Mabel Taliaferro

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Mabel Taliaferro
Taliaferro in 1919
Maybelle Evelyn Taliaferro

(1887-05-21)May 21, 1887
DiedJanuary 24, 1979(1979-01-24) (aged 91)
Other namesNell Taliaferro
Years active1899–1956
(m. 1906; div. 1911)
Thomas Carrigan
(m. 1913; div. 1919)
Joseph O'Brien
(m. 1920; div. 1929)
(died 1950)
RelativesEdith Taliaferro (sister)
Bessie Barriscale (cousin)

Mabel Taliaferro (born Maybelle Evelyn Taliaferro; May 21, 1887 – January 24, 1979) was an American stage and silent-screen actress, known as "the Sweetheart of American Movies."[1]

Early years[edit]

Taliaferro was born as Maybelle Evelyn Taliaferro in Manhattan, New York City and raised in Richmond, Virginia. She was descended on her father's side from one of the early families who settled in Virginia in the 17th century, the Taliaferros, whose roots are from a northern Italian immigrant to England in the 16th century.[2]

Taliaferro was a sister of film and stage actress Edith Taliaferro and the cousin of actress Bessie Barriscale.[3]


Taliaferro in 1913

Taliaferro began acting on stage at age 2[1] with Chauncey Olcott. Later she appeared with James A. Hearne and with Sol Smith Russell in A Poor Relation. In 1899, she achieved distinction in the role of little Esther in Israel Zangwill's play, Children of the Ghetto. A year later she played the witching elf-child in Yeats's Gaelic fantasy, The Land of Heart's Desire. In 1902-3 Taliaferro appeared in An American Invasion with John E. Dodson and Miss Annie Irish. The following year she was seen in the support of Louis Mann in The Consul. Her greatest opportunity came when she was cast for Lovey Mary in Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, a part she played continuously for two and one-half years. In 1905 she supported Arnold Daly in You Never Can Tell and later went on tour in The Bishop's Carriage. After a brief season in vaudeville she joined William Collier's company in a tour of Australia.

In the first decade of the 20th century, Taliaferro's husband and manager, Frederic Thompson, announced that her first name would be changed to Nell for billing purposes. Her first production with her new name was Springtime, and the change brought an outcry of opposition from the public. By 1910, she was once again Mabel.[4]

In 1911, her movie career began with the Selig Studios in The Three of Us and the film version of Cinderella[1] co-starring her then-husband Thomas Carrigan.[5] She continued performing in films through her retirement in 1921. In 1940, she appeared in her final picture, My Love Came Back.[2] Her final Broadway success was in ''Bloomer Girl'' (1944).[1]

On November 20, 1950, Taliaferro co-starred with Glenn Langan in "The Floor of Heaven" on Studio One on TV.[6]

Suffrage activism[edit]

Mabel Taliaferro was known as favoring women's suffrage.[7] In February 1914 she participated in a suffrage gathering that drew 1,500 people to honor the work of Anna Howard Shaw.[8]

Personal life and death[edit]

The Dawn of Love (1916)

In 1906, Taliaferro married (as her first husband) Frederic Thompson, who created Luna Park in Coney Island as well as the New York Hippodrome, under whose management she starred in the Broadway play Polly of the Circus.[9][10][11]

On January 11, 1920, Taliaferro married army officer Josephus P. O'Brien in Darien, Connecticut. They were divorced in Reno, Nevada on June 3, 1929.[12] She was also married and divorced actor Thomas Jay Carrigan.[13][14] Taliaferro married Robert Ober. He died in 1950.[15] She had one child.[16]

In 1907, she was injured in a car crash.[17] She died in Honolulu, Hawaii, on January 24, 1979, aged 91.[1]



Mabel Taliaferro in the play Polly of the Circus


  • The De Santre Story (1956)
  • The Hat from Hangtown (1952)
  • Mistress Sims Inherits (1949)
  • You Can't Take It with You (1945)


  1. ^ a b c d e "Mabel Taliaferro, 91, Star of Silent Screen Acted in 100 Plays". New York Times. February 3, 1979.(subscription required)
  2. ^ a b "Women in History Month". March 12, 2020. Retrieved September 2, 2023.
  3. ^ New York Times. Saturday, December 1, 1906
  4. ^ "Mabel Taliaferro (Nell)". The Anaconda Standard. Montana, Anaconda. February 6, 1910. p. 18. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  5. ^ Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel Blum c. 1953 page 25
  6. ^ "Television . . . . . . Highlights of the Week". Detroit Free Press. November 19, 1950. p. 22. Retrieved April 13, 2021 – via
  7. ^ "Mabel Taliaferro, Actress and Suffragist, 27 Today". Altoona Tribune. Altoona, Pennsylvania. May 21, 1914. p. 6 – via
  8. ^ "Stars Draw 1,500 to Suffrage Fete". The New York Times. New York, New York. February 17, 1914. p. 6 – via
  9. ^ "Fred Thompson Marries. Head of Thompson & Dundy Weds Miss Mabel Taliaferro". New York Times. December 1, 1906.(subscription required)
  10. ^ "Mabel Taliaferro Sues. Charges Her Husband, Fred Thompson, with Cruelty in Divorce Action". New York Times.(subscription required)
  11. ^ "Mabel Taliaferro A Bride. Actress Married to Tom Carrigan, Her Leading Man". The New York Times. July 10, 1913. Retrieved January 16, 2023.(subscription required)
  12. ^ "Mabel Taliaferro Divorced". The New York Times. Associated Press. June 4, 1929. p. 30. ProQuest 104948286. Retrieved April 14, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  13. ^ "Thomas Jay Carrigan". The New York Times. October 3, 1941. p. 23. ProQuest 105733806. Retrieved April 14, 2021 – via ProQuest.
  14. ^ "Actress's Baby Wanders. Mabel Taliaferro's Child is Found in a Wood ..." The New York Times. January 6, 1921. Retrieved January 16, 2023.(subscription required)
  15. ^ "Robert Ober". Daily News. New York City. December 8, 1950. p. 52. Retrieved January 16, 2023 – via access icon
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Retrieved August 2, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Mabel Taliaferro Hurt In Car Crash. Badly Cut on Arm and Bruised When Brougham is Wrecked on Broadway". New York Times. December 27, 1907.(subscription required)
  18. ^ "Mabel Taliaferro Star in Play, "The Prince's Secret"". Evening Star. Washington DC. February 18, 1935. p. A-12.

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