Baby Marie Osborne is often called the first big child star, beginning her silent film career in 1914 at the tender age of 4, and in a case of being in the right place at the right time, becoming famous nationwide.
Baby Marie was born Helen Edith Osborn in Denver, Colorado in 1911. She became the foster daughter of Leon and Edith Osborn when still an infant. The Osborns moved to Long Beach, California and found work as actors at the Balboa Amusement Company. The Osborns took little Marie along to work with them and that’s how the child got her first role. Director, Henry King was having a tough time finding the right boy for his film when he spotted Marie at the studio. She had one of those Dutch Boy haircuts that made little girls look very cute, but a little like boys. I myself had a Dutch Boy haircut in the 1950s and won a prize in a costume contest. They didn’t realize I was a girl till they gave me the prize ticket.
Henry King evidently knew that Marie was a girl but figured she could be a boy in his film. Soon the little tyke became known simply as Baby Marie and was given a cushy contract. Baby Marie made 29 silent films, some of them shorts, between 1914 and 1919. The names of her characters are a hoot, even though in many she was named Marie but was given a different last name. In her first role, she was called Toots the Baby. In the boy role, her name was Robert Holmes. Her most famous role was as Little Mary Sunshine and then there’s my favorite, Captain Kiddo. I would love to see one of her shorts show up in HBO’s ‘Boardwalk Empire.’ Another famous child star of the era was Baby Peggy, who turned a youthful 92 very recently on October 26th.
Apparently unable to make the transition into talkies, Marie Osborne later found work as an extra and was sometimes a stand-in for Ginger Rogers in such films as ‘Swing Time’ (1936) and ‘Shall We Dance’ (1937) and she also was a stand-in for ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941) . She later switched careers and worked in wardrobe on many films beginning with ‘Around The World in Eighty Days’ (1956) starring David Niven, and ‘The Great Imposter (1961) starring Tony Curtis. Marie even worked in wardrobe on The Godfather II (1974).
William Howard Taft was the President of the United States when Baby Marie was born; Woodrow Wilson was President when she began her film career and since then the White House has had 16 more occupants. Hopefully, Baby Marie will be getting a letter from the 18th President in her lifetime, Barack Obama, on the occasion of her 100th birthday next year.
Wikipedia: List of U.S. Presidents