May Robson ~ The Grand Old Lady

May Robson

May Robson was born Mary Jeanette Robison on April 19, 1858 in New South Wales, Australia. Her father died when she was a child. May's mother remarried and the family moved to London, England. When she was seventeen May eloped with Charles Leveson Gore. Their first child, Edward, was born in 1876. The following year May and her family moved to Ft. Worth, Texas and worked on a cattle ranch. May would have two more children but sadly they both died when they were toddlers from scarlet fever. When life in Texas became too rough they moved to New York City. May designed cards and taught painting to support her family. Tragically her husband Charles died in 1883. That same year May began acting in the theatre. She quickly became a successful comedian and starred in many hit shows. May married Dr. Augustus Homer Brown, a police surgeon, in 1889. Her closest friend was actress Marie Dressler. May started her own theatre company and co-wrote the play A Night Out. When A Night Out was made into a film in 1916 May had the leading role. She was widowed for a second time when her husband passed away in 1920.

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 May continued to act in the theater and starred in several silent films. She was now known as "The Grand Old Lady of the American Stage". In 1927 she decided to move to Hollywood. Although she was in her seventies May was able to become a popular character actress. She had supporting roles in dozens of films including Red-Headed Woman and Strange Interlude. May was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the 1933 film Lady For A Day. At the time she was the oldest woman ever nominated for an Oscar. She bought a small bungalow in Hollywood where she lived with her longtime girlfriend Lillian Harmer. In 1936 she signed a lucrative contract with MGM. She played Janet's Gaynor's grandmother in A Star Is Born and had the leading role in the 1940 comedy Granny Get Your Gun. She once said "I want to keep working right up until the final curtain. I've got to work - I can't be happy unless I'm working,"  May died on October 20, 1942 from a combination of ailments including neuritis. She was eighty-four years old. May was buried with her second husband in Flushing Cemetery in New York.

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May Robson Death