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Aline MacMahon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aline MacMahon
MacMahon in the 1940s
Aline Laveen MacMahon

(1899-05-03)May 3, 1899
DiedOctober 12, 1991(1991-10-12) (aged 92)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materBarnard College
Years active1920–1975
(m. 1928; died 1975)

Aline Laveen MacMahon[1] (May 3, 1899 – October 12, 1991)[2] was an American actress. Her Broadway stage career began under producer Edgar Selwyn in The Mirage during 1920. She made her screen debut in 1931, and worked extensively in film, theater, and television until her retirement in 1975. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Dragon Seed (1944).[3]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • "Weekend Marriage" clip 1
  • Guest in the House (1944) | Film Noir | Anne Baxter, Ralph Bellamy, Aline MacMahon


Early life

MacMahon was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, the only child of William Marcus MacMahon and Jennie (née Simon) MacMahon. Her father was a telegraph operator, arbitrage broker and writer/editor in the Munsey publishing company, including their flagship title, Munsey's Magazine.[4]

Aline's parents married on July 14, 1898, in Columbus, Ohio. Her father died on September 6, 1931.[4] Her mother, an avid bell collector, died in 1984, at age 106.[5]

MacMahon first appeared on stage as early as 1905. That year the family moved to Brooklyn from McKeesport, and Aline's mother began training her in the art of elocution. Soon, Aline was performing at local churches and festivals where she recited poems and played the violin. By 1908 she was well known enough to attract the attention of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, who reported "a series of songs and dances by Aline MacMahon" to be performed at St. Jude's Church in Brooklyn.[6]

Although she had been earning handsome wages for many years on New York's so-called Strawberry Circuit, MacMahon made her true professional debut with a program of readings, recitations and music at New York's McAlpin Hotel in 1914.[7]


MacMahon was raised first in the Pittsburgh suburb of McKeesport, then in Brooklyn, New York.[1] She attended New York's public school 103,[8] then entered Erasmus Hall High School (Brooklyn) in 1912. In 1916 the MacMahon family moved to the upper west side of Manhattan and Aline enrolled in nearby Barnard College.[9] It was there that MacMahon received a more serious education in acting, enrolling in "Wigs and Cues", the theater program run by the woman who became MacMahon's first great mentor, Minor Latham. By graduation she had appeared in nearly every program the school had mounted during those four years, and found multiple suitors for her talents, including offers from the Provincetown Players, producer / actor Walter Hampden, and the Neighborhood Playhouse.[citation needed]


Aline made her (uncredited) Broadway debut in 1920 as a craps-playing debutante in The Mirage. Her Broadway credits include 24 shows, with many other off-Broadway and regional stage appearances during her career.[10] After traveling to Los Angeles to star in the road company of the Broadway smash Once in a Lifetime, she was noticed by Warner Brothers director Mervyn LeRoy, and made her film debut in the Pre-Code drama Five Star Final (1931).[11] After signing a long-term contract with Warners, Aline spent the rest of her career splitting time between New York and Hollywood in order to be with her husband, the Manhattan-based architect and city planner, Clarence Stein. In the1930s and 40s she was a critical darling (Walter Winchell called her "the very good actress"[12]), often cast as the acerbic comedienne with a heart of gold, or the long-suffering woman unlucky in love. Her career diminished after her husband's health failed. Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors said that she "moved into character roles with ease as she became plumper and more motherly looking."[2]

The Birth of Method Acting

In 1922 MacMahon was a member of the Neighborhood Playhouse company in Manhattan, just as Konstantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre visited New York for a legendary tour. Accolades poured in for the MAT's performances, and the executives of the Neighborhood Playhouse made arrangements to charter the first teaching class of the Method in America, which Aline attended with nine others. Aline MacMahon took the tenets of the Method very seriously, and was the only member of that inaugural class to achieve popular success, having debuted the technique on stage in the fall of 1923, and as the first practitioner of it on film in 1931. "I was the first," she said in 1959, "in the first group to be exposed to what has become the Method. Out of that summer [1923] has developed everything that the Method actors are doing." She was a pioneering Method actor in the western world.[13]

Personal life

On March 28, 1928, MacMahon and Clarence Stein were married after a long courtship.[9] The pair were devoted to each other, but commuting between coasts was a strain on their marriage.[14] The couple had no children. MacMahon was chairwoman of the Equity Library Theater in 1950. She organized productions for community theaters and was active in relief charities.[15] During the late 1940s and 1950s she was blacklisted as a Communist sympathizer and appeared on the notorious Communist watchlist pamphlet, Red Channels. The FBI held covert investigations of her and Clarence Stein for decades. The Steins were inveterate travelers, having sailed around the world in 1935–1936.[13]


MacMahon died in 1991, aged 92, of pneumonia in New York City.[11]


The New York Public Library has a collection of MacMahon's papers that document various aspects of her life. They are housed in the library's Billy Rose Theatre Division.[16]

The biography Aline MacMahon: Hollywood, the Blacklist, and the Birth of Method Acting was published in 2022 by University Press of Kentucky.[17][18][19][20][21]

Partial filmography

Dorothy McGuire (left) and Aline MacMahon in Reward Unlimited (1944)


  1. ^ a b "Glad Mr. Pease Resigned". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. April 20, 1911. p. 3. Retrieved August 11, 2016 – via Open access icon
  2. ^ a b Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 454. ISBN 9781557835512. Retrieved August 12, 2016.
  3. ^ "(Aline MacMahon search)". The Official Academy Awards Database. Retrieved August 12, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b "Former Editor of Munsey's Expires". Montana Butte Standard. Montana, Butte. Associated Press. September 8, 1931. p. 1. Retrieved August 11, 2016 – via Open access icon
  5. ^ "Aline L. MacMahon, 92, Actress Over 50 Years and in 43 Movies". The New York Times. October 13, 1991.
  6. ^ "For St. Jude's Church". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. July 31, 1908. p. 8. Retrieved August 11, 2016 – via Open access icon
  7. ^ "Miss Aline MacMahon Makes Her Professional Debut". Brooklyn Life. Brooklyn, NY. April 25, 1914. p. 6. Retrieved August 11, 2016 – via Open access icon
  8. ^ "These Schools Are to Follow". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. May 19, 1912. p. 61. Retrieved August 11, 2016 – via Open access icon
  9. ^ a b "Weds Housing Chairman". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. March 29, 1928. p. 3. Retrieved August 11, 2016 – via Open access icon
  10. ^ "(Aline MacMahon search)". Playbill Vault. Retrieved August 12, 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Deaths Elsewhere: Aline MacMahon". Toledo Blade. Associated Press. October 15, 1991. p. 10. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  12. ^ Winchell, Walter (April 14, 1937). "On Broadway". The Daily Mirror. New York City. p. 10.
  13. ^ a b Stangeland, John (2022). Aline MacMahon: Hollywood, the Blacklist and the Birth of Method Acting. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 99, 106–7, 229–35, 268–74, 288–9. ISBN 978-0-8131-9606-0.
  14. ^ Kaufman, Jerome L. Review of "The Writings of Clarence S. Stein: Architect of the Planned Community" by Kermit Carlyle Parsons (ed.). The Town Planning Review; Liverpool Vol. 71, Iss. 4, (Oct 1, 2000): 90.
  15. ^ University of Wisconsin Library, Women's Studies archives Archived 2006-04-04 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed August 12, 2015.
  16. ^ "Aline MacMahon papers 1899-1989". The New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts. Retrieved August 12, 2016.
  17. ^ Stangeland, John (November 8, 2022). Aline MacMahon: Hollywood, the Blacklist, and the Birth of Method Acting. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-9607-7.
  18. ^ Stangeland, John. "Aline MacMahon". University Press of Kentucky.
  19. ^ "Episode 118- Author John Stangeland & His book Aline Macmahon: Hollywood the Blacklist & the Birth of Method Acting". Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  20. ^ a b Mount Prospect Public Library. "Aline MacMahon: Hollywood, the Blacklist, and the Birth of Method Acting". youtube. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  21. ^ Stecher, Raquel. "Interview with John Stangeland, author of Aline MacMahon: Hollywood, the Blacklist, and the Birth of Method Acting". outofthepastblog. Retrieved May 14, 2023.

Census and other data

  • The 1910 United States Federal Census for Brooklyn, New York, April 16, 1910, Enumeration District 1409, Sheet 5.
  • The 1920 United States Federal Census for Manhattan Assembly District 13, January 25, 1920, Enumeration District 943, Sheet 9A.
  • U.S. Passport Applications 1795–1925, Roll 1533-6376-6749, March 19–21, 1921 (

External links

This page was last edited on 13 March 2024, at 17:04
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