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Dorothy Mackaill

Dorothy Mackaill
Publicity photo of Mackaill from Stars of the Photoplay, 1924
Born(1903-03-04)March 4, 1903
DiedAugust 12, 1990(1990-08-12) (aged 87)
Years active1920–1937; 1976–1980
(m. 1926; div. 1928)

Neil Miller
(m. 1931; div. 1934)

Harold Patterson
(m. 1947; div. 1948)

Dorothy Mackaill (March 4, 1903[1][2] – August 12, 1990) was a British-American actress, most active during the silent-film era and into the pre-Code era of the early 1930s.

Early life

Born in Sculcoates, Kingston upon Hull, in 1903 (although she later would claim 1904 or 1905 as her year of birth, including on her petition for naturalization as a United States citizen, giving 1904 as the year), Mackaill lived with her father after her parents separated when she was around eleven years old. She attended Thoresby Primary School.

In one account of her teenage years, Mackaill ran away to London to pursue a stage career as an actress.[3] Another version of this period of her life describes Mackaill as teaching a Saturday evening dancing class at her father’s academy when her talent was recognised by visitors who persuaded her father to send her to London to learn elocution and dancing. This she did at the Thorne Academy of Dramatic Art and Dancing in Wigmore Hall, attending the first of a two year course before leaving to start her paid career.[4]

At age 16, Mackaill danced in Joybelles at London's Hippodrome and worked in Paris acting in a few minor Pathé films.[5] She met a Broadway stage choreographer who persuaded her to migrate to New York City, where aged 17 she became active in the Ziegfeld Follies, dancing in his Midnight Frolic review.[5][6]


By 1920, Mackaill had begun making the transition from "Follies Girl" to film actress. That same year she appeared in her first film, a Wilfred Noy-directed mystery, The Face at the Window.[3] Mackaill also appeared in several comedies of 1920 opposite actor Johnny Hines. In 1921, she appeared opposite Anna May Wong, Noah Beery and Lon Chaney in the Marshall Neilan-directed drama Bits of Life.[7] In the following years, Mackaill would appear opposite such popular actors as Richard Barthelmess, Rod La Rocque, Colleen Moore, John Barrymore, George O'Brien, Bebe Daniels, Milton Sills and Anna Q. Nilsson.[8]

Dorothy Mackaill, c. 1920

Mackaill rose to leading-lady status in the drama The Man Who Came Back (1924), opposite rugged matinee idol George O'Brien. In 1924, she also starred in the western film The Mine with the Iron Door, shot on location outside of Tucson, Arizona. That same year, the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers of the United States presented Mackaill with one of its WAMPAS Baby Stars awards, which each year honored thirteen young women whom the association believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom. Other notable recipients of the award in 1924 were Clara Bow, Julanne Johnston and Lucille Ricksen.[9] Her career continued to flourish throughout the remainder of the 1920s, as she made a smooth transition to sound with the part-talkie The Barker (1928).

Later career and retirement

In September 1928, First National Pictures was acquired by Warner Bros., and her contract with First National was not renewed in 1931. Her most memorable role of this era was the 1932 Columbia Pictures B film release Love Affair (1932) with a then little-known Humphrey Bogart as her leading man. She made several films for MGM, Paramount and Columbia before retiring in 1937, to care for her ailing mother.[10] In 1955, Mackaill moved to Honolulu, Hawaii.[11] She had fallen in love with the islands while filming His Captive Woman (1929).[12] Mackaill lived at the luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel on the beach at Waikiki as a sort of celebrity-in-residence and enjoyed swimming in the ocean nearly every day.[13]

She occasionally came out of retirement to appear in television productions, including two episodes of Hawaii Five-O in 1976 and 1980.[14]

Personal life

1926 Dorothy Mackaill cover art from Picture-Play Magazine

Mackaill was married three times. Her first marriage was to German film director Lothar Mendes, on November 17, 1926.[15] They divorced in August 1928.[16] On November 4, 1931, she married radio singer Neil Albert Miller.[17] They divorced in February 1934.[18] Her third and final marriage was to horticulturist Harold Patterson in June 1947.[19][20] She filed for divorce in December 1948.[21]

Mackaill had no children.

Naturalization as United States citizen

Mackaill became a naturalized United States citizen in 1926, giving 1904 as her year of birth, and her age as 22.[22][23]


Mackaill resided in Honolulu, Hawaii, during the last 35 years of her life.[24] She died there of liver failure in her room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on August 12, 1990.[24] She was cremated and her ashes scattered off Waikiki Beach.[25][26]


Year Film Role Notes
1920 The Face at the Window Lost film
Torchy Short film
Torchy's Millions Short film
1921 Torchy's Promotion Short film
Bits of Life Lost film
The Lotus Eater Uncredited Lost film
1922 Isle of Doubt Eleanor Warburton Lost film
A Woman's Woman Sally Plummer Lost film
The Streets of New York Sally Ann Lost film
The Inner Man Sally Lost film
1923 Mighty Lak' a Rose Rose Duncan Lost film
The Broken Violin Constance Morley Lost film
The Fighting Blade Thomsine Musgrove A copy is held at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
The Fair Cheat Camilla Lost film
His Children's Children Sheila Lost film
Twenty-One Lynnie Willis
1924 The Next Corner Elsie Maury Lost film
What Shall I Do? Jeanie Andrews Lost film
The Man Who Came Back Marcelle An incomplete copy is held at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
The Painted Lady Violet Lost film
The Mine with the Iron Door Marta Hillgrove A copy is preserved at the Gosfilmofond and the Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée
1925 The Bridge of Sighs Linda Harper An incomplete copy is held at the Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée
One Year to Live Marthe Lost film
Chickie Chickie Lost film
The Making of O'Malley Lucille Thayer Lost film
Shore Leave Connie Martin
Joanna Joanna Manners Lost film
The Dancer of Paris Consuelo Cox Lost film
1926 Ranson's Folly Mary Cahill
Subway Sadie Sadie Hermann Lost film
Just Another Blonde Jeanne Cavanaugh Alternative title: The Girl from Coney Island
An incomplete copy is held at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
1927 The Lunatic at Large Beatrix Staynes Lost film
Convoy Sylvia Dodge Lost film
Smile, Brother, Smile Mildred Marvin Lost film
The Crystal Cup Gita Carteret Lost film
Man Crazy Clarissa Janeway Lost film
1928 Ladies' Night in a Turkish Bath Helen Slocum A copy is held at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
Lady Be Good Mary Lost film
The Whip Lady Diana Copies are held at the Cineteca Italiana and the UCLA Film and Television Archive
Waterfront Peggy Ann Andrews A copy is held at the Cineteca Italiana
The Barker Lou A copy is held at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
1929 His Captive Woman Anna Janssen A copy is held at the Library Of Congress
Children of the Ritz Angela Pennington Lost film
Two Weeks Off Kitty Weaver A copy is held at the UCLA Film and Television Archive
Hard to Get Bobby Martin Lost film
Alternative title: Classified
The Great Divide Ruth Jordan
The Love Racket Betty Brown Lost film
1930 Strictly Modern Kate Lost film
The Flirting Widow Celia
The Office Wife Anne Murdock
Man Trouble Joan
Bright Lights Louanne Produced in Technicolor, which is now lost, only a black-and-white edited copy survives
Alternative title: Adventures in Africa
1931 Once a Sinner Diana Barry
Kept Husbands Dorothea "Dot" Parker Brunton
Party Husband Laura
Their Mad Moment Emily Stanley Alternative title: Basquerie
The Reckless Hour Margaret "Margie" Nichols
Safe in Hell Gilda Carlson - aka Gilda Erickson
1932 Love Affair Carol Owen
No Man of Her Own Kay Everly
1933 Neighbors' Wives Helen McGrath
Curtain at Eight Lola Cresmer Alternative title: Backstage Mystery
The Chief Dixie Dean
1934 Picture Brides Mame Smith
Cheaters Mabel
1937 Bulldog Drummond at Bay Doris Thompson
Year Title Role Notes
1953 Studio One in Hollywood Episode: "The Magic Lantern"
Hawaii Five-O Mrs. Pelcher
Old Lady
Episode 202: "Target–A Cop";
Episode 271: "School for Assassins"


  1. ^ Dorothy Mackaill birth registration (2nd Quarter (April–May–June), 1903, England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837–1915; accessed May 19, 2018.
  2. ^ Dorothy Mackaill entry, 1911 England Census,; accessed May 19, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Slide, Anthony (2010). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0813137452. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  4. ^ "How Dorothy Mackaill Got Into The Movies". Omeo Standard and Mining Gazette. February 1, 1924. Retrieved November 26, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Photoplay: The Aristocrat of Motion Picture Magazines. Photoplay Magazine Publishing Company. 1923.
  6. ^ Jewelers' Circular. 1920. p. 97.
  7. ^ Motion Picture. Macfadden-Bartell. 1923.
  8. ^ Shackleton, Kay. "Dorothy Mackaill".
  9. ^ Hughes, Laurence A. (1924). The Truth about the Movies. Hollywood publishers, Incorporated.
  10. ^ Lowe, Denise (2014). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films: 1895–1930. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-71896-3.
  11. ^ "Deaths". USA Today. August 14, 1990. p. 2A.
  12. ^ Los Angeles Times, August 15, 1990
  13. ^ Honolulu Advertiser, May 11, 2008.
  14. ^ Rhodes, Karen (2011). Booking Hawaii Five-O: An Episode Guide and Critical History of the 1968–1980 Television Detective Series. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8666-3.
  15. ^ "Star Takes Time Off To Be Married". The Border Cities Star. November 18, 1926. p. 1. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  16. ^ "Divorce For Movie Actress". Reading Eagle. August 3, 1928. p. 4. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  17. ^ "Dorothy Mackaill Wed; Screen Star and Radio Singer Married in Arizona". The New York Times. November 4, 1931.
  18. ^ "Nagging Charge Wins Divorce". The Southeast Missourian. February 17, 1934. p. 1. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  19. ^ "Orchid Beau Wins Dorothy Mackaill". Milwaukee Sentinel. March 3, 1947. p. 1. Retrieved March 1, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Miss Mackaill Marries Was Former Actress". The Hartford Courant. June 14, 1947. p. 3.
  21. ^ "Fight to Unseat Taft Planned". Los Angeles Times. December 31, 1948. p. 4.
  22. ^ "Ancestry Library Edition". Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  23. ^ "Ancestry Library Edition". Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  24. ^ a b Obituary, The New York Times, August 16, 1990; retrieved January 22, 2018.
  25. ^ "Archives". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  26. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 19, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7.
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Dorothy Mackaill
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