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Claire McDowell

Claire McDowell
McDowell in Ben-Hur (1925)
Claire MacDowell

(1877-11-02)November 2, 1877
New York City, U.S.
DiedOctober 23, 1966(1966-10-23) (aged 88)
Years active1908–1945
(m. 1906; died 1937)
RelativesFanny Davenport (aunt)
Melbourne MacDowell (uncle)

Claire McDowell (née MacDowell;[1][2] November 2, 1877 – October 23, 1966) was an American actress of the silent era.[3][4] She appeared in 350 films between 1908 and 1945.[5]

Early years

Claire MacDowell was born in New York City on November 2, 1877, the daughter of Eugene A. MacDowell and Fanny Reeves.[6][7] Her aunt, actress Fanny Davenport, gave her early training in acting.[8] Fanny Davenport's second husband was Eugene's brother Melbourne MacDowell.[9]


When she was 17, she was an understudy in a theatrical company headed by Charles Frohman.[7] Still something of a youthful beauty, McDowell appeared in numerous short, early feature films. She graduated to playing character and mother types. She appeared in Douglas Fairbanks' The Mark of Zorro (1920). McDowell costarred in two of the biggest films of the silent era, The Big Parade and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, in which she played mothers both times.[citation needed] McDowell's Broadway credits included Herod (1909), To Have and to Hold (1901), and Hearts Are Trumps (1900).[10]

When she was 38, McDowell retired, but later she returned to acting, particularly portraying mothers.[7]

Personal life and death

She was married to silent screen character actor Charles Hill Mailes from 1906 until his death in 1937.[11] The couple appeared in numerous silent films together, including The Mark of Zorro.[12] They had two sons,[7] Robert and Eugene. She died in Hollywood, California, on October 23, 1966, ten days before her 89th birthday.[13]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ Mayer, David (March 13, 2009). Stagestruck Filmmaker: D. W. Griffith and the American Theatre. University of Iowa Press. ISBN 9781587298400 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Truitt, Evelyn Mack (July 1, 1977). Who was who on screen. Bowker. ISBN 9780835209144 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Katchmer, George A. (September 22, 2009). A Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses. McFarland. ISBN 9781476609058. Retrieved October 18, 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Claire McDowell". Obscure Hollywood. Archived from the original on October 19, 2018. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  5. ^ "The monumental Claire McDowell". 11east14thstreet. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Silent Film Necrology, p.334 c.2001 by Eugene M. Vazzana
  7. ^ a b c d Lee, Raymond (April 2, 1957). "Claire McDowell's Feats Unparalleled". Valley Times. California, North Hollywood. p. 28. Retrieved February 19, 2020 – via
  8. ^ "Claire McDowell in 'Big Parade'". The Palm Beach Post. Florida, West Palm Beach. November 13, 1927. p. 21. Retrieved February 19, 2020 – via
  9. ^ James, Edward T.; James, Janet Wilson; Boyer, Paul S.; College, Radcliffe (1971). Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Harvard University Press. pp. 435-436. ISBN 978-0-674-62734-5. Retrieved February 22, 2020. Presenting Fedora in New York in 1883 with Robert Mantell as her leading man, Fanny Davenport achieved such fame.
  10. ^ "Claire McDowell". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on February 19, 2020. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  11. ^ "Claire McDowell". Silent Era. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  12. ^ "Fairbanks Picks Special Cast in Hope Of Presenting His Most Unusual Film." Exhibitors Herald. November 27, 1920, pg. 85.
  13. ^ "Rites Set for Veteran Stage, Film Actress". Los Angeles Times. October 27, 1966. p. 46.
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Claire McDowell
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