Mary Nolan was born Mary Imogene Robertson and fame came early to this beautiful young woman as a Ziegfeld Girl. It was around this time (1924) she acquired the nickname of "Bubbles" as well as beginning her notorious affair with famous stage/Ziegfeld comedian Frank Tinney. Tinney, who was married at the time to musical comedy star Edna Davenport, debuted with the Follies in 1910 and starred in silent films as well.
Mary and Tinney's relationship was a punishing one; to the point that Mary had him arrested for beating and kicking her---and on more than one occasion. The case made national headlines and unfortunately for Mary, because she was proclaimed a "home wrecker," she was fired by Ziegfeld. Never mind the numerous affairs Ziegfeld had which contaminated HIS marriages to Anna Held and later Billie Burke--and never mind that Nolan was being beaten by Frank Tinney (who apparently treated ALL his 'home wrecking' girl friends like this). Mary, who at this time was billed as Imogene Wilson, found her career as a member of the Ziegfeld Follies finished. Fortunately she was able to travel to Europe and was immediately signed to star in German films. She lived there for about 2 years and made approximately 7 films as Imogene Robertson.
Meanwhile, the public wisely perceived Tinney as a not so innocent bystander in this wretched affair and after his divorce from the long suffering Edna, his career lost much of its momentum. In 1926, he collapsed on a stage in Detroit and was hospitalized for 18 months for what was described as 'shock and amnesia.' He continued in and out of mental and other various hospitals until finally dying in one at Northport, Long Island on Nov. 27, 1940. He is interred in the Tinney family plot in Holy Cross Cemetery, Philiadelphia, Pa. and is unmarked.
Mary returned to California in the late 1920s and signed with MGM as Mary Nolan. A couple of her films are still shown on TCM--West of Zanzibar (starring Lon Chaney) and Desert Nights (starring John Gilbert). As the talkies settled in, Mary's film career dwindled away, ending with The Docks of San Francisco (1932). Whatever beauty, wealth and fame she had remaining, it pretty much disappeared in the following decade. The one item of worth she treasured above all else was Rudolph Valentino's antique piano. No matter where she lived, it was always the centerpiece of her home with sheet music featuring Valentino's handsome face on display. This piano she managed to keep until the day she died. She had married one Wallace McCleary from whom she was separated at the time of her death (he was living in Berkeley and is interred next to her at Hollywood Forever). Suffering from at least one nervous breakdown, she had become very frail and delicate. Still never surrendering the desperate hope that she could pull herself out of health and financial problems, she reportedly had just completed negotiations for the sale of her life story in both screenplay and novel form. And a magazine was also preparing to run a lengthy series of installments concerning her life. The advances from these contracts allowed her to move to a small Los Angeles stucco bungalow court not far from Wilshire Blvd (1504 S. Mansfield Ave) as well as to pay for her recent treatment for a gall bladder condition.
With her weight down to anywhere from 70 to 90 pounds (accounts fluctuate wildly), she was suffering from malnutrition. Somewhere along the way, she had reportedly acquired an addiction to heroin that would certainly hasten her debilitating physicality. Her sister however, merely commented to newspapers that the aforementioned events including her recent move had proven just too much for her. Just when at last her life appeared to be turning around, Mary Nolan was found dead in her home, dying alone on Halloween 1948 apparently from cardiac arrest at the age of 42.
(Bio written by Melissa Delgado)
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