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Mae Murray, in a publicity photo for Florenz Ziegfeld’s Follies of 1915, quite unaware that she was on the cusp of movie stardom, one of the most popular (though often critically panned) stars of the late 1910s up to the late 1920s; she was the first “queen of the MGM lot.”
Mae Murray was a dancer. First and foremost. The ignorance or avoidance of that simple fact has obscured who she was and her place in the popular arts of the 20th century. She was one of the oddest of the major stars of early, silent film, not because of her personality — which was not inordinately odd by the standards of the professional stage of that era. Mae Murray was odd because she wasn’t an actor, she was a professional dancer who became a star of silent film.
She wasn’t unique in that regard. She aided and encouraged her close friend, Rudolph Valentino, another New York cabaret dancer, to…
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