She starred in silents like 'Little Mary Sunshine'

Marie Osborne, who starred in over a dozen silent films including “Little Mary Sunshine,” died Nov. 11 in San Clemente, Calif., of natural causes. She was 99.

In silents such as 1916’s “Mary Sunshine,” written specifically for her and, according to the New York Times, one of the few to survive, Osborne played the little girl who turned her drunken father on the path of abstinence.

Born Helen Alice Myres, her name was changed to Baby Marie Osborne by her foster parents. She was discovered by actor-director Henry King, who needed a boy for 1915’s “The Maid of the Wild.” With her Dutch boy haircut she was ideal and he approached her foster parents, who were an actress and a theater promoter. She was signed on to Balboa Amusement Agency and other parts soon followed. From 1914-19 Osborne was featured in silent films such as “Kidnapped in New York,” “Captain Kiddo,” “Daddy’s Girl” and “Cupid by Proxy,” she could cry on cue or summon up a brilliant smile. After 1919’s “Gingersnap” she retired from silents at the ripe age of 8.

Long before Gary Coleman, however there was Osborne. Her foster parents spent all her earnings, at the time the princely sum of $1,000, and then divorced.

She returned to showbiz as a stand-in for Ginger Rogers in “Swing Time,” “Stage Door” and “Shall We Dance” in the 1930s, billed as an extra. In later life she became a costume designer and worked on films including “The Godfather II” for which she got a credit, and uncredited on pics like “Around the World in 80 Days” and “The Way We Were.”

Survivors include a daughter and five grandchildren.

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