in New Jersey. At the age of 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 were in The Agitator and The Water Nymph, both released in 1912. There is some doubt about Mae being in these films as the production of both films in California appears to clash with commitments in New York.[8] 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 some accounts, Busch, who was known for pinpoint throwing accuracy, inflicted a serious head injury on Normand by striking her with a vase.

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. Her career declined abruptly after 1926, when she walked out on her contract at Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer and suffered a nervous breakdown.[9] Afterwards, she found herself working for less prestigious studios such as Gotham and Tiffany, where she was relegated mostly to supporting roles.[9]

In 1927, she was offered a leading role in a Hal Roach two-reeler, Love 'em and Weep, which began her long association with Laurel and Hardy. She appeared in 13 of their comedies, often as shrewish, gold-digging floozies (Chickens Come Home, Come Clean), a volatile wife of Oliver Hardy (Sons of the Desert, Their First Mistake), or 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 a combative spouse of Hardy's, released in 1936. Her film roles after 1936 were often uncredited. Overall, she had roles in approximately 130 motion pictures between 1912 and 1946. Jackie Gleason later mentioned her name on his TV show as "the ever-popular Mae Busch".

In 2014 the believed-lost 1919 film which was the first feature to star Harry Houdini, The Grim Game, was discovered and restored by Rick Schmidlin for Turner Classic Movies; it featured Mae Busch.[10]

Personal life and death

Busch 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.[11] In 1970, her ashes remained unclaimed and a chapter of The Laurel & Hardy Society, the Way Out West Tent, paid for the interment at Chapel of the Pines Crematory.[12]

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.[13]

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1912 The Water Nymph Alternative title: The Beach Flirt
1919 The Grim Game Ethel Delmead
1920 Her Husband's Friends Clarice
1921 A Parisian Scandal Mamselle Sari
1922 Foolish Wives Princess Vera Petchnikoff
Brothers Under the Skin Flo Bulger
Only a Shop Girl Josie Jerome
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
Broken Barriers Irene Kirby
Married Flirts Jill Wetherell
The Triflers Marjorie Stockton
1925 The Unholy Three Rosie O'Grady
1925 Camille of the Barbary Coast Camille
1926 Fools of Fashion Enid Alden
1927 Love 'em and Weep Old flame
Husband Hunters Marie Devere
1928 While the City Sleeps Bessie
1929 Alibi Daisy Thomas
Unaccustomed As We Are Mrs. Hardy
1931 Chickens Come Home Ollie's Old Time Flame Uncredited
Fly My Kite Dan's new wife
Come Clean Kate
1932 Their First Mistake Mrs. Arabella Hardy
Doctor X Cathouse Madame
1933 Blondie Johnson Mae
Lilly Turner Hazel
Sons of the Desert Mrs. Lottie Hardy Alternative title: Fraternally Yours
Dance Girl Dance Lou Kendall
1934 Oliver the Eighth Widow Alternative title: The Private Life of Oliver the Eighth
The Road to Ruin Mrs. Monroe Uncredited
Going Bye-Bye! Butch's girlfriend
Them Thar Hills Mrs. Hall
The Live Ghost Maisie the Vamp, Blonde Floozy
1935 Tit for Tat Grocer's wife
The Fixer Uppers Madame Pierre Gustave
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
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 0806503009.
  2. Gehring, Wes D. (1990). Laurel and Hardy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 031325172X.
  3. Smith, Ronald L. (1993). Comic Support. Carol Publishing Group. ISBN 0806513993.
  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. refer to Mae Busch Link for full details
  9. Maltin 1973, p. 112
  10. Mae Basch IMDB
  11. State of California Death Certificate, County of Los Angeles, District 1801, Registrar's Number 7081
  12. Way Out West website
  13. "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Mae Busch". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  • "Death Claims Mae Busch, 54". The Los Angeles Times. p. A1.
  • Maltin, Leonard (1973). The Laurel and Hardy Book. New York: Curtis.
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