Maryon Aye is always listed first in the roster of Wampas babies, ensured by both her alphabetically senior surname and because she was part of the first crop of Baby Stars in 1922. I will take the hint and start with her as well.
For reference and background on Wampas and the full listing of Babies, see my original post in this series.
Year that she was crowned: 1922
Baby who?: Born on April 5, 1903 in Chicago, IL to a lawyer father and housewife mother, Maryon grew up in comfortable affluence. This did not seem to suit her free-spirited nature. After the family relocated to Los Angeles, 14 year old Maryon eloped with and married Sherman William Plaskett, who died less than a year later. By age 16, she would have a career in Vaudeville and as a Mack Sennett bathing beauty. Maryon bounced between stage and screen throughout her career, but never got too far past the ingenue phase in either medium.
Why could she have been picked by Wampas?: Aside from being an accomplished dancer, Brunette Maryon was known as one of Sennett’s most beautiful girls and her “shapely” figure (as how it was often described in news articles) was especially admired. She posed sometimes as an artist’s model, one sculpture of her likeness titled “Liberty” was even presented to Woodrow Wilson. In photographs, it is apparent that Maryon was not a twig. Her healthy looking curves and unapologetically thick thighs were a look that would very soon be out as the flat-chested, shapeless, and toothpick-thin silhouette of the flapper would become en vogue in the 1920s. This could have hurt her rise to stardom, but she had an ace up her sleeve…
In 1920, at age 16, she met and married Harry D. Wilson who was managing a revue that she was performing in. Soon after, Harry became a press agent in Hollywood and was one of the founders (and presidents) of Wampas, the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers. Maryon was named a Wampas Baby Star in 1922, the first year that they bestowed the honor. It is certainly not to say that Maryon couldn’t have been named a Wampas Baby Star by her own merit, but it is unlikely. Wilson seemed to not only supply the golden ticket, but also a measure of driving force when it came to her career.
When looking at her screen credits, her film career seemed to follow the same path as her marriage. Aye and Wilson divorced in 1924 and Maryon was granted alimony in the form of $20-$50 a week (reports of this number vary) “when she needed it” plus publicity up until Wilson’s death in 1933. Once he died, this all ended. Her film career ran from 1921-1930, though after 1924 she did mostly stage work, made no films in 1925, and only one in 1926, in a supporting part which would be her last credited role. Between 1926 and 1930 she worked on the stage and in radio and made one last film in 1930 where she went uncredited. The years of her marriage to Wilson were the years that she made nearly all of her films. Whether this was because of Wilson’s influence, it is unclear. What is is that Maryon sought work afterwards, but had a hard time getting it.
Life after Babydom: Her career was at its highest point right before and around the time that she was named a Baby, but began its decline very soon afterwards. During her time onscreen, Maryon mostly played in Westerns and comedies though she reportedly wanted to act in dramas. The Feb 12, 1928 edition of the Daily News (NY) summed up Marion’s brief film career in one sentence: “Marion Aye, unsuccesful.”
After Wilson’s death, Aye, who had remained on good terms with him, was distraught. Her career was all but over and she battled depression that would be with her the rest of her life.
In 1935, two years after Wilson’s death, she took poison in a failed suicide attempt. It was said that she was depressed about her lack of employment and failure to reignite her career. “Friends console me by talking about what I used to be, but I’m sick of living in the past.” Maryon would say afterwards (The Los Angeles Times May 18, 1935). She recovered, but would attempt suicide again 16 years later and this time was unfortunately successful. On July 10, 1951, Aye was found, groggy and semi-conscious by her third husband, who she had married shortly after her first suicide attempt. She had swallowed bi-chloride of mercury tablets just as fellow silent screen star Olive Thomas did 30 years earlier. A painful and horrible way to die, Aye clung to life for an agonizing 11 days before passing away. Her father claimed that the cause of her final and fatal act was that she had been suffering from ill health, specifically uremic poisoning, though it was also rumored that she was in a depressed state due to not getting a TV part that her hopes were set on.
Best known for: Aye was the first screen performer to sign a contract with a “morality clause,” which stipulated that she conduct herself in an appropriate manner in her personal life (i.e.: not do anything that would garner bad publicity for the studio).
How accurate was Wampas: 1/5. Maryon did have potential, but for whatever reason it did not translate to screen roles. In many of her onscreen appearances, she went uncredited or played minor parts. By 1928, she was a has-been in the eyes of the film world.
Zoe’s take: It’s hard to read about the path of a girl as seemingly restless and free wheeling as Maryon, who had the world at her fingertips, but could never quite hold on to the life that she wanted. Photos of 16 year old Maryon show a happy, healthy looking girl full of promise. It’s certainly sad that her life ended the way that it did.
Liebman, Roy. The Wampas Baby Stars: a Biographical Dictionary, 1922-1934. McFarland, 2009.
“Is It Easy to Get into the Movies? Maryon, Star at Eighteen, Says ‘Yes.’” Lafayette Journal and Courier, 23 June 1921, p. 11.
“Maryon Aye, Ex-Film Star, Dies of Poison.” The Los Angeles Times, 22 July 1951, p. 3.
“Ex-Wampas Baby Star, Out of Films, Explains Death Attempt That Failed.” The Los Angeles Times, 18 May 1935, p. 17.
“Maryon Aye’s Story.” Maryon Aye, maryonaye.blogspot.com.