Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series: Alice Brady

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The American philosopher Corliss Lamont (1902-1995) once quoted “True freedom is the capacity for acting according to one’s true character, to be altogether one’s self, to be self-determined and not subject to outside coercion”; to me, I think that quote best and fully describes not only acting as a medium for the silver screen but also the classic theatre world as well, and a key point to start off the next chapter in regards on the page of my Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series articles. I’m paying tribute to a genuinely gifted, immensely talented cinematic artist–one with whom not only began her film career in the silent film era of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but who also survived the transition into talkies and became an awe-inspiring performer in her own right; someone who rightly deserved to have that cinematic spotlight shine on her as bright as the lights on Broadway in New York City. The individual with who I’m referring to with a profound amount of respect, admiration and appreciation is the Oscar winning actress of the silver screen Alice Brady (b. Mary Rose Brady on November 2nd, 1892- October 28th, 1939)6

 

Alice Brady, 1930
Alice Brady in 1930

Although best remembered for her comic performances as socially ambitious mothers (such as 1936s My Man Godfrey ), Broadway star Alice Brady appeared in more than 50 silent films and didn’t make her talkie debut until 1933; she appeared in 53 films in the next 10 years, all while continuing to perform on stage, the film industry at the time being centered in New York plus from then on she worked frequently until her passing in 1939, making another 25 films in only seven years. Alice Brady often emanated serious roles, among them Lavinia Mannon in the original Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Mourning Becomes Electra”. In a film career that spanned only 25 years (until her untimely passing from a virulent form of cancer on Saturday October 28th, 1939–more than 4 months after the initial release of her final film Young Mr. Lincoln on Friday June 9th, 1939 & just 5 days before what would’ve been her 47th birthday) from the years 1914-1939, Alice Brady brilliantly and selflessly portrayed dithery society matrons as well as showcasing her diverse, impassioned and ingenious versatility in a variety of classic films, including her masterful Oscar winning turn as the endearingly loving mother Molly O’ Leary in director Henry King’s disaster classic In Old Chicago (1937) for which she won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress during the 10th Annual Academy Awards held on March 10th, 1938, becoming the 11th actress -since the Oscars were first started in the year 1929-to receive an Oscar for her performance

Alice Brady
Circa 1940: Alice Brady in a publicity still for the ‘Vinegar Tree,’ wearing a brown lined coat and suede scarf with a Adrian model brown suede brimmed hat.

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 Brady was also nominated for the same award the year before for her portrayal of ditsy wife to Alexander Bullock (Eugene Pallette) Angelica in the 1936 American screwball comedy My Man Godfrey. Brady was also married to actor James Lyon Crane (August 9th, 1889-June 2nd, 1968) for which the marriage lasted only a few years (1919-1922) but during that time she gave birth to a son Donald born in 1922; she’s starred in more than 80 films during her seemingly short yet indelibly varied film career due in part to her cinematic contributions to the silent/sound era from Hollywood’s Golden Age in Films. I’ve enjoyed and appreciated the appearance of Alice Brady in: The Gay Divorcee (1934) w/ Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore, the Busby Berkeley musical Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) starring Dick Powell, Gloria Stuart, Adolphe Menjou, Glenda Farrell, Hugh Herbert & Frank McHugh, Stage Mother (1933) co-starring Maureen O’Sullivan, Beauty for Sale (1933), When Ladies Meet (also from 1933), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) w/ Henry Fonda, Richard Cromwell, Marjorie Weaver, Donald Meek and Ward Bond, My Man Godfrey (1936) with William Powell, Carole Lombard & Alan Mowbray; and finally In Old Chicago (1937) the American drama film co-starring the captivating and awe-inspiring talents of matinee idol Tyrone Power along with Don Ameche, Andy Devine, Phyllis Brooks, Madame Sul-Te-Wan & Brian Donlevy. I genuinely feel that they delivered powerful, astounding, compelling and passionate characterizations from Ms. Brady; I’ve learned so much through her performances onscreen and how she was able to emanate so much heart & soul from deep within.8

7Like so many of the actors/actresses with whom I have the pleasure and honor of paying tribute to, Alice Brady is immensely underrated but yet she was able to give so many classic movie lovers that picturesque sparkle and awe-inspiring light that shines from her masterful talents on Turner Classic Movies; to this day, it simply amazes me just how much passion, flair, love and depth she’s displayed in her classic films! Some have not had the pleasure of viewing any of her films; to that I’d like to say it would be a great pleasure to watch at least one of them via Netflix, HuluPlus, YouTube, a classic DVD/VHS of her performances or by simply tuning in to the dates/times shown here after this article on TCM. For other individuals who have viewed her films whether for the first or second time around, I like to offer you my congratulations because Brady was a treasure onscreen-a gem worth remembering and appreciating always. Since I’ve originated my Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed posting articles of actors/actresses who’ve become an indelible, essential and vital part of The Golden Age of Hollywood as equally and selflessly as their famous counterparts; Brady also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her selfless contribution to Motion Pictures, in which she received posthumously on February 8th, 1960 at 6201 Hollywood Blvd. The classic film and theatre world may have lost an incomparable talent much, much too soon but her legacy along with her films will never be forgotten…so long as there are classic film lovers who tirelessly & unconditionally continue to fully appreciate everything that Alice Brady’s selflessly contributed for countless classic film fans everywhere!

Manticore Imaging
Alice Brady~My Man Godfrey (1936) from Universal Studios.

 

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