Volume III: Biographies


SHOTWELL, Marie **

Actress (1915-1917)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Marie Shotwell played a bit part in God's Witness, a 1915 Thanhouser film, and in 1916 worked at the Thanhouser studio, where she acted in two films, one released in 1916 and the other in 1917.

Biographical Notes: Born in New York City in 1886, the daughter of Mrs. and Mrs. Byron Shotwell, Marie D. Shotwell was educated at the Academy (convent) Mt. St. Vincent-on-the-Hudson and Mrs. Gardiner's School. Following her studies, her first stage appearance was as leading woman in James O'Neill's company, where she played Mercedes in Monte Cristo, Virginia in Virginius, Julie in Richelieu, and other roles. Her father, a man of great financial means, opposed Marie's career on the stage and offered to take her on a three-year grand tour of the world if she would give it up. Marie D. Shotwell later appeared as Queen Caroline in Madame Sans-Gêne at the Broadway Theatre in New York City. The actress appeared with E.H. Sothern in The Prisoner of Zenda and The School for Scandal, and as Lady Sack in the Lyceum Stock Company's New York City production of The First Gentleman of Europe.

Marriage and Other Matters: After her mother died Marie Shotwell retired from her stage career, which had earned her some modest reviews. The next year she married William Hawley, who took her to Europe for five years. Mr. and Mrs. Hawley maintained a home in America at 8405 13th Street, Dyker's Heights, Brooklyn, New York. In November 1905 newspaper articles told of the disappearance of $10,000 worth of her jewels. She was considered to be a wealthy woman, and at one period in her life she was a member of the highest levels of society in San Francisco. Hawley died, and Miss Shotwell returned to the stage. Early in the 1906 season she appeared in Charles Klein's The Daughters of Men, after which she joined the Frawley Stock Company in San Francisco. During the first decade of the century she was seen for four years in the role of Shirley Rossmore in Frohman's production The Lion and the Mouse at the Lyceum Theatre, New York City, and also on the road. At one time she was also under the management of Henry B. Harris.

A nationwide news release, datelined Chicago, March 22, 1907, stated that John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the oil magnate, had written to Miss Shotwell to express thanks on behalf of his father for a baldness cure tonic prescription suggested by the actress, and quoted Rockefeller as saying: "The tonic has helped father wonderfully; in fact, his hair is coming in rapidly and I am inclined to believe that in a few months he will have a good head of hair. It may gratify you to know that father is so pleased with what you have done for him that he informed me yesterday that he is willing to donate $50,000 to the Actors' Society or any other charitable institution that you may suggest."

In an article published in various newspapers, including The Pittsburgh Leader on November 1, 1907, Miss Shotwell gave her views on an aspect of romance: "I really believe that the kissing habit before marriage causes, in a great measure, to much of the unhappiness that often follows marriage. Of course we all know that women like to be kissed and that men are invariably fond of kissing pretty women, but would it not be better to save all this until after two young people have become at least formally engaged? I believe that a man appreciates a woman more if she rejects these advances until after they have become engaged. After marriage these things become all the sweeter. Perhaps my views on this matter are wrong, but at any rate they are open to argument."

Marie D. Shotwell retired from the stage, and shortly thereafter married William G. Austin, former police commissioner in Savannah, Georgia, where she moved to live. The union ended in divorce in 1916, following testimony, as printed in the New York Morning Telegraph, February 14, 1916, that although she had lived with her husband in the same house, since December 1912 he had "not even spoken to her, except on rare occasions." The couple had one child, a son Frank W. Austin. William G. Austin died in 1933.

Into Films: The same Morning Telegraph article noted that she had appeared in several films, including one photographed in Savannah, and that these had been shown recently in Savannah theatres. The titles of the "several films" in which she appeared prior to February 14, 1916 are not known, but the one photographed in Savannah was the Thanhouser production of God's Witness, in which Miss Shotwell had a bit part. An article in The Detroit News, August 26, 1916, told more: "If Marie Shotwell had obeyed the traffic policeman at 37th Street and Fifth Avenue, New York, she would have remained upon the legitimate stage, instead of becoming a moving picture star. She disobeyed the cop - so now she is a leading woman with Thanhouser.

"Here's how it happened: A year and a half ago a Thanhouser company was taking parts of God's Witness, featuring Florence LaBadie, in Savannah, Georgia. Miss Shotwell was resting at her Savannah home after a successful stage career. The Thanhouser company asked permission to use Miss Shotwell's home for a location, and she consented. It was the first time she had ever seen a motion picture in the process of construction. While the picture was being made Miss Shotwell and Miss LaBadie became great friends, but when the company left Jacksonville [sic], Miss LaBadie lost track of Miss Shotwell. Enter the cop. A few weeks ago Miss Shotwell, who had come to New York to return to the stage, was walking down Fifth Avenue. At 37th Street she started to cross the avenue. 'Come on,' said the cop.

"Miss Shotwell spied a crowd on the other side of 37th Street. A woman was speaking. Miss Shotwell turned. 'Look out! Come this way!' the policeman called. Miss Shotwell disobeyed. Dodging a motor car she made her way over to what proved to be a suffragette meeting. There she became acquainted with a suffrage worker. A few days later the suffrage worker took Miss Shotwell to a ball at the Plaza. Florence LaBadie was there, delighted to see her old friend. 'Why don't you go into the pictures?" Miss LaBadie said. 'Out at the Thanhouser studio they are looking for a girl of just your type.' Miss LaBadie took Miss Shotwell's address. The next day, Edwin Thanhouser sent for Miss Shotwell - and now she's a moving picture player...."

In the summer of 1916 she was in films with Thanhouser and was subsequently featured in two films, one released in the same year and the other delayed to 1917. In reference to the picture which was eventually released under the title of The Woman and the Beast in 1917, trade notices in early August 1916 noted that she had recently left the stage, following completion of a five-year contract with Daniel Frohman, had joined the Thanhouser studio, and was at work on an "Italian film" written by Emmet Mixx. At the same time, she announced she was making a theatrical comeback and was rehearsing for a Broadway show, Mockery.

The October 1916 edition of the Motion Picture News Studio Directory noted that Marie Shotwell was 5'7" tall, weighed 150 pounds, and had brown hair and hazel eyes. She lived at the Hotel Seymour in New York City, and her favorite recreations included horseback riding, swimming, and painting. Later, she appeared in The Witching Hour (Frohman, December 1916), Enlighten Thy Daughter (Ivan Film, January 1917), The Warfare of the Flesh (Warren Productions, May 1917), and other pictures. She went to Hollywood in 1922 and remained in films with various studios in California and New York through the mid 1930s. Her later film credits included The Thirteenth Chair, The Whip Woman, Civilian Clothes (with Estelle Taylor), The Manicure Girl, Running Wild (with Bebe Daniels and W.C. Fields), Sally of the Sawdust (with W.C. Fields, Carol Dempster, and Alfred Lunt), and Shore Leave.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s she was also seen on stage, including a role with Pauline Frederick in The Scarlet Woman, and the 1933-1934 Broadway season production of The Incubator. Around the same time she made several short films for the Eastern Service Studios in Astoria, New York. Marie Shotwell died on September 18, 1934 at St. John's Hospital, Long Island City, New York, after having been stricken on the set of George M. Cohan's film, Gambling, at the Astoria film studios. Two weeks prior to her death, she had taken a screen test with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Interment was in Westerly, Rhode Island. She was survived by her son, Frank, who was an insurance broker at 250 Park Avenue, New York City.

Note: Her name was occasionally misspelled as "Stowell" by The Moving Picture World.

Thanhouser Filmography:

1915: God's Witness (5-20-1915)

1916: The Pillory (10-8-1916)

1917: The Woman and the Beast (Graphic Features 4-17-1917)

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