Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Style Icon: Mary Ann Jackson

This past weekend I went to the Silent Film Theater in my town. Silent films are kind of big around here; our claim to fame is that we had a silent film production company based here and Charlie Chaplin shot five films here. While Charlie Chaplin was absent from the theater on the day we went, Our Gang short was more than happy to fill us with laughter. Modern audiences may recognize Our Gang by another name, The Little Rascals. While appreciated the humor of the story centering on a devil man tricking the children into doing their chores, I was fixated on little Miss Mary Ann Jackson's style.

Mary Ann was the tomboy of the group. She entered the Our Gang series of films at the tail end of its silent film life. In fact, the film I saw was the last Our Gang silent films. She proved a valuable addition to the gang as they moved into talkies, with her snappy delivery of lines.

Our Gang was actually just a series of comedic films following the adventures of poor children. There was no storyline that tied the films together-- in one film the children are orphans, in another neighbors, and in yet another siblings--but the films were tied together by the basic idea and cast. There was no Spanky or Alfalfa. The Little Rascals characters we know didn't come about until later in their talkie years.

Even though Mary Ann was just a little girl when she appeared on the show, I could easily envision her style on a young women. This picture is actually from the film I saw this weekend. Floral minidress and are those cowboy boots? A girl after my own heart. In the film, she was wearing brown saddle shoes with socks with the dress, which was also amazing. I love that she's a tomboy who wears dresses everyday. She's tough and smart and cool and can roll with the boys in a floral minidress and lacy socks.

Mary Ann Jackson was no Shirley Temple. She wasn't a beauty and egregariously girly and cute. At age 8, Mary Ann left Hollywood feeling it was "sick" for children to distort themselves to fit into Hollywood roles. She died of a heart attack in 2003 and apparently she took to wearing '50s garb in her old age. I see what I was drawn to about her when I saw her in the film. She easily outshined her Shirley Temple clone castmate. I only wish she had been in more films. Katherine Hepburn, eat your heart out. Mary Ann Jackson is my retro tomboy style idol.

Mary Ann Jackson's Wiki
All images from Silent Ladies and Gents

Florals and Cowboy Boots, O my!
Ivy Frozen

P.S. The last picture doesn't have Mary Ann in it but I love the little girl's dress. Again, it seems like modern young woman wear.


Anne said...

My 7 year old looks almost identical to Mary Ann. When we saw the resemblance, it was scary! I'm totally intrigued by Mary Ann now!

Ivy Frozen said...

Oh my! That's awesome!

Richie said...

Thank you for your wonderful writeup on Mary Ann. I love the pictures. You are soo right... she had a style all of her own.

When I saw her in "Wiggle your Ears" (1929 Our Gang silent), she displayed an incredible range of emotions and stole every scene with her one-of-a-kind personality...

Mary Ann brought a lot of joy to many, many people and wish she made more films after she left Our Gang. Sad that she is gone :(