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The Actress Who Started the Craze of Dunking Your Doughnut

Neatorama presents a guest post from actor, comedian, and voiceover artist Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Ever hear of an actress named Mae Murray? Probably not. Only real die-hard movie fans, experts and aficionados know Mae. Mae was a very popular and successful actress in the silent movie days of the 1920s. She was actually majorly hot, very pretty, a great sex symbol of her time.

Mae was known as "the girl with the bee-stung lips,” for her trademark "bee-stung" lips with bee-sting lipstick on them. She did a movie with Rudolph Valentino, but her biggest hit was the 1925 silent film The Merry Widow. Mae played the title role and co-starred with the legendary silent film actor, John Gilbert.

It was sometime in the 1920's that Mae began a national craze. It probably happened at New York's famous deli “Lindy's" (although one book says it occurred at New York's Roseland Ballroom). Mae was having coffee and a doughnut, when she happened to drop her doughnut in her coffee. She tried the coffee-infested doughnut, loved it, and started raving to all of her friends about her marvelous new and tasty discovery.

Movie stars, being popular, powerful, and very influential, the doughnut-dunking craze swept the nation. And Mae Murray had her little bit of dining immortality.

Probably the most famous doughnut-dunking scene in movie history was Clark Gable teaching Claudette Colbert the correct way to dunk in the Oscar-winning It Happened One Night (1934). But as far I know, the very first doughnut-dunker in movie history was Groucho Marx, who walks by and dunks his doughnut in a bystander's cup of coffee in 1933's Duck Soup.

The National Dunking Association was soon formed and its members included Johnny Carson, Zero Mostel, Pearl Buck, Martha Graham, and Red Skelton. Jimmy Durante ran for president of the association. (You can't make this stuff up!)

But whatever happened to the first doughnut dunker, Mae Murray?

Well, Mae was under contract to MGM and was doing just fine, churning out movies. But she married her fourth husband, “Prince" David Mdivani, and he became her manager. Mdivani advised Mae to leave MGM. She did, infuriating studio head Louis B. Mayer.

Her next films were unsuccessful, and in every actress's (or actor’s, or anybody's) worst nightmare, she had to crawl back to Mayer and humbly beg for her old job back. Mayer proved unforgiving and unsympathetic and Mae's movie career never recovered. Her film career now effectively over, she divorced Mdivani in 1934 and never remarried.

Years later, Mae did a stage act at Billy Rose's Horseshoe nightclub in New York's Times Square. Rose's club often presented stars of the past for nostalgic value. She wore a short skirt and plunging necklines, she buried her face beneath layers of thick make-up. Her revealing "sexy" outfits were more fitting for younger girls, but she still wore them, despite her more "mature" figure. She always refused to acknowledge her age.

Onstage, she reminisced about her earlier movie career and did a “Merry Widow Waltz.” Reviews were mixed, but the waltz always proved popular with the club's crowds.

Mae produced a few minor films in the late '40's and early '50's. She lived out the remainder of her life in poverty. She took up residence at the Motion Picture House in Woodland Hills, California, a retirement community for Hollywood professionals. Mae Murray died there in 1965 at the age of 75.

So maybe the next time you're enjoying a doughnut and coffee, you can dunk your doughnut in tribute, and give a happy thought to Mae Murray, without whom we’d all be eating our doughnuts dry.


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Never been a coffee drinker so I haven't had the pleasure but dunking in milk...now there's a treat! I swear...you come up with the greatest subjects Eddie!
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