May McAvoy

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drednm

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May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 5:25 am

Using the accumulated box office grosses in the collection by Leonidas Fragias, which tracks box office reports in Variety's "major cities," the May McAvoy late 20s record is interesting.

Her films following The Jazz Singer don't make much of a blip on these charts. Again it only tracks top ten and major cities but....

Not showing up at all are the silents A Reno Divorce (1927), The Little Snob (1928) or the talkies Stolen Kisses (1929), No Defense (1929).

Making a brief appearance is If I Were Single (1927) with a total of $83,000.

The Lion and the Mouse (1928) with Lionel Barrymore speaking looked solid at $513,000

Caught in the Fog (1928) listed at $132,000, part-talkie with McAvoy speaking debut.

The Terror (1928) was a big hit with $635,000. All talking.

Again these "cumes" are estimated to be anywhere to one quarter to one third of national totals (it's not precise). What's most interesting (to me, anyway) is that her two 1929 films apparently bombed. They never appeared on these charts at all. The ads for No Defense billed her under Monte Blue.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 8:24 am

Only the buffs know her name any more (which isn't saying much -- most people these days don't know who Claudette Colbert was) -- but May was a real star of her day. Sound seems to have done her in. A while ago I looked up her talkie debut (can't remember what it was) and read the NYT review, which savaged her voice. This is only a guess, because I don't think I've seen her in a talkie, but I got the feeling that she wasn't allowed any chances to head a cast after her first recorded efforts were deemed poor.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 8:48 am

Dave Pitts wrote:Only the buffs know her name any more (which isn't saying much -- most people these days don't know who Claudette Colbert was) -- but May was a real star of her day. Sound seems to have done her in. A while ago I looked up her talkie debut (can't remember what it was) and read the NYT review, which savaged her voice. This is only a guess, because I don't think I've seen her in a talkie, but I got the feeling that she wasn't allowed any chances to head a cast after her first recorded efforts were deemed poor.


Of her 5 or 6 "talkies," the only one with any surviving voice is The Terror, but all video elements are presumed lost. Caught in the Fog partially exists but without the talking sequence. The others are lost.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 11:31 am

Image
May McAvoy with Conrad Nagel in If I Were Single (1927).

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Malcolm McGregor, May McAvoy and Ethel Wales in The Bedroom Window (1924), a very entertaining murder mystery.

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Kathryn Carver, Monte Blue and May McAvoy in No Defense (1929), probably one of the films that "bombed".

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A postcard of McAvoy. It has a fake signature, because the writer misspelled her name as "Mae"!
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 1:12 pm

I remember my grandmother talking about silent movies. Her favorite stars were Valentino and McAvoy, so it seems I've always known who McAvoy is.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 1:51 pm

Dave Pitts wrote:Only the buffs know her name any more (which isn't saying much -- most people these days don't know who Claudette Colbert was) -- but May was a real star of her day. Sound seems to have done her in. A while ago I looked up her talkie debut (can't remember what it was) and read the NYT review, which savaged her voice. This is only a guess, because I don't think I've seen her in a talkie, but I got the feeling that she wasn't allowed any chances to head a cast after her first recorded efforts were deemed poor.

Various online bios claim husband Maurice Cleary (a treasurer for United Artists) insisted that she quit the movie biz after they wed in 1929. Or maybe he was embarrassed for her after those savage reviews. They divorced in 1940 ("Once one of the highest salaried actresses in the motion picture industry. May McAvoy disclosed yesterday in divorcing Maurice G. Cleary. former banker, that of late she was forced to seek financial aid from the Motion Picture Relief Fund," said the L.A. Times), and she returned to the screen in a series of bit parts from her divorce to the late '50s. IMDb says she's in a crowd scene in the 1959 Ben Hur, after starring as Esther in the silent version, but good luck finding her.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 2:04 pm

In my blog

https://silentroomdotblog.wordpress.com ... ay-mcavoy/

I talk about her fast fall in talkies. In a 1929 interview, she talked about refusing to take voice lessons and blamed fast film making and recording equipment for her bad voice reviews. She also talked about freelancing after the Warners contract ran out in January 1929. That never happened. Whether it was the husband, the bad reviews, or a bad split from Warners .... who knows. The box-office trajectory of her post-JAZZ SINGER films don't seem to support her level of stardom. Her two 1929 talkies seem to have been dumped on the market.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 6:19 pm

drednm wrote:Of her 5 or 6 "talkies," the only one with any surviving voice is The Terror, but all video elements are presumed lost. Caught in the Fog partially exists but without the talking sequence. The others are lost.


The Lion and the Mouse survives at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Television Research (16mm) and LOC. UCLA has six of the film's sound discs as well.

Not all reviewers disliked her voice in that film; P. S. Harrison said "Miss McAvoy handles har part very well even though she has never acted on the stage". (And she did indeed speak: Variety said her voice "hardly carried to the back of the house, giving the impression it was insufficiently robust. Yet, in a later sequence it came clear and strong...")

And there are more McAvoy soundtracks at UCLA: Caught in the Fog (6 discs of 7), No Defense (6 of 7) and Stolen Kisses (7 of 7), as well as a couple that were score only.

--HA
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 7:34 pm

Harold Aherne wrote:
drednm wrote:Of her 5 or 6 "talkies," the only one with any surviving voice is The Terror, but all video elements are presumed lost. Caught in the Fog partially exists but without the talking sequence. The others are lost.


The Lion and the Mouse survives at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Television Research (16mm) and LOC. UCLA has six of the film's sound discs as well.

Not all reviewers disliked her voice in that film; P. S. Harrison said "Miss McAvoy handles har part very well even though she has never acted on the stage". (And she did indeed speak: Variety said her voice "hardly carried to the back of the house, giving the impression it was insufficiently robust. Yet, in a later sequence it came clear and strong...")

And there are more McAvoy soundtracks at UCLA: Caught in the Fog (6 discs of 7), No Defense (6 of 7) and Stolen Kisses (7 of 7), as well as a couple that were score only.

--HA


Interesting. One review I found of The Lion and the Mouse stated only Barrymore spoke. But yes, Harold, you are correct. Here's a bit from a review in Variety

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Last edited by drednm on Wed Apr 04, 2018 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 7:39 pm

The film I have always wanted to see(and still do) is, West of the water Tower with Glenn Hunter. I have read so much about it, but I just wonder about what if...May and Glenn, I picture them both as the perfect couple in this film. Well... one can only hope and dream this film one day will be found.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 9:41 pm

I don't know where they got that May McAvoy was poor, i remember in one of Richard Lamparski's books that she lived in Beverly Hills in the 1980's and went to church with her good friend Lois wilson.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostWed Apr 04, 2018 9:49 pm

When i heard the story that Colleen Moore bragged to a speech coach who i believe was Constance Collier that she made 12,500 dollars a week at the beginning of the talkie era. I always believed that the head's of all the studios in Hollywood at the time after spending money on all the new sound stages they needed decided to get rid of most of the big salaried stars using the speech nonsense. Now they could start fresh with new faces at low salaries, most of the newbies didnt make what the silent stars were making until at least a decade later. Also the union started in the 1930's was that becauseeverybody saw what they had done to the former stars and what lower salaries and control of them with long term contracts. In the silent era that total control never happened due to the fact there were other options to make films besides the big studios.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostThu Apr 05, 2018 12:17 pm

salus wrote:I don't know where they got that May McAvoy was poor, i remember in one of Richard Lamparski's books that she lived in Beverly Hills in the 1980's and went to church with her good friend Lois wilson.

It does sound odd, considering her husband was still a banker/treasurer after the Crash. Also, Wikipedia has her divorcing Maurice Cleary in 1940, as per that story in the L.A. Times, while IMDb has them married until his death in 1973. Obviously, neither is an unimpeachable source, but one of them has to be wrong.

Odder still, according to a couple of different sources, including Find-A-Grave, May McAvoy was buried in an unmarked plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostThu Apr 05, 2018 6:20 pm

I've got the Lamparski article (it's in Whatever Became Of ... Eighth Series). It confirms that her husband asked her not to continue her career, but states that she resumed it not due to a divorce, but because the couple's son was now old enough not to require constant care. There is no mention of a divorce, and McAvoy is described as widowed, which suggests there wasn't one.

Those Lamparski articles are usually as trustworthy as their subject, because he generally spoke to the artist personally. This one strikes me as pretty accurate, except for his noting that a rumour incorrectly claimed that McAvoy did few talkies because she had a lisp. I think he may be confusing her with Dolores Costello.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostThu Apr 05, 2018 7:13 pm

Brooksie wrote:I've got the Lamparski article (it's in Whatever Became Of ... Eighth Series). It confirms that her husband asked her not to continue her career, but states that she resumed it not due to a divorce, but because the couple's son was now old enough not to require constant care. There is no mention of a divorce, and McAvoy is described as widowed, which suggests there wasn't one.

Those Lamparski articles are usually as trustworthy as their subject, because he generally spoke to the artist personally. This one strikes me as pretty accurate, except for his noting that a rumour incorrectly claimed that McAvoy did few talkies because she had a lisp. I think he may be confusing her with Dolores Costello.


She only spoke in 5 films and two were only part-talkies. The lisp thing is a prevalent rumor but I never actually saw the word "lisp" in any of the reviews I found. Considering that both Caught in the Fog and The Terror were box office hits, she certainly crashed fast with her two 1929 films, the second of which gave top billing (on posters) to Monte Blue. Whether she bailed or was dumped by Warners is debatable. She wasn't the only silent star to "retire" to get married, but is was convenient.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostThu Apr 05, 2018 8:38 pm

I believe the "lisp" that plagued Dolores Costello's first talkie, The Terror, "Merthy, merthy, hyave you no thithter of your own," per Alexander Walker in "The Shattered Silents, was due to bad sound recording, reproduction or both.

If you're old enough to remember 16mm films in school, think of that "crunchy" sound on the sibilants. She speaks in Kevin Brownlow's "Hollywood" series without any trace of a speech problem.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostFri Apr 06, 2018 9:38 am

All of these surviving discs, even if the film is lost for four out of five of them, and yet none of us knows how her voice sounded. Lamentable.

I believe that the film for her late 1927 Vitaphone short In Sunny California exists, but the disc remains missing. The "elements" seem to have combined against her, unfortunately.

Such a stunner; would love to hear her voice even if she lisps, projects insufficiently or whatever those 1928-29 criticisms were. Silly stuff.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 11:11 am

Someone on Youtube has posted another reel of raw Fox Movietone newsreel footage of Broadway in 1929. Along with John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in "A Woman of Affairs", and William Haines in "Alias Jimmy Valentine", one sees May above the title on a big theater marquee, "May McAvoy" "The Terror".

I assumed she had been merely a leading lady for male stars,such as Barthelmess, Novarro, and Jolson, but here she is the name above the title.
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Re: May McAvoy

PostSat Apr 07, 2018 12:47 pm

Oddly, May McAvoy was nicknamed the "Vitaphone Girl."
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