b. Mary Ellen Reynolds, 1 September 1898, Evansville, Indiana, USA, d. 7 April 1936, New York City, New York, USA. Taking to the stage with her family’s vaudeville act while still a small child, Miller had a decade of stage experience behind her when she first appeared on Broadway at the age of 16. Singing and dancing, and at first using the spelling Marilynn, she appeared in revues produced by the Shubert Brothers and Florenz Ziegfeld. Her first starring role on Broadway was in Ziegfeld’s Sally (1921), which co-starred Leon Errol and Walter Catlett. Among the songs from this show is the lasting hit, Jerome Kern and Buddy De Sylva’s ‘Look For The Silver Lining’. Miller followed this success with another Ziegfeld production, Sunny (1925). Again in the title role, Miller co-starred with Jack Donahue, the cast also including Clifton Webb and Cliff Edwards. The songs included another everlasting hit, ‘Who?’, by Kern and lyricists Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II. In 1928 Miller had another Ziegfeld-produced hit with Rosalie, once more playing the title role. Again, there was a song that would live on far beyond the show’s 10-month run, George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin’s ‘How Long Has This Been Going On?’.
Reputedly, the lovely and dainty star belied her appearance and was volatile, ill tempered and foul-mouthed. No matter, audiences loved her and looked benignly on her private life, which included an affair with Ziegfeld, and marriages to actor Frank Carter, who died in a car crash, later to actor Jack Pickford, the younger brother of Hollywood superstar Mary Pickford, and finally to dancer Chester O’Brien, whom she married during the run of what was to be her last Broadway show. This was As Thousands Cheer (1933), another success in which Miller and Webb sang Irving Berlin’s ‘Easter Parade’. Later, Miller suffered serious sinus problems and developed an untreatable jaw infection that brought about her early death. In 1940, the Hollywood biopic Look For The Silver Lining, starred June Havoc in a trivialised version of Miller’s life. Fleeting sense of Miller’s magical stage presence can be gained from three poor films she made. First of these were screen versions of Sally (1929), which was in early Technicolor and co-starred Joe E. Brown, and Sunny (1930), in which Donahue also appeared. Worst of the trio was Her Majesty, Love (1931), the latter also featuring Errol, W.C. Fields and Ben Lyon.~ Rovi