Marjorie Rambeau

Marjorie Burnet Rambeau (July 15, 1889 – July 6, 1970) was an American film and stage actress.[1] She began her stage career at age 12, and appeared in several silent films before debuting in her first sound film, Her Man (1930). She was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her roles in Primrose Path (1940) and Torch Song (1953), and received the 1955 National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress for her roles in A Man Called Peter and The View from Pompey's Head.[2]

Marjorie Rambeau
Rambeau circa 1915
Marjorie Burnet Rambeau

(1889-07-15)July 15, 1889
DiedJuly 6, 1970(1970-07-06) (aged 80)
Resting placeDesert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California
Other namesMajorie Rambeau
Florence Rambeau
Years active1901–1957
Spouse(s)Willard Mack (1913–17)
Hugh Dillman (1919–23)
Francis A. Gudger (1931–67)

Early life

Rambeau was born in San Francisco to Marcel and Lilian Garlinda (née Kindelberger) Rambeau.[3] Her parents separated when she was a child. She and her mother went to Nome, Alaska, where young Marjorie dressed as a boy, sang, and played the banjo in saloons and music halls. Her mother insisted she dress as a boy to thwart amorous attention from drunken grown men in such a wild and woolly outpost as Nome.[4] She began performing on the stage at the age of 12. She attained theatrical experience in a rambling early life as a strolling player. Finally she made her Broadway debut on March 10, 1913, in a tryout of Willard Mack's play, Kick In.[5]


In her youth she was a Broadway leading lady, starring in plays such as the 1915 comedy Sadie Love. In 1921, Dorothy Parker memorialized her in verse:

If all the tears you shed so lavishly / Were gathered, as they left each brimming eye. / And were collected in a crystal sea, / The envious ocean would curl up and dry— / So awful in its mightiness, that lake, / So fathomless, that clear and salty deep. / For, oh, it seems your gentle heart must break, / To see you weep. ...[6]

Her silent films with the Mutual company included Mary Moreland and The Greater Woman (1917). The films were not major successes but did expose Rambeau to film audiences. By the time talkies came along she was in her early forties and she began to take on character roles in films such as Min and Bill, The Secret Six, Laughing Sinners, Grand Canary, Joe Palooka, and Primrose Path, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In 1940, Rambeau had the title role in Tugboat Annie Sails Again as well as second billing under Wallace Beery (the co-star of the original Tugboat Annie) in 20 Mule Team; she also played an Italian mother in East of the River. Other films included Tobacco Road, A Man Called Peter, and Broadway. In 1953, she was again nominated for an Oscar, this time for Torch Song. In 1957, she appeared in a supporting role in Man of a Thousand Faces, a biographical film about the life of Lon Chaney Sr. starring James Cagney as Chaney, although she never worked with the real Chaney in silent films.

Rambeau played a supporting role in Min and Bill with Marie Dressler. Tugboat Annie was a follow up to Min and Bill, even though it was not a sequel. Rambeau replaced Dressler after her death as Tugboat Annie in the sequel Tugboat Annie Sails Again.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Rambeau has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6336 Hollywood Blvd.


Rambeau plays a role in one of the origin stories of the Reuben sandwich. According to author and theatre critic Bernard Sobel, the sandwich was invented for her upon a visit to Reuben's Restaurant and Delicatessen in New York City.[7]

Personal life

Rambeau was descended from colonial immigrant Peter Gunnarsson Rambo,[8] who immigrated in the 1600s from Sweden to New Sweden and served as a justice of the Governor's Council. He was the longest living of the original settlers and became known as the "Father of New Sweden".[9]

Rambeau was married three times, she had no children. She first married was in 1913 to Canadian writer, actor, and director Willard Mack. They divorced in 1917. She then married actor Hugh Dillman McGaughey in 1919, a marriage which also ended in divorce in 1923. Rambeau's last marriage was to Francis Asbury Gudger in 1931, with whom she remained until his death in 1967. Gudger was from Asheville, North Carolina. In the winters they often stayed there, and in the summer they lived in Sebring, Florida. His previous wife was killed in an automobile accident in Tampa two years before, but Rambeau and Gudger had been sweethearts years before when the former was the "toast of Broadway".[10]


She died in 1970 at her home in Palm Springs, California and was buried at the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.[11][12][13]



Year Title Role Notes
1917 The Greater Woman Auriole Praed Lost film
Motherhood Louise Lost film
The Debt Countess Ann Lost film
The Mirror Blanche Lost film
The Dazzling Miss Davison Rachel, The Dazzling Miss Davison Lost film
Mary Moreland Mary Moreland Lost film
National Red Cross Pageant America Final episode
Lost film
1919 The Common Cause Columbia Prologue
Lost film
1920 The Fortune Teller Renee Browning Lost film
1922 On Her Honor[14] Rachel Davison Presumed lost
1926 Syncopating Sue Herself Lost film


Year Title Role Notes
1930 Her Man Annie
Min and Bill Bella Pringle
Great Day film never completed or released
1931 Inspiration Lulu
Trader Horn Edith Trent (scenes deleted)
The Easiest Way Elfie St. Clair
A Tailor Made Man Kitty Dupuy
Strangers May Kiss Geneva
The Secret Six Peaches
Laughing Sinners Ruby
Son of India Mrs. Darsey
Silence Mollie Burke
This Modern Age Diane Winters (scenes deleted)
Leftover Ladies The Duchess
Hell Divers Mame Kelsey
1933 Strictly Personal Annie Gibson
The Warrior's Husband Hippolyta
Man's Castle Flossie
1934 Palooka Mayme Palooka
A Modern Hero Madame Azais
Grand Canary Daisy Hemingway
Ready for Love Goldie Tate
1935 Under Pressure Amelia 'Amy' Hardcastle
Dizzy Dames Lillian Bennett / Lillian Marlowe
1937 First Lady Belle Hardwick
1938 Merrily We Live Mrs. Harlan
Woman Against Woman Mrs. Kingsley
1939 Sudden Money Elsie Patterson
The Rains Came Mrs. Simon
Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence Mamie
Laugh It Off Sylvia Swan
1940 Santa Fe Marshal Ma Burton
Primrose Path Mamie Adams Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
20 Mule Team Josie Johnson
Tugboat Annie Sails Again Capt. Annie Brennan
East of the River Mama Teresa Lorenzo
1941 Tobacco Road Sister Bessie Rice
Three Sons o' Guns Aunt Lottie
1942 Broadway Lillian "Lil" Rice
1943 In Old Oklahoma Bessie Baxter
1944 Oh, What a Night Lil Vanderhoven
Army Wives Mrs. Shannahan
1945 Salome, Where She Danced Madam Europe
It's Murder, She Says Anopheles Annie Short, Voice, Uncredited
1948 The Walls of Jericho Mrs. Dunham
1949 The Lucky Stiff Hattie Hatfield
Any Number Can Play Sarah Calbern
Abandoned Mrs. Donner
1953 Torch Song Mrs. Stewart Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Forever Female Older Actress at Bar
Bad for Each Other Mrs. Roger Nelson
1955 A Man Called Peter Miss Laura Fowler
The View from Pompey's Head Lucy Devereaux Wales
1957 Slander Mrs. Manley
Man of a Thousand Faces Gert (final film role)

See also


  1. Marjorie Rambeau – North American Theatre Online
  2. "Best Supporting Actress Archives – National Board of Review". National Board of Review. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  3. Marjorie Burnet Rambeau; April 26, 2018
  4. Great Stars of the American Stage by Daniel Blum Profile #62 c. 1952 (this second edition c. 1954)
  5. Great Stars of the American Stage by Daniel C. Blum "Profile #62", c. 1952 (2nd edition c. 1954), no page numbers, pages are referred to as Profiles
  6. Parker, Dorothy. "To Marjorie Rambeau." Life. December 8, 1921. p. 7; Silverstein, Stuart Y., ed. (1996). Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker. New York: Scribner. p. 101. ISBN 0-7432-1148-0.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. Sobel, Bernard (1953). "Broadway Heartbeat: Memoirs of a Press Agent". New York City: Hermitage House: 233. OCLC 1514676. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 6, 2008. Retrieved July 6, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. "The Rambo Family Tree: Descendants of Peter Gunnarson Rambo 1611-1986", Beverly Nelson Rambo, p. 690
  10. St. Petersburg Times, November 28, 1932
  11. "Marjorie Rambeau, 'Grande Dame,' Dies". The Milwaukee Journal. AP. July 8, 1970. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  12. Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). "Chapter 8: East L.A. and the Desert". Laid to Rest in California: a guide to the cemeteries and grave sites of the rich and famous. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. p. 238. ISBN 978-0762741014. OCLC 70284362.
  13. Marjorie Rambeau at Find a Grave
  14. Kelly, Mary (1922). "'On Her Honor'", review, The Moving Picture World, March 25, 1922, p. 402. Internet Archive. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
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