Robson in Broadway to Hollywood (1933)
|Born||Mary Jeanette Robison
April 19, 1858
|Died||October 20, 1942
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Flushing, New York|
Charles L. Gore (1874/1875–1883)Augustus H. Brown (1889–1920; his death)
Edward Hyde Leveson Gore (1876–1954)2 others who died during their childhood
Mary Jeanette Robison (April 19, 1858 – October 20, 1942) known professionally as May Robson, was an Australian-born American-based actress, whose career spanned 58 years, starting in 1883 when she was 25 years of age. A major stage actress of the late 19th and early 20th century, Robson is best known today for the dozens of 1930s motion pictures she appeared in when she was well into her seventies, usually playing cross old ladies with hearts of gold.
Robison was the fourth child born to Captain Henry Robison and his wife, Julia, in Melbourne, Victoria. Capt. Robison served in the British Royal Navy and retired in Australia for his health. He died when Mary was seven years old and Julia Robison moved her family back to London. Mary was educated in Australia, London, Brussels, and Paris.
At age 16 Mary married her first husband, Charles Leveson Gore, in London.[nb 1] The couple first ran a cattle ranch in Fort Worth, Texas, and later moved to New York City, and Charles Gore died in the early 1880s. Biographer Jan Jones stated that Gore wanted to return to England after his financial losses, and the couple divorced when Robson decided to stay in New York. Jones further said that Gore returned to London, but died soon after.
Without her husband, Mary did embroidery work and gave painting lessons to support her three children.
By the time she began her acting career in 1883, two of Robson's three children had died. One of her young children died of diphtheria and another from scarlet fever.[nb 2] The surviving child was Edward Gore, Jr.[nb 3]
May Robson's son, Edward, was her business manager.
On September 17, 1883, she became an actress on the Brooklyn Grand Opera House stage. Her name was incorrectly spelled "Robson" in the billing, which she used from that point forward "for good luck". Over the next several decades, she flourished on the stage as a comedienne and character actress. Her success was partly due to her affiliation with powerful manager and producer Charles Frohman and the Theatrical Syndicate. She established her own touring theatrical company by 1911.
In 1927 Robson attended Edinburgh University, then went to Hollywood where she had a successful film career as a senior aged woman. Among her starring roles was in The She-Wolf (1931) as a miserly millionaire businesswoman based on the real-life miser Hetty Green.
She also starred in the final segment of the anthology film If I Had a Million (1932) as a rest home resident who gets a new lease on life when she is given a $1,000,000 check by a dying business tycoon. She played the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (1933), Countess Vronsky in Anna Karenina (1936), Aunt Elizabeth in Bringing Up Baby (1938), Aunt Polly in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), and a sharp-tongued Granny in A Star Is Born (1937). Robson was top-billed as late as 1940, starring in Granny Get Your Gun at age 82. Her last film was 1942's Joan of Paris.
Academy Award nomination
In 1933, Robson was nominated for an Academy Award at age 75 in the Best Actress category for Lady for a Day but lost to Katharine Hepburn; the two actresses both appeared in the Hepburn-Grant classic film, Bringing Up Baby.
May Robson died in her Beverly Hills, California home, aged 84. In its obituary of Robson, the Nevada State Journal stated that Robson died of "a combination of ailments, aggravated by neuritis and advanced age."[nb 4] Her remains were cremated and buried at the Flushing Cemetery in Queens, New York, next to her second husband, Augustus Brown.
The New York Times obituary for Robson called her the "dowager queen of the American screen and stage".
- Called Back (1884)
- An Appeal to the Muse (1885)
- Robert Elsmere (1889)
- The Charity Ball (1890)
- Nerves, adapted from Les Femmes Nerveuses (1891)
- Gloriana (1892)
- Lady Bountiful (1892)
- Americans Abroad (1893)
- The Family Circle (1893)
- The Poet and the Puppets (1893)
- Squirrel Inn (1893)
- No. 3A (1894)
- As You Like It (1894)
- Liberty Hall (1894)
- The Fatal Card (1895)
- The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
- A Woman's Reason (1895)
- The First Born (1897)
- His Excellency, The Governor (1900)
- Are You a Mason? (1901)
- Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1904)
- Cousin Billy (1905–1907)
- The Rejuvenation of Aunt Mary (1907)
- The Three Lights (A Night Out) (1911)
- How Molly Made Good (1915)
- Pals in Paradise (1926)
- Rubber Tires (1927)
- The King of Kings (1927)
- The Rejuvenation of Aunt Mary (1927)
- A Harp in Hock (1927)
- Chicago (1927)
- The Blue Danube (1928)
- Red-Headed Woman (1932)
- If I Had a Million (1932)
- Strange Interlude (1932)
- Men Must Fight (1933)
- The White Sister (1933)
- Reunion in Vienna (1933)
- Dinner at Eight (1933)
- Broadway to Hollywood (1933)
- Beauty for Sale (1933)
- Lady for a Day (1933)
- Dancing Lady (1933)
- Alice in Wonderland (1933)
- The Solitaire Man (1933)
- You Can't Buy Everything (1934)
- Lady by Choice (1934)
- Reckless (1935)
- Anna Karenina (1935)
- Wife vs. Secretary (1936)
- A Star Is Born (1937)
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938)
- Bringing Up Baby (1938)
- Four Daughters (1938)
- The Texans (1938)
- They Made Me a Criminal (1939)
- Daughters Courageous (1939)
- That's Right-You're Wrong (1939)
- Four Wives (1939)
- Granny Get Your Gun(1940)
- Irene (1940)
- Million Dollar Baby (1941)
- Playmates (1941)
- Joan of Paris (1942)
- List of Australian Academy Award winners and nominees
- List of oldest and youngest Academy Award winners and nominees
- Public records loaded into a genealogical database state that she was married in late 1875. Her husband's name was also given as Charles Leveson Gore and Edward H. Gore.
- Axel Nissen also states the causes of death as diphtheria and scarlet fever. Who's Who on the stage states that the children's death came about as the result of poverty (i.e., not a specific cause of death, but an influencing factor).
- Her son, whose full name was Edward Hyde Leveson Gore, was born on December 2, 1876 and died September 23, 1954 Her son Edward and daughter-in-law were alive at the time of his mother's death. They had a son, Robson Gore.
- She was critically ill for three weeks before her death and in ill health for months before. A biographical sketch of Robson in the Notable American Women, 1607-1950 stated that she died of cancer.
- Edward T. James; Janet Wilson James; Paul S. Boyer (January 1, 1971). Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Harvard University Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-674-62734-5.
- Axel Nissen (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. McFarland. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8.
- Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8.
- "May Robson, Stage, Screen Star, Is Dead: Character Actress Began Long Career in 1883". Berkshire Evening Eagle (Pittsfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts): 1. October 20, 1942.
- Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8.
- Jan Jones (2006). Renegades, Showmen & Angels: A Theatrical History of Fort Worth from 1873-2001. TCU Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-87565-318-1.
- "Two Brilliant Women, They are Both Bright Ornaments of the Stage: Viola Allen and May Robson". The Olean Democrat (Olean, New York): 6. November 29, 1892.
- Alison McKay (July 30, 2008). Bayside. Arcadia Publishing. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-4396-2027-4.
- Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S. Boyer (1971). Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, vol 2. Radcliffe College. p. 185. ISBN 0-674-62734-2.
- New York State Medical Association, Medical Society of the State of New York (1920). New York State journal of medicine, Volume 20. p. 170.
- Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 184–185. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8.
- Jones, Jan. Renegades, Showmen & Angels: A Theatrical History of Fort Worth, 1873-2001. Texas A & M University Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 0-87565-318-9.
- Grey Smith and James L. Halperin (Editor). Heritage Vintage Movie Posters Signature Auction #603. Heritage Capital Corporation. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-932899-15-3.
- "Screenplay Info for A Night Out (1916)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 1, 2008.
- Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8.
- Palmer, Scott (1988). A Who's Who of Australian and New Zealand Film Actors: The Sound Era. p. 142. ISBN 0-8108-2090-0.
- Hall, Mordaunt (May 28, 1931). "The She-Wolf (1931)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
- Hall, Mordaunt (December 3, 1932). "If I Had a Million (1932)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
- John C. Tibbetts, James M. Welsh, ed. (2010). American Classic Screen Features. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-81087678-1.
- Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 3, 187–8. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8.
- Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 3, 187. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8.
- Edwards, Anne (2000) . Katharine Hepburn: A Remarkable Woman. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 456. ISBN 0-312-20656-9.
- Leonard Maltin (August 4, 2009). Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide. Penguin Group US. p. 425. ISBN 978-1-101-10876-5.
- "Hollywood's Oldest Film Queen Dies; May Robson's Age is Revealed as 78". Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada). October 21, 1942.
- "Robson Burial Services Set". Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada): 5. October 22, 1942.
- Brown, Thomas Allston (1903). A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 to 1901, Volume 3. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. pp. 42, 63, 180, 217, 263, 265, 267, 349, 352, 366, 425–6, 427, 429, 431, 439, 523, 533, 536, 538.
- "Charles Leveson Gore (also click on possible wives name to verify same couple)". England and Wales, Marriage Registration Index, 1837-1920. FamilySearch. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
- Walter Browne; Fredrick Arnold Austin (1906). Who's who on the stage; the dramatic reference book and biographic al dictionary of the theatre. W. Browne & F. A. Austin. p. 191.
- "England and Wales, Birth Registration Index, 1837-1920". FamilySearch. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
- "California, Death Index, 1940-1997". FamilySearch. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
- Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (October 31, 1942). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 26. ISSN 0006-2510.
- Margherita Arlina Hamm (1909). "May Robson". Eminent Actors in Their Homes: Personal Descriptions and Interviews. J. Pott. pp. 115–124.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to May Robson.|
- May Robson at the Internet Movie Database
- May Robson at the Internet Broadway Database
- May Robson at Find a Grave