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W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library Manuscript Collections

Guide to the Mary Dees Scrapbooks MSS.2562

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Publication:

University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35487-0266
205.348.0500
archives@ua.edu

October 2009

Creation:

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2011-12-21T08:58-0600

Language Usage:

English

Description Rules:

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

February 2011; December 2011
Collection Title:

Mary Dees Scrapbooks

Unit ID:

MSS.2562

Repository:

University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Quantity:

1.5 Linear feet

Dates:

1933-2004

Abstract:

Two scrapbooks created by and featuring Mary Dees, a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Hollywood actress of the 1930s. The larger scrapbook of photos and newspaper clippings is related to Dees' work as Jean Harlow's stand-in and double in the Hollywood movie Saratoga. When Harlow died before finishing Saratoga, Dees filled in to complete the film in her place. There are also photographs, newspaper clippings and playbills, a photocopy of her death certificate and a videocassette of the movie, Saratoga. The smaller scrapbook of photos and clippings is related to Mary Dees' appearance in the Australian stage production of The Women.

creator

Dees, Mary, 1911-2004

Acquisition Information:

Gift of Patricia Blake, 2009

Preferred Citation:

Mary Dees' Scrapbooks, W.S. Hoole Special Collections, University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama

Access Restrictions:

None

Biographical/Historical note

Mary Ella Dees was born on 3 June 1911. Her place of birth is claimed by both Syracuse, New York, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, although her death certificate indicates she was born in Tuscaloosa County. There also appears to be some evidence that she spent her childhood and probably a significant part of her adolescence in Tuscaloosa. She started her career in summer stock companies before heading for New York, where she joined the back row of a chorus line.

Once in Hollywood, Mary Dees had parts in Dinner at Eight (1933), which starred Jean Harlow, and then in Eddie Cantor's comedy Kid Millions (1934) in which she played Paulette, a peach in a fruity ice-skating sequence. She appeared with Edward G. Robinson and Mary Astor in The Man with Two Faces (1934), and was a beautiful beach babe in Let's Talk it Over (1934).

In 1935, she had the lead female role, as a pestered party guest, in Hoi Polloi with The Three Stooges, and appeared in the boxing saga Two Fisted. Apart from the notice she received as Jean Harlow's stand-in, Mary Dees attracted gossip columnists' attention as the girlfriend of the boxer Jack Dempsey and also of a reputed mobster, Johnny Roselli. Later she began a long-term relationship with the actor Bruce Cabot, star of King Kong (1933).

Mary Dees achieved a small place in Hollywood history by taking over the lead role in Saratoga after the death of Jean Harlow in the course of filming in 1937. She was in only four minutes in the last third of the film, with either her back to the camera or wearing a floppy hat. Since her voice was of a high pitch than Jean Harlow's, a second double, Virginia Verrill, was hired to say the lines.

Her screen career was already fading when she played a moll in The Last Gangster (1937), with James Stewart and Edward G. Robinson. She had a role in another James Stewart picture, The Shopworn Angel (1938) and was a showy model in The Women (1939), starring Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer. She finally quit the film industry in 1946 after appearing in the Marx Brothers' A Night in Casablanca.

Mary Dees continued to appear on the stage in the New York area until 1960 when she retired to Florida. She died on 4 August 2004, in Lake Worth, Florida, aged 93, after a long illness.

Scope and Contents note

The collection contains two scrapbooks created by and featuring Mary Dees, a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Hollywood actress of the 1930s. The larger scrapbook of photos and newspaper clippings is related to Dees' work in the Hollywood movie Saratoga. Because of her striking resemblance to Jean Harlow, Dees had been her stand-in and double even before the famous actress' death. When Harlow died before finishing Saratoga, Dees filled in to complete the film in her place. There is also a videocassette of the movie, Saratoga.

The smaller scrapbook of photos and newspaper clippings is related to Mary Dees' appearance in the Australian stage production of The Women. She appeared with Irene Purcell, Marjorie Crossland, Arden Young, Doris Packer, Christine Maple, Jessica Rogers, Suzanne Jackson, and Debbie Dare. The collection also has twenty photographs, newspaper clippings and playbills, and a photocopy of the 2004 death certificate. The photographs are mainly 8" x 10" souvenir photos from various nightclubs in New York City, including the Versailles, the Stork Club, the Embassy, and the Copacabana, although there are several studio portraits and candids included. The newspaper articles deal mainly with Dees' career after her work on Saratoga. The death certificate indicates she was 93 when she died in West Palm Beach, Florida, of respiratory arrest due to heart disease, on 4 August 2004.

Source(s)

Gable, Clark, 1901-1960 (Library_of_Congress_Name_Authority_File)

Harlow, Jean, 1911-1937 (Library_of_Congress_Name_Authority_File)

Women (local)

Scrapbooks Box 2562.001

Photographs Box 2562.002 Folder 1

Newspaper Clippings and Playbills Box 2562.002 Folder 2

Death Certificate (Photocopy) Box 2562.002 Folder 3

1953 Rent Control Order Box 2562.002 Folder 4

Videocassette, Saratoga