Since I have a dachshund (waving at Quagmire), a friend could not resist sending me the Nick Lowe song, “Marie Provost”. This song was the supposed true story of a Hollywood (mostly) silent movie star whose corpse was eaten by her dachshund. Of course I had to learn more.
The song, which includes the lyrics, “She was a winner, that became the doggie’s dinner” is catchy enough. It’s intriguing enough. But it gets a whole lot wrong.
First of all, her last name is Prevost, not Provost. She died in January, not July. Her body hadn’t been lying there for two or three weeks. It was found after two days. And it wasn’t the advent of the talkies that did in her career. Nor was it Quaaludes, as they didn’t come out until 1951. And while the dog may have bitten her leg a few times in an attempt to wake her up, he didn’t eat her. Not even a little bit. In fact, it was the dog’s frantic barking that alerted the neighbors and then the police.
Upon further investigation, I discovered that there was one thing the song got very right. This woman’s life and death were a tragedy. Brace yourself for a sad story.
From what I can tell, based on the comments of other actors and movie people of the era, and this delightful tribute to her on Youtube, Ms. Prevost was a stunningly beautiful and very talented actress. She was actually in 121 silent and sound films, and has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
According to Wikipedia, she had contracts with several studios during her career, including Universal, MGM, and Warner Bros. That was pretty impressive given her humble beginnings. Her father was a railroad conductor, and died when gas seeped into one of the tunnels. Marie was just an infant at the time. Her mother remarried, this time to a miner and surveyor. They moved around a lot. Apparently there was no love lost between her and her stepfather, because when he died in 1933, his will gave her $1.
As was not uncommon in those days, Marie’s first marriage was a deep secret as it may have had a negative impact on her career. But it came out rather scandalously when Universal studios tried to marry her off on set to another actor as a publicity stunt. (They actually did marry, later on, after her divorce was finalized.)
In 1926, her contract was not renewed. Then her mother died in a tragic automobile accident. It was then that she began to drink excessively. Her second marriage began to fail and ended shortly thereafter, adding to her depressed state. She later had a short-lived affair with Howard Hughes, who had cast her in her last leading role. She was said to be heartbroken by the breakup.
Her increasing depression combined with her alcoholism led to her binge eating, and she put on an excessive amount of weight. Somehow, she still managed to get a contract with MGM, and worked steadily, but only in secondary parts. By 1934, work had all but dried up for her, and she began to burn through her savings. Her very last role was a bit part as a waitress in 1936.
On January 21, 1937, Marie Prevost died. The cause of death was acute alcoholism. She was 40 years old. Her body was discovered 2 days later. Her funeral was paid for by Joan Crawford, and was attended by Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, and Barbara Stanwyck. It was later discovered that at the time of her death, she had $300 to her name.
It’s a tragic tale. Another life cut short by alcohol. But in defense of dachshunds everywhere, she was never the doggie’s dinner. She had already been chewed up enough by life.
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