Marie Dressler was born as Leila Marie Koerber in Cobourg on November 9, 1869. She went on to become one of the great Hollywood movie stars of her time. Her heritage home on King street, Cobourg, now houses a small but moern interactive museum of  about her life. More on her home below.


marie dresslerOnce you saw her, you would not forget her. Despite her age and weight, she became one of the top box office draws of the sound era. She was 14 when she joined a theater group and she went on to work on stage and in light opera. By 1892, she was on Broadway and she later became a star comedienne on the vaudeville circuit. In 1910, she had a hit with 'Tillie's nightmare' which Mack Sennett adapted to film in 1914 as 'Tillie's Punctured Romance' with Charles Chaplin. Marie took top billing over a young Chaplin, but her film career never took off and by 1918, she was out of films and out of work. Her role in the chorus girls' strike of 1917 had her blacklisted from the theatres. In 1927, MGM screenwriter Frances Marion got her a small part in 'The Joy Girl' and then a co-starring lead with Polly Moran in The Callahans and the Murphys (1927). It was a slow return in films but her popularity continued to grow. But it would be sound that made her a star again. Anna Christie (1930) was the movie where Garbo talks, but everyone noticed Marie as Marthy. In another film from the same year, Min and Bill (1930) she would receive an Academy Award for her dramatic performance. She would receive another Academy Award nomination for 'Emma (1932)'. In 1933, she would be the top box office star of one poll who could easily switch between drama and comedy. She had more success with 'Dinner at Eight' and 'Tugboat Annie' in 1933. In 1934, cancer would claim her.

Courtesy of IMDB and Tony Fontana


Marie Dressler

From Wikipedia

Marie Dressler (born November 9, 1868; died July 28, 1934) was a Canadian actress.

Born Leila Marie Koerber in Cobourg, Ontario to parents Alexander Rudolph Koerber (who was Austrian) and Anna Henderson. Being a large kid, she spent a lot of time developing the defensive mechanisms a lot of chubby kids become good at. The youngMarie Dressler was able to hone her talents to make other people laugh, and at 14 years old she began her acting career in theatre. In 1892 she made her debut on Broadway. At first she hoped to make a career of singing light opera, but then gravitated to vaudeville.

marie dresslerDuring the early 1900s, she became a major vaudeville star. In 1902, she met fellow Canadian, Mack Sennett, and helped him get a job in the theatre. In addition to her stage work, Dressler recorded for Edison Records in 1909 and 1910. After Sennett became the owner of his namesake motion picture studio, he convinced Dressler to star in his 1914 film Tillie's Punctured Romance opposite Sennett’s newly discovered actor, Charlie Chaplin. Dressler appeared in two more "Tillie" sequels plus other comedies until 1918 when she returned to work in vaudeville.

In 1919, during the Actors' Equity strike in New York city, the Chorus Equity Association was formed and voted Dressler its first president.

In 1927, she had been secretly blacklisted by the theatre production companies due to her strong stance in a labor dispute. It would turn out to be another Canadian who gave her the opportunity to return to motion pictures, MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer who called her "the most adored person ever to set foot in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio."

garbo dresslerMarie Dressler (right) with Greta Garbo in Anna Christie (1930). Dressler had a supporting role in the film as Marthy, a waterfront tramp. That same year, audiences saw her Oscar-winning performance in Min and Bill, and she soon rivaled Garbo in popularity.A robust woman of very plain features, Marie Dressler’s comedy films were very popular with the movie-going public and an equally lucrative investment for MGM. Although past sixty years of age, she quickly became Hollywood’s number one box office attraction and stayed on top for two straight years. In addition to her comedic genius and her natural elegance, she also demonstrated her considerable talents by taking on serious roles. For her starring portrayal in Min and Bill, co-starring Wallace Beery, she won the 1931 Academy Award for Best Actress. Dressler was nominated again for Best Actress for her 1932 role as Emma. With that film, Dressler demonstrated her profound generosity to other performers: Dressler personally insisted that her studio bosses cast a friend of hers and then largely unknown young actor, Richard Cromwell, in the lead opposite her. It was a break that helped launch his career.

Dressler followed these successes with more hits in 1933 (like the wonderful comedy Dinner at Eight, in which she played an aging and poor former stage actress) and made the cover of the August 7, 1933 issue of Time magazine. However, her career came to an abrupt end when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. MGM head Louis B. Mayer learned of Dressler's illness from her doctor and asked that she not told. To keep her home, he ordered her not to travel on her vacation because he wanted to put her in a new film. Dressler was furious but complied.

In all, Marie Dressler appeared in more than 40 films but only achieved superstardom near the end of her life. Always seeing herself as physically unattractive, she wrote an autobiography, The Life Story of an Ugly Duckling.

Marie Dressler died in Santa Barbara, California and is interred in a crypt in the Great Mausoleum in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1731 Vine Street. Each year the Marie Dressler Vintage Film Festival is held in her home town of Cobourg, Ontario.


Marie Dressler House

Marie Dressler House212 King Street West in Cobourg, Ontario is the address where an 1833 petite cottage-house lays. The Koerber family once lived in the small home where Mr. Koerber taught music lessons and Leila Koerber dreamed of becoming famous. Today, the home is titled ‘Marie Dressler House.’ At one time a restaurant, then the home of the Town's Economic Development depratment, it now contains a modern Museum dedicated to Marie Dressler and will soon to be upraded to also showcase the other two Oscar winning Canadian actresses, Mary Pickford and Norma Shearer.   Owned by the Town, the Marie Dressler Foundation has been given a long term lease and operates the Museum. (The History of the House here.) 


More Information

Marie Dressler Web site - site dedicated to information about Marie Dressler, the Marie Dressler Foundation and Marie's home in Cobourg
IMDB Information including Filmography
Northern Stars - Complete Biography and Filmography
Wikipedia - Free Internet Encyclopedia - Biography and partial Filmography


Betty Lee. MARIE DRESSLER The Unlikeliest Star. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1997.
Matthew Kennedy. MARIE DRESSLER A Biography with a Listing of Major Stage Performances, a Filmography and a Discography. Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1999.
Victoria Sturtevant. A Great Big Girl Like Me: The Films of Marie Dressler. 2009.