Mary Philbin

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Mary Philbin
Philbin in 1922
Born Mary L. Philbin
(1902-07-16)July 16, 1902
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died May 7, 1993(1993-05-07) (aged 90)
Huntington Beach, California, U.S.
Years active 1921–1929

Mary Philbin (July 16, 1902 – May 7, 1993) was a notable film actress of the silent film era, who is best known for playing the roles of Christine Daaé in the 1925 film The Phantom of the Opera opposite screen legend Lon Chaney and as Dea in The Man Who Laughs. Both roles cast her as the beauty in Beauty and the Beast-type stories.


Mary Philbin

Born in Chicago, Illinois into a middle-class Irish American Catholic family, she began her acting career after winning a beauty contest sponsored by Universal Pictures. Her father John Philbin was born in Ballinrobe, County Mayo, Ireland.

Mary Philbin made her screen debut in 1921 and during the 1920s she became a highly successful film actress and starred in a number of high-profile films, most notably in D. W. Griffith's 1928 film Drums of Love.

In 1922 Philbin was awarded at the first annual WAMPAS Baby Stars awards, a promotional campaign sponsored by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers in the United States, which honoured thirteen young women each year whom they believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom.

Like so many publicly acclaimed silent film actors and actresses however, Philbin was unable to continue a successful acting career during the talkie era of the late 1920s-early 1930s.

Philbin played a few parts during the early talkie era and most notably dubbed her own voice when The Phantom of the Opera was given sound and re-released. She retired from the screen in the early 1930s and devoted her life to care for her aging parents. She was engaged in 1927 to Universal Studio executive, Paul Kohner; but due to her parents' dissuasion from the union (as she was Catholic[citation needed] and he was a staunch Czech Jew), she called off the engagement; in 1935 another engagement to a young police officer named David McCarrison was also called off.

Philbin remained single for the rest of her life, and rarely made public appearances. One rare public appearance by Philbin occurred in her later years at the Los Angeles opening of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera.

Mary Philbin died of pneumonia, aged 90, in Huntington Beach, California in 1993 and was buried at the Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.


Year Title Role Notes
1921 The Blazing Trail Talithy Millicuddy
Danger Ahead Tressie Harloow
Twelve Hours to Live Short film
Red Courage Eliza Fay
Sure Fire
False Kisses Mary
1922 Foolish Wives Crippled girl uncredited
The Trouper Mary Lee
Human Hearts Ruth
His First Job
Once to Every Boy
1923 Penrod and Sam Margaret Schofield
Merry-Go-Round Agnes Urban
Where Is This West? Sallie Summers
The Age of Desire Margy (Age 18)
The Temple of Venus Moira
The Thrill Chaser Cameo appearance
1924 Fools' Highway Mamie Rose
The Gaiety Girl Irene Tudor
The Rose of Paris Mitsi
1925 Fifth Avenue Models Isoel Ludant
The Phantom of the Opera Christine Daaé
Stella Maris Stella Maris/Unity Blake
1927 Surrender Lea Lyon
The Last Performance Julie
Love Me and the World Is Mine Hannerl
1928 Drums of Love Princess Emanuella
The Man Who Laughs Dea
1929 Port of Dreams Joan
The Shannons of Broadway Tessie Swanzey
After the Fog Faith Barker

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