Marie Dressler

Throughout her career, Marie Dressler played greatly different types of character than those of her contemporaries. While other actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood were made famous for their stereotypical delicate looks, slim figures and feminine charm, Marie Dressler defied these expectations. A self-proclaimed "ugly duckling," Marie's physical characteristics were not seen as conventionally attractive or desirable to the typical male gaze. Instead, she relied on her strong physicality, powerful talent for facial expression, and a strong, independent personality to convey her characters on screen.

The films of this list exemplify Marie's ability to flout Hollywood standards of beauty, embodying characters that are more than just a pretty face but rather carry personality, strength, and unconventional female charm.

DVD cover of "Tillie's Punctured Romance"

Tilly's Punctured Romance (1914)

Genre: Comedy

Marie Dressler and Charlie Chaplin star in this silent comedy in which a smarmy city slicker tries to woo the daughter of a wealthy businessman to get her money for himself. In one of Dressler's earliest film roles, she plays the capable but naive Tillie, who must assert herself to get her fortune back.
DVD cover of "Min and Bill"

Min & Bill (1930)

Genre: Comedy-Drama

Marie Dressler won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Min, a fierce but loving dockside inn owner. In the film, Min must protect her surrogate daughter from the corrupting elements of prohibition-era underground America as well as unexpected visitors from their respective pasts. Marie conveys the persona of the lioness, caring and fiercely protective of her charge, willing to cross any line for her safety.
DVD cover of "Politics"

Politics (1931)

Genre: Comedy-Romance


Emma (1932)

Genre: Comedy-Drama

In another of Marie Dressler's fierce yet motherly roles, she plays the titular Emma, an aging housekeeper to the Smith family. Written by Frances Marion, the film follows Emma as she becomes elopes with the father of the family, who dies shortly thereafter. When the spoiled Smith children accuse Emma of manipulating their father for his money, she must prove her innocence with the help of her favourite and the only of the children to believe her innocence, Ronnie. Marie embodies the selfless, motherly Emma wonderfully, creating a character who is sympathetic and engaging to watch.
DVD cover of "Tugboat Annie"

Tugboat Annie (1933)

Genre: Comedy-Drama

This film, which reunites the successful pairing of Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler, follows a bickering couple living on a tugboat and the challenges they face. Annie is a loving mother to her son, Alec, but her husband's struggle with alcoholism repeatedly leaves the lives and relationships of all three in jeopardy. As Annie struggles between choosing what is best for her son and concern for her husband's wellbeing, she must make hard decisions and sacrifices to ensure her family endures.
DVD cover of "Dinner at Eight"

Dinner at Eight (1933)

Genre: Comedy-Drama

This star-studded film once again reunites Marie Dressler with Wallace Beery, alongside Lionel and John Barrymore, and Jean Harlow. Dressler plays Carlotta Vance, an aging and down-on-her-luck actress hoping to recover her fortunes. When she is invited to a posh dinner party, she becomes involved in drama between in the affairs of the other guests, as personalities and relationships clash and lead to bitter fallout. Marie is remarkable as Carlotta, creating a character who exhibits strength and compassion despite the current state of her life and career.