Dorothy Mackaill, 87; Went From Ziegfeld Follies to Film


Dorothy Mackaill, the lithe beauty who emerged from the Ziegfeld Follies in the early 1920s into a lengthy film career, has died in Room 253 of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, where she had lived since 1955.

Miss Mackaill, whose last picture was a brief appearance in “Bulldog Drummond at Bay” in 1937, was 87 when she died Sunday of liver failure.

Friends said she had refused to continue treatment and opted to die at Waikiki Beach, where she had lived in comfortable retirement after investing her film earnings in Los Angeles real estate.


She was a celebrated chorine for Florenz Ziegfeld, who introduced her to audiences as another of his “typical American girls.” The fact that she was born in Hull, England, and spoke with a pronounced Yorkshire accent did not deter the great showman.

While still in her teens she had made movies in England over the objections of her father, who finally agreed to pay for the dancing lessons that put her on the stage in London and in a Paris musical revue with Maurice Chevalier.

After a few years with Ziegfeld, she was cast in the John Barrymore film “Lotus Eater,” and moved to featured ingenue (with long hair) and flapper (with bobbed hair) in such films as “The Streets of New York,” “Mighty Lak’ a Rose,” “The Barker,” “The Man Who Came Back” and “Lady Be Good.”

Mostly she played breezy lead roles in comedies and light romances and worked opposite George O’Brien twice and Richard Barthelmess three times. But she probably will be best remembered for her features with Jack Mulhall, most of which were light comedies.

She made a few early sound pictures (“Love Affair” in 1932 with Humphrey Bogart and “The Chief” in 1933 with Ed Wynn), but had fallen in love with Hawaii on a visit for a film in 1929 and moved there permanently in 1934 after marrying her third husband, an orchid grower.

In the mid-1970s--to honor her devotion to Hawaii--Honolulu declared “Dorothy’s Day” and serenaded and praised her at her hotel.


Funeral arrangements were pending, but friend Harry Robello said he would scatter her ashes off Waikiki Beach, where Miss Mackaill had sunbathed nearly every day until her health failed.

“For the service, I’ll put the urn in her chair on the beach in front of the Royal,” Robello said. “She always sat there when she wasn’t playing gin rummy.”