Volume II: Filmography



Actor (1915)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Marceline, the clown, appeared in a Thanhouser film in 1915.

Biographical Notes: Marceline Orbes, billed as "Marceline, the world's most famous clown," was born in Saragossa, Spain in 1873. He became a clown at the age of seven and traveled widely in the British Isles and on the European continent. When the Hippodrome opened in New York City in 1905, under the management of Thompson and Dundy (of Coney Island fame), Marceline was brought to America to be a featured attraction. His trademark was clumsiness. On stage, he would carefully pick something up, then fumble and drop it. Or, he would go to assist someone, then fall short of the mark, perhaps becoming tangled in a carpet or stumbling against the furniture, wrecking the room in the process. The term "to marceline" was used by some to denote a lot of activity without accomplishing anything. Marceline played at the Hippodrome until 1914, when he went to Europe. After returning to America he worked briefly with Thanhouser.

A 1915 Thanhouser film, The Mishaps of Marceline, was publicized as his debut in motion pictures; however this is not correct, for he had appeared earlier in a film, Marceline, the World Renown Clown of the N.Y. Hippodrome, produced by Winthrop in 1907. After playing in one film for Thanhouser, he went to the West Coast for a time, where he worked with Keystone, because of the climate, according to an item in Variety, March 12, 1915, which noted that the clown "didn't seem to relish wallowing through snowbanks." In 1915, Marceline went back to the Hippodrome, but his comeback was not successful, and next he went to work for Ringling Brothers Circus, after which he appeared in vaudeville on the Keith Circuit. In 1920 he again returned to the Hippodrome, but he soon realized that his act was a failure.

Leaving the clown profession, Marceline opened a restaurant in Greenwich Village, but it failed, as did a similar venture in Connecticut. He lost contact with his friends in show business, and by 1927 he was living in a shabby $10-per-week room in a run-down rooming house, the Hotel Mansfield, at 226 West 50th Street. Things went from bad to worse, and, despondent, he shot himself in his room on November 5, 1927. His estate consisted of $6, a two-day-old $15 pawn ticket for his diamond ring, some old photographs, and some items stored in a steamer trunk. His former wife, Ada Holt, of 449 High Street, Newark, New Jersey, from whom he was separated or divorced long before, survived him. Marceline's burial at the Kensico Cemetery was arranged and paid for by the National Vaudeville Artists.

Thanhouser Filmography:

1915: The Mishaps of Marceline (3-7-1915)

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