• 8 September 1899
  •  New York City, New York, USA

May McAvoy


Silent-screen star May McAvoy was born in an upscale area of New York City. Her well-to-do family owned and operated a large livery stable situated where the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel now stands. She initially wanted to be a teacher but became intrigued with show business after watching a friend rehearse a show at a nearby vaudeville theater. A model whose first job was a commercial for Domino Sugar, she moved into extra work in films and received her first major break with The Devil's Garden (1920) co-starring Lionel Barrymore. Stardom was hers, however, as the lead in Sentimental Tommy (1921), which led to a Paramount contract. McAvoy later stated that she was not content to play whatever part the studio might choose for her and she demanded quality. She claimed that Cecil B. DeMille wanted her as the leading lady for _Adam's Rib (1923)_ but she balked at bobbing her hair and wearing the required pelt for the caveman sequence. She believed that he was able to have her unofficially suspended because of her refusal. Whatever her reasons for leaving Paramount, May bought out her contract and freelanced for the next six years. McAvoy wound up flourishing in such movies as The Enchanted Cottage (1924), Tessie (1925) and Lady Windermere's Fan (1925), while replacing Gertrude Olmstead as Esther in her best known silent film, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925). Mostly forgotten today except by more devoted film enthusiasts, May nevertheless holds a steadfast position in film history thanks to her co-starring role in Hollywood's first talkie, The Jazz Singer (1927) opposite Al Jolson, which is actually a silent film with several sound musical and speaking sequences; she herself had no talking scenes. Coincidentally, May also starred in England's first all-talking picture The Terror (1928). She retired after her marriage in 1929 and bore one son, Patrick. She returned to films for a decade and a half in the 1940s for MGM but never received any screen credit for these parts (her final role was as an extra in Ben-Hur (1959). She was widowed in 1973 and died a decade later of a heart attack.


Movie Name Release Date
Ο τραγουδιστής της τζαζ – The Jazz Singer (1927) October 6, 1927