The story is told in Robert Henderson’s study of Griffith at Biograph how the director once had a shotgun fired off behind Mae Marsh to get the necessarv alarm on her face. The effect apparently lasted several years.
In The Birth of a Nation (15, D. W. Griffith), she is the sister perpetually fearful of a fate worse than death, on the point of taking flight with so much fluttering agitation and the breathy intake of apprehension. Sadly, though, when pursued to the top of a cliff and most in need of wings, she plunges to her death, virginal, but like a sandbag.
She joined Griffith’s company from school in 1912 and became one of his leading young ladies: The Old Actor; A Siren of Impulse; The Lesser Evil: Lena and the Geese; The New York Hat; accepting the grass skirt and bare feet declined by Mar)' Bickford for Man’s Genesis; The Sands of Dee; Bmtalitij; The Telephone Girl and the Lady; An Adventure in the Autumn Woods (all 12); Fate; Love in an Apartment Hotel: The Perfidy of Mary; The Little Tease; The Wanderer; His Mothers Son; The Reformers; In Prehistoric Days; The Battle of Elderberry Gulch; Judith ofBethulia (all 13); The Escape; Home Sweet Home; The Avenging Conscience (all 14).
Then, after her self-sacrifice in The Birth of a Nation, she was desperate again as the woman in the modern episode of Intolerance (16)—hers made the famous close-up of hands wrung together in anguish. She left Griffith for Goldwvn and starred in Polly of the Circus (17), Spotlight Sadie (18), and The Little ’Fraid Lady (20). But in the 1920s she made only a few films before retiring in 1926: Nobody’s Kid (21, Howard Hickman); to Britain for Flames of Passion (22, Graham Cutts); reunited with Griffith and starring with Ivor Novello in The White Rose (23); Daddies (24, William A. Seiter); and Tides of Passion (26. J. Stuart Blackton).
She made a comeback in the 1930s, but in much smaller parts: Over the Hill (31, Henry King); Little Man, What Note? (34. Frank Borzage); The Grapes of Wrath (40, John Ford); still frantic as Rochester's wife in Jane Eyre (44, Robert Stevenson); A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (45, Elia Kazan); The Snake Pit (48, Anatole Litvak); as Mrs. Purley Sweet in Three Godfathers (48, Ford); The Gunfighter (50, King); The Robe (53, Henry Koster); The Sun Shines Bright (53, Ford); Blueprint for Murder (53, Andrew Stone); The Prince of Players (55, Philip Dunne); While the City Sleeps (56, Fritz Lang); The Searchers (56, Ford); Julie (56, Stone); The Wings of Eagles (57, Ford); Sergeant Rutledge (60, Ford); and Donovan's Reef (63, Ford).
Married Louis Lee Arms, 1918. Children: Brewster, Mistress.