Alice Brady (1892-1939)

Alice Brady
Alice Brady

Alice Brady was a stage and movie actress whose career began in the silent movie era and who continued to work in the theater and movies until a few months before her early death from cancer in 1939. She is best known for her comic performances as in 'My Man Godfrey' in 1936. She was nominated twice for Oscars, winning the Award for Best Supporting Actress for 'In Old Chicago' in 1937.


Alice Brady was born Mary Rose Brady in New York City, on November 2, 1892. Her mother died when she was four years old and she was brought up by her father, the theatrical producer, William A. Brady, from whom she developed her consuming interest in the theater and acting.. Her step-mother was actress Grace George, whom her father married when Alice was a child. Her half-brother was William A. Brady Jr, the son of her father and Grace George. She was educated at the Convent of St Elizabeth in Madison , New Jersey and then at the Boston Conservatory of Music.

Her first ambition was to be an opera singer but this soon changed when she began acting and touring with stock companies, and in 1911, aged 18, she began her professional stage acting career on Broadway in 'The Balkan Princess'.

Stage Career

She continued with successful appearances in several Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in 1912 and the following year she appeared with John Barrymore in 'A Thief for a Night' in Boston. For the next 20 years she veered between drama and comedy in shows such as 'Little Women' in 1912, 'Sinners' in 1915, 'Anna Ascends' in 1920, 'Zander the Great' in 1923, 'The Bride of the Lamb' in 1926 and 'Love, Honor and Betray' in 1930. Her most memorable performance on Broadway was as Lavinia in Eugene O'Neill's 'Mourning Becomes Electra' in 1931. Her last Broadway show, 'Mademoiselle' in 1932 co-starred her stepmother Grace George.

Early film Career 1914 - 1923

Alice made her film debut in 1914 in the silent picture 'As Ye Sow', sponsored by her father's film company, World Film Corporation. New York was still the center of the film industry in those pre-Hollywood days and she was able to find film work quite easily. She appeared in three films in 1915, and over the next ten years she interspersed regular film appearances with her burgeoning theatrical career.

She appeared in over fifty silent movies during this period, usually as the leading lady, including 'The Gilded Cage' in 1916, 'The Divorce Game' the following year, 'The Whirlpool' in 1918, 'Anna Ascends' in 1922, and her last, 'The Snow Bride' in 1923. By this time, aged 30, she made the brave decision to abandon the screen and concentrate on her theatrical career.

Second Movie Career 1932

Alice had established a first class reputation as a charismatic stage actress and when Talkies arrived at the end of the decade her strong, stage-trained voice made it easy for her to transfer back to a movie career. Her reputation had gone before her and in 1932 she was signed up by MGM and made her talkie debut in "When Ladies Meet" in 1933. It marked the start of a whole new career for Alice. In 1933 alone she made 5 films and she went on to appear in more than 25 sound features. She worked with many top names such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in 'The Gay Divorcee' in 1934, Mae West in 'Go West, Young Man' in 1936, Deanna Durbin in 'Three Smart Girls' in 1937 and Charles Laughton and Carole Lombard in 'My Man Godfrey' in 1936, for which she earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress.


Alice married actor James Crane in 1919 and the couple had one child, Donald. They co-starred in three silent films together, 'His Bridal Night' in 1919, and 'Sinners' and 'A Dark Lantern' in 1920 before divorcing in 1922.

Alice was at the peak of her acting powers at the end of the 1930s. In 1938 she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Mrs. O'Leary, in 'In Old Chicago' and the following year she won glowing reviews for her performance in Henry Fonda's 'Young Mr. Lincoln'.

But 'Young Mr. Lincoln' was released posthumously as Alice, aged just 46, was struck down with cancer. Alice Brady died on October 28, 1939.

Alice Brady Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Supporting Actress ... In Old Chicago (1938)
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Supporting Actress ... My Man Godfrey (1936)

Alice Brady Filmography

As Ye Sow
The Boss
The Cup of Chance (Short)
The Lure of Woman
The Rack
The Ballet Girl
The Woman in 47
Then I'll Come Back to You
Tangled Fates
La vie de Bohème
Miss Petticoats
The Gilded Cage
The Faun
A Woman Alone
A Hungry Heart
The Dancer's Peril
Darkest Russia
The Divorce Game
A Self-Made Widow
Betsy Ross
A Maid of Belgium
Her Silent Sacrifice
Woman and Wife
The Knife
The Spurs of Sybil
The Trap
At the Mercy of Men
The Ordeal of Rosetta
The Whirlpool
The Death Dance
The Better Half
Her Great Chance
In the Hollow of Her Hand
The Indestructible Wife
The World to Live In
The End of the Road
Marie, Ltd.
The Redhead
His Bridal Night
The Fear Market
A Dark Lantern
The New York Idea
Out of the Chorus
The Land of Hope
Her Dear Enemy
Dawn of the East
Hush Money
Missing Millions
Anna Ascends
The Leopardess
The Snow Bride