Volume III: Biographies


FORBES, Mary Elizabeth **

Actress (1914-1915)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Mary Elizabeth Forbes, a well-known model, was an actress with Thanhouser circa 1914-1915.

Biographical Notes: Mary Elizabeth Forbes was born in Rochester, New York on November 8, 1879. Her parents were natives of Missouri. Her father, Dr. Charles Forbes, was at a later time the head of the scientific department of Macalester College in Minnesota. By 1909, her father was a professor at Columbia College in New York City. Miss Forbes spent from ages four to nine in St. Paul, where her education in the primary grades began. Later, the family returned to Rochester. In that city she attended college, but poor eyesight compelled her to abandon her studies in her sophomore year.

An aunt who was associated with the James Neill stock company invited her to join the troupe on a tour to Honolulu. During her tenure with the Neill players, Miss Forbes was seen in many parts, beginning with brief appearances and culminating with the starring role in Barbara Frietchie in 1902. During her third year before the footlights she appeared for the first time in New York City. After spending several weeks with Isabel Irvine in The Crisis, she joined The Earl of Pawtucket company, after which she supported James K. Hackett in The Walls of Jericho, a production which lasted two seasons, and in which from time to time she played six different roles. By the end of 1913 she had also played in such productions as John Glades Honor, The Grand Mogul, The House of a Thousand Candles, The Man From Home, The Lottery Man, Thais, Alias Jimmy Valentine, Julius Caesar, Wildfire, and The Virginian.

In 1908 she lived on Main Street East in her native Rochester. She, like many other beautiful women of the era, modeled for Charles Dana Gibson and Harrison Fisher. In December 1908 she was on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in Fishers portrait of "The Mistletoe Girl." She was also seen as Fishers "The Easter Bride" on the cover of Pictorial Review in April 1909, and as "The New Years Girl," "Undue Haste," and "The Little Christmas Girl" by the same artist. She spent four days in Fishers New York City studio modeling for the original sketch for "The Mistletoe Girl" which was later sold by the publisher to millionaire J. Ogden Armour, who admired it so much that he sent a blank check to be filled in for its purchase.

In Motion Pictures: In addition to her activity on the stage, Miss Forbes went into films and appeared in various releases, including Prisoner of Zenda (Famous Players, January 1913). Mary Elizabeth Forbes was an actress for Thanhouser in 1914 and 1915, and was seen as Madame Duval in Zudora, the 1914-1915 serial, and had roles in several other films as well, the best known of which was Gods Witness.

The New Rochelle Pioneer, December 12, 1914, told of her coming to Thanhouser: "Miss Elizabeth Forbes, late of the Henry Miller Company, New York, has been secured to appear in Zudora [and other] films. Her first Thanhouser work was in Under False Colors, soon to be released, in which Miss Forbes showed remarkable artistry, and brings to the screen youth, beauty and ability. The managers of the local concern are to be congratulated in securing this new star."

The same newspaper, on May 15, 1915, reported that she had resigned from the studio, apparently recently. By late summer of the same year she had contracted with Edison.

In 1917 she was on the screen in The Warfare of the Flesh (Warren Productions, states rights) and Cy Whittakers Ward (Edison). She remained in films for many years and played many parts, including a role in the 1956 release of The Ten Commandments. She died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California on August 20, 1964.

Note: She is not to be confused with British actress Mary Forbes (1880-1974).

Thanhouser Filmography:

1914: Under False Colors (12-22-1914)

1914-1915 Serial: Zudora

1915: Gods Witness (5-20-1915), The Refugee (5-21-1915), In the Valley (6-18-1915)

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Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.