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May McAvoy
McAvoy in 1924
May Irene McAvoy

(1899-09-08)September 8, 1899
DiedApril 26, 1984(1984-04-26) (aged 84)
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, U.S.
Years active1917–1959
Maurice Cleary
(m. 1929; div. 1940)
(m. 1971)

May Irene McAvoy[citation needed] (September 8, 1899 – April 26, 1984)[1] was an American actress who worked mainly during the silent-film era. Some of her major roles are Laura Pennington in The Enchanted Cottage, Esther in Ben-Hur, and Mary Dale in The Jazz Singer.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
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    183 442
    5 637 795
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  • Tribute to May McAvoy
  • James McAvoy Performs Copacabana w/ Barry Manilow | The Jonathan Ross Show
  • The Fire Brigade 1926 Charles Ray, May McAvoy, Holmes Herbert DVD, MP4
  • Luke Evans And Hugh Jackman's Gaston Sing Off | The Jonathan Ross Show
  • The Jazz Singer | "Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet" Scene | Warner Bros. Entertainment


Life and career

May Irene McAvoy was born on September 8, 1899, in New York City to Julia Agnes McAvoy (née Reilly) and James Patrick McAvoy, who were both first generation Irish-Americans. The 1910 census lists her as living with her maternal grandparents in Sussex, New Jersey.[citation needed]

McAvoy debuted as an extra in the film Hate in 1917.[2] After appearing in more than three dozen films, she co-starred with Ramón Novarro and Francis X. Bushman in director Fred Niblo's 1925 production of Ben-Hur released by MGM. She also portrayed Lady Windermere in Ernst Lubitsch's Lady Windermere's Fan (1925).

In addition to acting in The Jazz Singer, McAvoy coached Al Jolson as he made his film debut.[3] Although her voice was not heard in The Jazz Singer, she spoke in several other films, including the second sound film released by Warner Brothers, The Terror, which was directed by Roy Del Ruth and co-starred Conrad Nagel.

For years, a rumor circulated that McAvoy retired from the screen at the transition to sound films because of a lisp or speech impediment.[4] In truth, she married the treasurer of United Artists, who asked her not to work.[4]

Later, she returned to films and played small, uncredited roles during the 1940s and 1950s, making her final film appearance in a small part of the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. Most of her later uncredited work was performed for MGM.[5]

McAvoy was the Rose Queen in the Rose Parade in 1923.[6]

Personal life

McAvoy married banker Maurice Cleary on June 26, 1929,[7] with whom she had a son named Patrick,[1] and divorced him in 1940.[8] They remarried on December 10, 1971. She was a registered Republican.[9] McAvoy was a lifelong Roman Catholic.[10]


On April 26, 1984, McAvoy died at the age of 84 from the after effects of a heart attack suffered the previous year.[2] She is interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.[1]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, May McAvoy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1731 Vine Street.[11]


McAvoy in 1922
Year Title Role Studio(s) / Distributor(s) Notes
1917 Hate May Garvan
1918 To Hell with the Kaiser! Wounded Girl Metro Pictures Lost film
A Perfect Lady Claire Higgins
I'll Say So Minor Role uncredited
1919 Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch Australy Wiggs Famous Players Lasky Preserved at the Library of Congress
The Woman Under Oath Edith Norton United Picture Theatres of America A copy is held at the BFI National Archive
Love Wins
The Way of a Woman Grace Lee Select Pictures A copy is held at the BFI National Archive
1920 My Husband's Other Wife Nettie Bryson Pathé Exchange Lost film
The Sporting Duchess Mary Aylmer Vitagraph Studios Lost film
Man and His Woman Eve Cartier Pathé Exchange Lost film
The House of the Tolling Bell Lucy Atheron Pathé Exchange Lost film
The Forbidden Valley Morning Glory Pathé Exchange Lost film
The Devil's Garden Norah First National Lost film
The Truth About Husbands Leslie Brownell First National Lost film
1921 Sentimental Tommy Grizel Paramount Pictures Lost film
A Private Scandal Jeanne Millett Realart Pictures Corporation Lost film
Everything for Sale Helen Wainwright Paramount Pictures Lost film
Morals Carlotta Paramount Pictures A copy is preserved at the Library of Congress
A Virginia Courtship Prudence Fairfax Paramount Pictures Lost film
1922 A Homespun Vamp Meg Mackenzie Paramount Pictures Lost film
Through a Glass Window Jenny Martin Paramount Pictures Lost film
The Top of New York Hilda O'Shaunnessey Paramount Pictures Lost film
A Trip to Paramountown Herself Paramount Pictures Short subject
Clarence Cora Wheeler Paramount Pictures Lost film
Kick In Myrtle Paramount Pictures A copy is held at the Library of Congress
1923 Grumpy Virginia Bullivant Paramount Pictures A copy is held at the Gosfilmofond archive
Only 38 Lucy Stanley Paramount Pictures Lost film
Her Reputation Jacqueline Lanier First National Lost film
Hollywood Herself Paramount Pictures Lost film
West of the Water Tower Bee Chew Paramount Pictures Lost film
1924 The Enchanted Cottage Laura Pennington First National Preserved at the Library of Congress
The Bedroom Window Ruth Martin Paramount Pictures Copies are held at the Library of Congress and the UCLA Film and Television Archive
Tarnish Letitia Tevis First National Lost film
Three Women Jeannie Wilton Warner Bros.
Married Flirts Herself, Guest at party Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Lost film
1925 The Mad Whirl Cathleen Gillis Universal Pictures
Tessie Tessie Arrow Film Corporation Lost film
Ben-Hur Esther Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Lady Windermere's Fan Lady Windermere Warner Bros.
1926 Calf-Love Short subject
The Road to Glory Judith Allen Fox Film Corporation Lost film
My Old Dutch Sal Gratton Universal Pictures A copy is held at Indiana University
The Passionate Quest Rosina Vonet Warner Bros. Lost film
The Savage Ysabel Atwater First National Lost film
The Fire Brigade Helen Corwin Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer A copy is held at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists archives
Originally contained two-color Technicolor sequences
1927 Matinee Ladies Sallie Smith Warner Bros. Lost film
Irish Hearts Sheila Warner Bros. Lost film
Slightly Used Cynthia Martin Warner Bros. Lost film
The Jazz Singer Mary Dale Warner Bros.
A Reno Divorce Carla Warner Bros. Lost film
Vitaphone discs survive
If I Were Single May Howard Warner Bros. A copy is held at the BFI National Archive
1928 The Little Snob May Banks Warner Bros. An incomplete copy is held at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
Sunny California Short subject
The Lion and the Mouse Shirley Ross Warner Bros. Copies are held at the Library of Congress and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison The Vitaphone soundtracks partially survive at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
Caught in the Fog The Girl Warner Bros. An incomplete copy is held at the BFI National Archive
The Terror Olga Redmayne Warner Bros. A silent and talking version were both released and both are now lost.
Vitaphone soundtracks survive
1929 Stolen Kisses May Lambert Warner Bros. Lost film
No Defense Ruth Harper Warner Bros. Lost film
With Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer (1927)
Year Title Role Notes
1940 Hollywood: Style Center of the World Saleslady Short subject
Two Girls on Broadway Chatworth's Secretary Uncredited
The New Pupil Sally's mother Short subject
The Phantom Raiders Middle Telephone Operator Uncredited
Dulcy Miss Murphy - Van Dyke's Secretary Uncredited
Third Finger, Left Hand Telephone Operator Uncredited
1941 Whispers Gossip Short subject
1-2-3 Go! Miss Jones, nurse Short subject
Love Crazy Sanity Hearing Secretary Uncredited
The Getaway Duff's Secretary Uncredited
Ringside Maisie 1st Nurse Uncredited
Main Street on the March! Window Shopper Short subject
1942 Born to Sing Bit role Uncredited
Mr. Blabbermouth! Wife Short subject
1943 Assignment in Brittany Nurse Uncredited
My Tomato Gidge's Customer Short subject
1944 Two Girls and a Sailor Dowager Uncredited
Movie Pests Woman Whose Vision Gets Blocked Short subject
Barbary Coast Gent Bit role Scenes deleted
1945 Week-End at the Waldorf Bit role Uncredited
1946 Till the Clouds Roll By Well-Wisher after Roberta Uncredited
1947 The Romance of Rosy Ridge Wife Uncredited
The Unfinished Dance Ronsell's Secretary Uncredited
1948 A Date with Judy Dance Attendee Uncredited
Luxury Liner Woman Uncredited
1950 The Yellow Cab Man Bit role Uncredited
Mystery Street Nurse Uncredited
Watch the Birdie Bit role Uncredited
1952 The Bad and the Beautiful Pebbel's Secretary Uncredited
1954 Executive Suite Grimm's Secretary Uncredited
1955 The Tender Trap Visitor to Home Show Uncredited
1956 Ransom! Miss May Uncredited
1957 The Wings of Eagles Nurse Uncredited
Designing Woman Boston Wardrobe Woman Uncredited
Gun Glory Woman Uncredited
Jailhouse Rock Bit role Uncredited
1959 Ben-Hur Woman in Crowd Uncredited


  1. ^ a b c "Original Jazz Singer' Star May Mcavoy Dies At 82 ". Gainesville Sun. May 3, 1984. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "May Mcavoy Dies; Jolson's Leading Lady". Schenectady Gazette. May 4, 1984. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  3. ^ Berg, A. Scott (1998). Goldwyn: A Biography. Penguin. ISBN 978-1-101-49735-7. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Lamparski, Richard (1982). Whatever Became Of ...? Eighth Series. New York: Crown Publishers. pp. 190–1. ISBN 0-517-54855-0.
  5. ^ Slide, Anthony. Hollywood Unknowns: A History of the Extras, Bit Players, and Stand-Ins. Jackson: University of Missouri Press. p 167.
  6. ^ Kleiner, Dick (January 16, 1983). "Former queen was the only actress chosen". Manitowoc Herald-Times. Wisconsin, Manitowoc. Newspaper Enterprise. p. 36. Retrieved March 6, 2020 – via
  7. ^ "May Mcavoy Is Married". San Jose News. June 27, 1929. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  8. ^ "May McAvoy Wins Divorce and Discloses Her Poverty". Los Angeles Times. November 20, 1940. p. 9. Retrieved December 30, 2011. Once one of the highest salaried actresses in the motionpicture industry. May McAvoy disclosed yesterday in divorcing Maurice G. Cleary. former banker, that of late she was forced to seek financial aid from the Motion Picture Relief Fund.
  9. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 34, Ideal Publishers
  10. ^ Morning News, January 10, 1948, Who Was Who in America (Vol. 2)
  11. ^ "Walk Of Fame Uses Plenty Of Celebrity Footprints". Record-Journal. August 13, 1989. Retrieved December 30, 2011.

External links

This page was last edited on 20 February 2024, at 13:48
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