Mary MacLaren

Mary MacLaren (born Mary Ida MacDonald, also credited Mary McLaren; January 19, 1900 – November 9, 1985) was an American film actress in both the silent and sound eras.[3][a] She was the younger sister of actresses Miriam and Katherine MacDonald and appeared in over 170 films between 1916 and 1949.[4]

Mary MacLaren
Mary MacLaren Witzel.jpg
MacLaren, 1916
Mary Ida MacDonald (McDonald in some records)

(1900-01-19)January 19, 1900
DiedNovember 9, 1985(1985-11-09) (aged 85)
Years active1916-1949
Spouse(s)George Herbert Young
(m. 1924; div. 1928))[1]
Robert S. Coleman
(m. 1965; ?)[2]
RelativesKatherine MacDonald
(sister, also actress)


Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, MacLaren received her education at Greensburgh (now Greensboro), Pennsylvania. She began her stage career in the Winter Garden in New York City with Al Jolson in The Passing Show of 1914 and Dancing Around.[5] Her screen career as Mary MacLaren began in 1916 with Shoes.[6] She played for the Universal Film Manufacturing Company in Idle Wives, The Model's Confession, The Petal on the Current, The Unpainted Woman, Bonnie Bonnie Lassie, Rouge and Riches and many others. MacLaren was exceedingly athletic and spent much of her time in the surf near her California house. She was also an expert tennis player and ardent enthusiast. MacLaren was of the blond beauty type, having masses of blond hair and blue eyes. She was 5'3" and weighed 123 pounds. She was the sister of actress Katherine MacDonald.[7]

In 1979, the retired actress resisted attempts by Los Angeles County from declaring her mentally incompetent and taking over her finances for living in her home with too much clutter and pets. She appeared before the Superior Court commissioner who ruled that she was capable of managing her own affairs.[8]

She died in Hollywood, California, aged 89.

Selected filmographyEdit

MacLaren opposite actor William V. Mong in Shoes (1916)
MacLaren as Queen Anne of Austria in The Three Musketeers (1921)
A Lawman Is Born (1937)


  1. ^ Official documents, including census and marriage records, confirm 1900 as MacLaren's birth year, as do other unofficial references such as obituaries and MacLaren's grave marker in California. The earliest, most reliable documentation regarding her birth year are the federal census of 1900 and 1910, both of which document 1900. The original census page of June 1900, records Mary MacDonald's [McDonald’s] age at that time as "6/12" (six months old). While one official record, her 1985 California death certificate, does cite her birthday as January 19, 1901, no government record has been found that documents her birth year prior to 1900. Some secondary sources state that Mary began her career as a chorus girl on Broadway "at the tender age of 13". For performers that young, it was not an uncommon practice in the early 1900s for stage and film producers to "back date" biographical information about their employees, presenting them to be older than their true age.


  1. ^ Shirley, Lois. "Sadder But Wiser: Mary MacLaren's romance in India became a living nightmare", Photoplay (Chicago, Illinois), June 1928, pp. 39, 117. Internet Archive, San Francisco, California. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  2. ^ ""California Marriage Index, 1960-1985", Robert S. Coleman to Mary I[da]. MacDonald, February 23, 1965. Center of Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento. FamilySearch.
  3. ^ "Thirteenth Census of the United States: 1910 Population", digital copy of original handwritten enumeration page, Pittsburgh City, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, April 18, 1910, Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C.
  4. ^ Fox, Charles Donald; Milton L. Silver (1920). "Mary MacLaren". Who's Who on the Screen. New York City: Ross Publishing. (NOTE: Not currently in copyright).
  5. ^ Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual, 1921, Motion Picture News, Inc., New York, N.Y., p. 230. Internet Archive. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  6. ^ ""Shoes" (Bluebird)". The Moving Picture World. June 10, 1916. Retrieved November 11, 2013. Mary McDonald [..] takes on a new name - Mary McLaren - for her entry into the list of regular Bluebird stars. Miss McLaren is a "genuine find", according to a Bluebird publicity promoter, and until the professional critics have had opportunity to controverse the assertion so let it stand.
  7. ^ Fox, Charles Donald; Milton L. Silver (1920). "Mary MacLaren". Who's Who on the Screen. New York City: Ross Publishing. (NOTE: Not currently in copyright).
  8. ^ "Noted Silent Screen Actress Mary MacLaren Dies at Age 85," p. 64, The Los Angeles Times, Monday, November 11, 1985
  9. ^ Pepper, Peter. "The Strange Case of Mary MacLaren", The Moving Picture Weekly (New York, N.Y.), June 24, 1916, pp. 9, 34. Internet Archive. Retrieved November 12, 2020.

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