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May McAvoy Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (4) | Personal Quotes (3) | Salary (4)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 8 September 1899New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 26 April 1984Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Height 4' 11" (1.5 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Silent screen star May McAvoy was born in an upper scale area of New York City. Her well-to-do family owned and operated a large livery stable situated where the Waldorf-Astoria now stands. She initially wanted to be a teacher but became intrigued with show business after watching a friend rehearse a show at a nearby vaudeville theater. A model whose first job was a commercial for Domino Sugar, she moved into extra work in films and received her first major break with The Devil's Garden (1920) co-starring Lionel Barrymore. Stardom was hers, however, as the lead in Sentimental Tommy (1921), which led to a Paramount contract. A unassuming brunette, her petite frame and sweet-natured looks belied a surprisingly feisty, independent nature. When Cecil B. DeMille put a halt on her career in 1923 as punishment for refusing a role that required partial nudity, May assertively bought out her contract and freelanced for the next six years. Not always the best case scenario for an established film celebrity, the move ended up being a wise one. She wound up flourishing in such movies as The Enchanted Cottage (1924), Tessie (1925), and Lady Windermere's Fan (1925), while replacing actress Gertrude Olmstead as Esther in her best known silent film Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925). Mostly forgotten today except by the more devoted film enthusiasts, May nevertheless holds a steadfast position in film history thanks to her co-starring role in Hollywood's first talkie The Jazz Singer (1927) opposite Al Jolson, which is actually a silent film with several sound musical and speaking sequences. She herself had no talking scenes. Coincidentally, May also starred in England's first all-talking picture _Terror, The (1928/II)_. She retired for marriage in 1929 and bore one son, Patrick. She returned to films for a decade and a half in the 1940s for MGM but never received any screen credit for these parts. She was widowed in 1973 and died a decade later of a heart attack.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Maurice Cleary (1929 - 1973) (his death) (1 son)

Trivia (4)

McAvoy bought herself out of her Paramount contract for $10,000 when the coveted roles he wanted: Babbie in "THe LBittle Minister" and "Peter Pan" went to Betty Compson and the then unknown Betty Bronson.
McAvoy felt the scripts she was given by Warners after "The Jazz Singer" were awful, so when she married in 1929, she decided to retire. Warners gave out the story that her voice was bad for Talkies. Later when film historians accepted Warners face-saving statement as true that she had a lisp, she considered suing but ultimately did not.
Never weighed more than 100 pounds.
Her first film was a promotional commercial short for Domino Sugar filmed at Metro.

Personal Quotes (3)

I soon realized I was not cut out to be a school-teacher, which is what it was assumed I would be. Every time I saw Ruth Wells I longed to be, like her, 'in the profession.' Finally, Mother saw I was making myself and everybody else miserable so she told me I could try my luck and at least get it out of my system.
I wanted to be somebody and was utterly miserable at high school. I had nothing in common with the other girls. All they thought about were good times, pretty clothes, and boys. I was there to work. I left high school in my third year and decided I was going to succeed in pictures.
Madge Kennedy was absolutely marvelous to me. It was the first and only time a star deliberately urned her back to the camera and gave me the scene. Miss Kennedy did it not once but several times, until the director reminded her she was the star audiences paid money to see.

Salary (4)

Her Reputation (1923) $500 @ week
West of the Water Tower (1923) $1,500 @ week
Tarnish (1924) $3,000 @ week
Three Women (1924) $3,000 @ week

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