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Mae Clarke , 1931
This photo of Mae Clarke was taken in 1931, which was a great year for her. She starred opposite Boris Karloff in the original Frankenstein and also had a grapefruit smashed in her face by James Cagney in The Public Enemy. Mae’s posture and subtle eye-rolling coupled with the fact she is smoking and knitting, give this photo tons of ‘tude.
Born Violet Mary Klotz, Mae Clarke was a vivacious American actress who was most widely known for her role in the 1931 film The Public Enemy and also for playing Mrs. Frankenstein in the original Frankenstein film. Mae Clarke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey where she learned how to dance. Mae began performing & dancing in nightclubs and amateur theatricals in New York City at the young age of 13.
In 1924, Mae was performing in a New York cabaret act known as “Mays Dancing Girls” and was discovered by producer Earl Lindsay. Earl promptly cast Mae in a minor part at the Strand Theater on Times Square and also gave her a job as a dancer and burlesque artist at the Strand Roof nightclub. The Strand roof Nightclub was the adult nightclub situated right above the Theater.
Mae continued to gain experience in Vaudeville until she landed her first small movie role in 1929. Mae appeared in some popular films with top billing, but still seemed to be heading to B-movie status until she was signed by universal in 1931. Mae appeared in the 1931 film Frankenstein as Elizabeth, the intended bride of Dr. Frankenstein, who is murdered on her wedding day by the monster played by Boris Karloff.
Perhaps her most memorable moment in film was also in 1931 when James Cagney pushed a grapefruit into her face in the film “The Public Enemy. Mae went on to star alongside James Cagney in several other films after “The Public Enemy”.
Mae retired from acting in 1970 after her final film “Watermelon Man”. Mae passed away in 1992 at the age of 82.
Below is the original black and white photo along with my full size colorization.