Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
Place of Death
Cause of Death
Malnutrition and alcoholism
Claim to Fame
Uncle Tom Without A Cabin
Profile Bio Text
Born Mary Bickford Dunn in Sarnia, Ontario, when she was still a child her family moved first to Denver, Colorado and then later to Los Angeles, California. While working as a secretary, she applied for and obtained an acting job at the Hollywood studio owned by Mack Sennett. Sennett, who was from a small Canadian town outside of Montreal, dubbed her as the exotic "French girl", adding Dunn to his collection of bathing beauties under the stage name of Marie Prevost.
In 1919, Prevost secretly married socialite Sonny Gerke who left her after six months of marriage. Gerke, whose mother forbid him to associate with Prevost because she was an actress, was scared to tell his mother of the marriage and couldn`t get a divorce without revealing that he was married. Prevost was fearful of the bad publicity a divorce would cause and would stay secretly married to Gerke until 1923.
One of her first publicly successful film roles came in the 1920 romantic film Love, Honor, and Behave, opposite another newcomer and Sennett protegé, George O`Hara. Initially cast in numerous minor comedic roles as the sexy, innocent young girl, she worked in several films for Sennett`s studio until 1921 when she signed with Universal. At Universal, Irving Thalberg took an interest in Provost decided to make her a star. Thalberg ensured that she received a great deal of publicity and staged numerous publicity events. After announcing that he had selected two films for Prevost to star in, The Moonlight Follies (1921) and Kissed (1922), Thalberg sent Prevost to Coney Island where she publicly burned her bathing suit to symbolize the end of her bathing beauty days.
While at Universal, Prevost was still relegated to light comedies. After her contract expired, Jack Warner signed her to a two year contract at $1500 a week at Warner Bros. in 1922. During this time, Prevost was dating actor Kenneth Harlan. Jack Warner had also signed Harlan to a contract and cast the couple in the lead roles in F. Scott Fitzgerald`s The Beautiful and Damned. To publicize the film, Warner announced that the couple would marry on the film`s set. The publicity stunt worked and thousands of fans sent gifts and letters to the couple. The Los Angeles Mirror got wind that Prevost`s was still married to Sonny Gerke and ran a story with the headline Marie Prevost Will be a Bigamist if She Marries Kenneth Harlan. Warner was livid over the negative publicity and Prevost`s failure to disclose her first marriage despite the fact that the publicity stunt was his idea. Warner quickly arranged an annullment and, when the publicity surrounding the scandal died down, Prevost and Harlan were quietly married.
In spite of the bad publicity, Prevost`s performance in The Beautiful and Damned brought good reviews. Director Ernst Lubitsch chose her for a major role opposite Adolphe Menjou in 1924`s The Marriage Circle. Of her performance as the beautiful seductress, Ernst Lubitsch said that she was one of the few actresses in Hollywood who knew how to underplay comedy to achieve the maximum effect.This performance, praised by The New York Times, resulted in Lubitsch casting her in Three Women in 1924 and in Kiss Me Again the following year.
Just as her career was blossoming, Prevost`s mother was killed in an automobile accident while traveling in Florida with actress Vera Steadman, another Canadian friend, and Hollywood studio owner, Al Christie in 1926.
Devastated by the loss of her only remaining parent, Prevost began drinking heavily and developed an addiction to alcohol. Her marriage to Harlan ended in a 1927 divorce. Prevost tried to get past her personal torment by burying herself in her work, starring in numerous roles as the temptingly beautiful seductress who in the end was always the honorable heroine. After seeing Prevost in The Beautiful and Damned, Howard Hughes cast her as the lead in The Racket (1928). During filming, Hughes and Prevost had a brief affair. Hughes quickly broke off the affair leaving Prevost heartbroken and furthering her depression. After playing the lead in The Racket, Prevost`s days as a leading lady were over.
Prevost`s depression caused her to binge on food resulting in significant weight gain. By the 1930s, she was working less and being offered only secondary parts. A notable exception was Paid, in 1930, a role for which she got good reviews. As a result of all this, her financial income declined and her growing dependency on alcohol added to her weight problems. By 1934, she had no work at all and her financial situation deteriorated dramatically. The downward spiral became greatly aggravated when her weight problems forced her into repeated crash dieting in order to keep whatever bit part a movie studio offered.
On January 21, 1937, at the age of 38, Prevost died from acute alcoholism. Her body was not discovered until January 23, after neighbors complained about her dog`s incessant barking. A bellboy, who ignored th
Full Name at Birth
Mary Bickford Dunn
Peggy Prevost (also an actress)
Phyllis Haver, Joan Crawford
Has Detailed Data (New)
Marie Prevost (November 8, 1898 – January 21, 1937) was a Canadian-born film actress. During her twenty-year career, she made 121 silent and talking pictures.
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