Mary Philbin

Mary Loretta Philbin (July 16, 1902 – May 7, 1993)[2][1] was an American film actress of the silent film era, who is best known for playing the roles of Christine Daaé in the 1925 film The Phantom of the Opera opposite Lon Chaney, and as Dea in The Man Who Laughs. Both roles cast her as the beauty in Beauty and the Beast-type stories.

Mary Philbin
Philbin c. 1920
Mary Loretta Philbin

(1902-07-16)July 16, 1902[1]
DiedMay 7, 1993(1993-05-07) (aged 90)
Years active1918–1930

Early life

Philbin was born on July 16, 1902[3] Chicago, Illinois into a middle-class Irish American family and raised Roman Catholic.[4] Her father, John Philbin,[5] was born in Ballinrobe, County Mayo, Ireland.


Philbin began her acting career after winning a beauty contest sponsored by Universal Pictures in Chicago.[3] Relocating to California, Erich von Stroheim signed her to a contract with Universal, deeming her a "Universal Super Jewel."[5]

She made her screen debut in 1921 and the following year was awarded at the first annual WAMPAS Baby Stars awards, a promotional campaign sponsored by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers in the United States, which honoured thirteen young women each year whom they believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom.

Over the course of 1920s, Philbin became a successful film actress and starred in a number of high-profile films, most notably in D. W. Griffith's 1928 film Drums of Love. In 1927, she appeared in the horror film Surrender,[6] though her most celebrated role was in the Universal horror film The Phantom of the Opera in 1925.[7] Philbin's ethereal screen presence was noted in a 1924 edition of Motion Picture Classic, in which she was referred to as "one of the astonishing anomalies of motion pictures...Pat O'Malley once said of her: "If I were superstitious I would think that the spirit of some great tragedienne of a forgotten past slipped into Mary's soul."[8]

Philbin played a few parts during the early talkie era and most notably dubbed her own voice when The Phantom of the Opera was given sound and re-released. She retired from the screen in the early 1930s and devoted her life to care for her aging parents.

Later life and death

Philbin spent the remainder of her life after leaving the film industry as a recluse, living in the same home in Huntington Beach, California.[3] She never married and rarely made public appearances. One rare public appearance by Philbin occurred in her later years at the Los Angeles opening of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera.

She died of pneumonia at age 90 in 1993 and was buried at the Calvary Cemetery in east Los Angeles, California.[9]


1921The Blazing TrailTalithy Millicuddy
1921Danger AheadTressie Harloow
1921Twelve Hours to LiveShort
1921No Clothes to Guide HimShort
1921Red CourageEliza FayLost film
1921Sure FireLost film
1921False KissesMary
1922Foolish WivesCrippled girlUncredited
1922The TrouperMary LeeLost film
1922Human HeartsRuth
1922His First JobJimmy's Sweetheart
1922Once to Every BoyJimmy's Sweetheart
1923Penrod and SamMargaret Schofield
1923Merry-Go-RoundAgnes Urban
1923Where Is This West?Sallie Summers
1923The Age of DesireMargy (age 18)
1923The Temple of VenusMoira
1923The Thrill ChaserHerselfCameo appearance
1924Fools HighwayMamie RoseLost film
1924The Gaiety GirlIrene TudorLost film
1924The Rose of ParisMitsi
1925The Phantom of the OperaChristine Daaé
1925Fifth Avenue ModelsIsoel Ludant
1925Stella MarisStella Maris / Unity Blake
1927Love Me and the World Is MineHannerl
1927SurrenderLea Lyon
1928Drums of LovePrincess Emanuella
1928The Man Who LaughsDea
1929Port of DreamsJoan
1929Girl OverboardJoanLost film
1929The Last PerformanceJulie Fergeron
1929The Shannons of BroadwayTessie Swanzey
1929After the FogFaith Barker(final film role)

Notes and references


  1. Resting Places
  2. "California Death Index, 1940–1997," database, FamilySearch ( : 26 November 2014), Mary Loretta Philbin, 07 May 1993; Department of Public Health Services, Sacramento.
  3. Slide 2002, p. 307.
  4. "Recently Noted". The Catholic Charities Review. 26–27: 70. 1942.
  5. Sanchez 1930, p. 159.
  6. Beck 1978, p. 63.
  7. Beck 1978, p. 62.
  8. "Tears". Motion Picture Classic. 20–21: 41. 1924.
  9. Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. p. 588. ISBN 978-1476625997. Retrieved 26 December 2017.


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