Claire McDowell (November 2, 1877 – October 23, 1966) was an American actress of the silent era.[1][2] She appeared in 350 films between 1908 and 1945.[3]

Claire McDowell
Claire McDowell - Motion Picture Classic, February 1916.jpg
McDowell in 1916
Born(1877-11-02)November 2, 1877
New York City, U.S.
DiedOctober 23, 1966(1966-10-23) (aged 88)
Years active1908–1945
Spouse(s)Charles Hill Mailes (m.1906–1937; his death)

Early yearsEdit

McDowell was born in New York City on November 2, 1877, the daughter of Eugene A. MacDowell and Fanny Reeves.[4][5] Her aunt, actress Fanny Davenport, gave her early training in acting.[6]


When she was 17, she was an understudy in a theatrical company headed by Charles Frohman.[5] Still something of a youthful beauty, McDowell appeared in numerous short, early feature films. She graduated to playing character and mother types. She appeared in Douglas Fairbanks' The Mark of Zorro (1920). McDowell costarred in two of the biggest films of the silent era, The Big Parade and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, in which she played mothers both times.[citation needed] McDowell's Broadway credits included Herod (1909), To Have and to Hold (1901), and Hearts Are Trumps (1900).[7]

When she was 38, McDowell retired, but later she returned to acting, particular portraying mothers.[5]

Personal life and deathEdit

She was married to silent screen character actor Charles Hill Mailes from 1906 until his death in 1937.[8] The couple appeared in numerous silent films together, including The Mark of Zorro.[citation needed] They had two sons,[5] Robert and Eugene. She died in Hollywood, California on October 23, 1966.[citation needed]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ Katchmer, George A. (September 22, 2009). "A Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses". McFarland. Retrieved October 18, 2018 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "Claire McDowell". Obscure Hollywood. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  3. ^ "The monumental Claire McDowell". 11east14thstreet. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  4. ^ Silent Film Necrology, p.334 c.2001 by Eugene M. Vazzana
  5. ^ a b c d Lee, Raymond (April 2, 1957). "Claire McDowell's Feats Unparalleled". Valley Times. California, North Hollywood. p. 28. Retrieved February 19, 2020 – via
  6. ^ "Claire McDowell in 'Big Parade'". The Palm Beach Post. Florida, West Palm Beach. November 13, 1927. p. 21. Retrieved February 19, 2020 – via
  7. ^ "Claire McDowell". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on February 19, 2020. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "Claire McDowell". Silent Era. Retrieved October 18, 2018.

External linksEdit