An actress who appeared regularly in Midwestern theaters during the 1890s, Mary Marble played soubrette parts, danced, and sang. She was featured in Eddie Foy's comic extravaganza "Off the Earth" (1896), in Charles Hoyt's farce "A Milk White Flag" (1897), and "The Smugglers" (1899).
Born into a theatrical family (relatives included Joseph Jefferson, comedian William Warren, and playwright Ed Marble), the plumpish 4-foot, 9-inch actress took to the stage at age eighteen, playing in uncle Billy Marble's company on the West Coast. She excelled playing boy parts, babies (as in act II of "Milk White Flag"), and frilly girls. In 1902 she appeared in Winston Churchill's "The Crisis," and later in the year toured with the Bijou Musical Comedy Company in "Lost, Strayed, or Stolen."
In 1904 she launched a hit song, "She's My Girl" that became a signature. Another of her famous introductions was the comic child's tune, "I Wish I had a Piece of Lemming Pie." At this juncture she organized a star company, touring the circuits in a musical about a singing marriage broker "Nancy Brown," which proved a success, particularly with Southern audiences. She also performed in a touring version of "Babes in Toyland."
In 1906, banking on the child fantasy musicals that entranced Broadway, she signed on with Julian Mitchell's production of "Wonderland," an adaptation of the Lewis Carroll books. Joe Weber hired her for his fantasy "Dream City" in 1907. Like most versatile entertainers, Marble spent summers in vaudeville. In autumn of 1908, she reunited with her co-star from "Dream City," Sam Chip, in "His Honour the Mayor." This proved not so pronounced a success, and the partnership began transitioning to a skit act in vaudeville of one-act vehicles such as the Dutch costume plays "In Old Edam" and "The Land of Dykes" or abbreviated child fantasies such as "The Clock Shop."
Marble's partnership with Chip remained a leading headline act on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit until the American entry into World War I when Sam Chip retired. Marble then assembled a small troupe and soldiered on vaudeville-sized playlets such as Maude Felton's "My Home Town" and "A Little Play of the Stage." Her husband, producer John Dunne, eased her off the stage in 1922-23. David S. Shields/ALS