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Mary Robison


The melting pot that is America has welcomed many settlers over the centuries. Each individual bore with them some small impact, some talent or knowledge or even personality that affected the fabric of today.

One such woman, Mary Robison, came to the United States when she was in her late teens. She was married, but a few years after her arrival, she became a widow with three small children. She had no means to support them, so she took up the name "May Robson," and she began to act in whatever role she could get.

Her acting didn't just pay the rent, though-she was good. Soon, she took on leads and supporting roles on the road, on Broadway, and in movies.

In 1922, she appeared in a play titled "It Pays to Smile." The cast traveled around the U.S. to perform it, and in March, they stopped in Bismarck. North Dakotans filed in to the auditorium to see the traveling production. On this date, the Bismarck Tribune raved about May Robson's portrayal of a woman who, "as the spinster survivor of a proud Back Bay family, melts under the warm sunshine of California and becomes so human that slang is second nature." She was surrounded by a good cast, including Russell Hicks, who was in hundreds of films, including small guest roles in "The Lone Ranger" and "The Cisco Kid."

That was not the end of her career, though; May Robson was a character actor, and was usually chosen to play crusty and domineering society matrons or grandmothers. In 1933, she starred as Apple Annie in Frank Capra's film "Lady for a Day." Incidentally, this film was written by author Damon Runyon, whose stories also inspired the musical "Guys and Dolls."

Capra apparently wanted to take home a lot of Academy Awards with this movie, but was passed over. Yet for her role, May Robson was honored by receiving a Best Actress Oscar nomination. In 1961, Capra remade the film as "Pocketful of Miracles," starring Bette Davis.

She was in over 60 films, including "Bringing up Baby" and "Little Orphan Annie," and film productions of "Anna Karenina," "Alice in Wonderland," and "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." The last film she was in was released in 1942; in October of that year, after many years in film, she died.

But on this date in 1922, a cinematic star found herself beloved in Bismarck, North Dakota.

By Sarah Walker


IMDB, Russell Hicks. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0382954/>

IMDB, May Robson. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0733480/>

Allmovie.com, May Robson. <http://www.allmovie.com/artist/60867>

Bismarck Tribune, March 23, 1922, Thursday, pg. 2

Allmovie.com, Lady for a Day. <http://www.allmovie.com/work/lady-for-a-day-28082>