James Curtis


"A lively memoir that corrects our myopic vision of Clarke and her contribution to show business." - Past Times

"...will give the reader a very good idea of what a sensible and intelligent young actress, with no nonsense about her and no exaggerated notion of her own importance, had to do to make her way in Hollywood." - Classic Images

Featured Player

When Mae Clarke arrived in Los Angeles in 1929, she was a headliner in vaudeville who preferred the New York stage to acting in movies. She went to work for Fox and planned to stay just long enough to fulfill her contract. Her stay lasted 63 years.

After distinguishing herself as Molly Malloy in Howard Hughes' production of "The Front Page", Mae Clarke took a two-day job at Warner Bros. that changed her life. In an unbilled bit, she allowed James Cagney to grind a grapefruit in her face and, at the age of 20, achieved a kind of fame that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

This isn't the story of a star, but rather a featured player - a talented actress who supported herself in movies and television for almost 40 years. Though hampered by failed marriages, bad luck, and bouts of mental illness, Mae Clarke managed to appear in 90 feature films, including such classics as "Waterloo Bridge", "Frankenstein", "Lady Killer", "Singin' in the Rain", "Pat and Mike", and "Thoroughly Modern Millie".

Selected Works

A celebration of one of film's most potent visualists!
"James Curtis’s informative and beautifully written book does a thorough job of bringing Menzies to life.” - Martin Scorsese
An actor's life like no other!
"A monumental, definitive biography of one of the finest film actors in the history of the medium." - Kirkus Reviews
Now available as eBooks!
"The definitive book about America's most profound comedian." - John Cleese
"One of the most entertaining and engrossing film biographies I've encountered." - Judith Crist
New edition!
"Essential for all who care about the cinema." - Kevin Brownlow
Now on DVD!
With commentaries by Gloria Stuart and James Curtis.