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Louise Dresser

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Louise Dresser
Dresser in The Eagle (1925)
Louise Josephine Kerlin

(1878-10-05)October 5, 1878
DiedApril 24, 1965(1965-04-24) (aged 86)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California
Years active1900–1937
(m. 1898; div. 1908)
Jack Gardner
(m. 1910; died 1950)

Louise Dresser (born Louise Josephine Kerlin;[1] October 5, 1878 – April 24, 1965) was an American actress.[2] She is perhaps best known for her roles in the many films in which she played the wife of Will Rogers, including State Fair and David Harum.

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Early life

Louise Josephine Kerlin was born on October 5, 1878, in Evansville, Indiana to Ida (née Shaffer) and William S. Kerlin, a railroad engineer who died when she was 15 years old. She had a younger brother, William Lambert Kerlin.


Dresser took her professional last name from Paul Dresser, who was a friend of her father. Upon finding out Louise was William Kerlin's daughter, he launched her as his younger sister, and she took on his last name. Many people believed the two were related, and when Paul died, Louise was mentioned in his obituary as a surviving relative.[3]

Dresser worked as a burlesque dancer and a singer at the Boston dime museum and then made her vaudeville debut in 1900. She formed a team named "Louise Dresser and Her Picks", a singing act that was backed by a chorus of African-American children. In 1906, she began to play New York vaudeville stages, and that year, she was in the musical About Town with Lew Fields, which was a hit. The following year, she was in the hit show Girl Behind the Counter, which ran for 260 performances.[4]

After vaudeville, Dresser's success continued on Broadway, where she starred with De Wolf Hopper in Matinee Idol (1910-1912), and appeared in Broadway to Paris (1912), Potash and Perlmutter (1913), and Hello Broadway! (1914).[5] Her final Broadway show was Have a Heart (1917), which received good reviews.[citation needed]

Dresser made her film debut in The Glory of Clementina (1922), and her first starring role was in The City That Never Sleeps (1924). In 1925, she starred in The Eagle, opposite Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Bánky as Catherine the Great, and played the title role in The Goose Woman, alongside Jack Pickford.[citation needed]

During the first presentations of the Academy Awards in 1929, Dresser was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for A Ship Comes In.

In 1930, she acted as Al Jolson's mother in Mammy, and she portrayed Empress Elizabeth in The Scarlet Empress (1934). Her last film was Maid of Salem (1937). On television, she appeared in an episode spotlighting Buster Keaton on Ralph Edwards's program This Is Your Life. She had known Keaton since he was a small boy with his parents in vaudeville.[citation needed]

Later years

After retiring in 1937, Dresser worked as a volunteer at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital.

In 1950, Dresser attempted to make a comeback, but she was unable to get any screen roles, which she blamed on rumors of her being deaf.

Personal life

Dresser was married twice. Her first marriage was to singer/songwriter Jack Norworth, whom she married in 1898.[5][6]

She then wed Jack Gardner in 1910, and they remained together until his death in 1950. Neither union produced any children.[3]

Dresser died in Woodland Hills, California after surgery for an intestinal ailment. She had lost much of her fortune trying to establish a racing stable. Her gravesite is at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California.[citation needed]



Year Title Role Notes
1922 The Glory of Clementina Lena Fontaine Lost film
Burning Sands Kate Bindane Lost film
Enter Madame Mrs. Flora Preston
1923 The Fog Mrs. Theddon Lost film
Prodigal Daughters Mrs. Forbes Lost film
Salomy Jane Mrs. Pete Lost film
Ruggles of Red Gap Mrs. Effie Floud Lost film
Woman-Proof Wilma Rockwood Lost film
To the Ladies Mrs. Kincaid Lost film
1924 The Next Corner Nina Race Lost film
What Shall I Do? Mrs. McLean Lost film
The City That Never Sleeps Mother O'Day Lost film
Cheap Kisses Jane Dillingham Lost film
1925 Percy Mrs. Rogers Lost film
Enticement Mrs. Samuel Murray Lost film
The Goose Woman Marie de Nardi / Mary Holmes
The Eagle The Czarina
1926 Fifth Avenue Claudine Kemp Lost film
The Blind Goddess Mrs. Eileen Clayton Lost film
Padlocked Mrs. Alcott
Broken Hearts of Hollywood Virginia Perry
Gigolo Julia Gory
Everybody's Acting Anastasia Potter Lost film
The Third Degree Alicia Daly
1927 White Flannels Mrs. Jacob Politz Lost film
Mr. Wu Mrs. Gregory
1928 A Ship Comes In Mrs. Pleznik Nomination - Academy Award for Best Actress
The Garden of Eden Rosa


Year Title Role Notes
1928 Mother Knows Best Ma Quail Fox's first full talkie
Lost film
The Air Circus Mrs. Blake
1929 Not Quite Decent Mame Jarrow Lost film
Madonna of Avenue A Georgia Morton Lost film
1930 Mammy Mother Fuller
The Three Sisters Marta Lost film
This Mad World Pauline Parisot - Paul's Mother
Lightnin' Mrs. Mary Jones
1931 Caught Calamity Jane
1932 Stepping Sisters Mrs. Cissie Ramsey nee Black
1933 State Fair Melissa Frake
Song of the Eagle Emma Hoffman
Doctor Bull Mrs. Herbert Banning
Cradle Song Prioress
1934 David Harum Polly Harum
The Scarlet Empress Empress Elizabeth Petrovna
The World Moves On Baroness von Gerhardt
Servants' Entrance Mrs. Hansen
A Girl of the Limberlost Katherine Comstock
Hollywood on Parade Short subject
1935 The County Chairman Mrs. Rigby
1937 Maid of Salem Ellen Clarke - Barbara's Aunt


  1. ^ The Green Book Magazine Volume 9, page 523, c.1913 Retrieved September 7, 2016
  2. ^ "The Green Book Magazine". Story-Press association. January 4, 1916. Retrieved January 4, 2020 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b Dodge, Richard Irving; Rogers, Will (1996). The Indian Territory Journals of Colonel Richard Irving Dodge. ISBN 9780806132679.
  4. ^ Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2007). Vaudeville old & new: An encyclopedia of variety performances in America. ISBN 9780415938532.
  5. ^ a b "Louise Dresser | Jewish Women's Archive". Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  6. ^ Slide, Anthony (March 12, 2012). The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. ISBN 9781617032509.

External links

Louise Dresser in a 1900 vaudeville show
This page was last edited on 27 November 2023, at 05:21
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