Marie Doro - A Forgotten Star

What was she really like ? What made her tick ? A household name, famous on the stage and in films for twenty years, then lost in obscurity for the last thirty years of her life.

Marie gave interviews occasionally, but never mentioned her personal life. Born in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, and buried there also; but she left Duncannon when she was a very small child, and never returned there in her lifetime. Her parents moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where she spent most of her childhood, but after her parents moved to New York City, she only returned once, for a play performance late in her career, and then only it seems because Kansas City was on the route of a tour.

She seems to have been an only child, and no mention can be found of any relatives other than her parents.

Her father was a lawyer, probably a commercial lawyer as he worked for a Trust company in Kansas City; the moves from Pennsylvania to Missouri to New York were the result of changes in employment. Whether he died or whether Marie's parents were divorced is not known, but the New York Times of 19 June 1910 carried this announcement:-

H. R. Hoden A Suicide

ASNIERES, France, June 18 - H.R. Hoden of New York, who recently married Mrs. Virginia Stewart , the mother of Marie Doro, the actress, commited suicide with a revolver on the bank of the Seine today.

The police attribute the act to recent heavy financial losses.

Sexuality

Marie married once, to her co-star Elliott Dexter, in her early thirties, but the marriage ended rapidly in divorce, and she never re-married. Possibly it was this that prompted rumours that she was lesbian, as no other liaisons are known, together with her later friendships with Maude Adams and Mercedes d'Acosta. But Marie was intelligent, mixed with everyone, but kept her private life to herself. She spent the greater part of her theatre career on the road; despite her Broadway successes she preferred touring, and lived mainly in hotels.

Reviews of her early performances of "Naughty Anthony" compared her with Anna Held. But, although Marie said that she had never seen Anna but merely modelled her own appearance on Anna's picture, Anna, who was a very naughty girl indeed, and later the mistress of Flo Ziegfeld, was noted for her willingness to "show a leg" in her performances. She was the ideal role model for "Naughty Anthony" which had a famous 'stocking scene', guaranteed to shock any passing vicar.

Perhaps she just did not have time. She had a lifelong interest in spirituality and religion. Maude Adams and d'Acosta were certainly lesbian, but Adams in 1917 donated one of her estates to the Sisters of St. Regis for use as a novitiate and retreat house. The whole of acting society at the time was riddled with lesbianism and homosexuality, and having friends of a 'different' persuasion is hardly conclusive. Possibly the only pointer is Adams' success in playing a boy, in "Peter Pan", and Marie's similar success in "Oliver Twist", although the contemperary reviews of  "Oliver Twist", and especially of the film of the play, are rather critical of her femininity in the part!