Mary Duncan (Mary Annie Dungan)

Mary Duncan

Mary Duncan was born Mary Annie Dungan in Northumberland County, Virginia, the sixth of eight children born to Capt. William Dungan and his wife, Ada Thaddeus Douglass. She attended Cornell University before settling on acting as a career. She began her career as a child actress playing on the Broadway stage from 1910. In 1926 she played “Poppy” in the smash hit and controversial play The Shanghai Gesture, in which Florence Reed played her mother (known as “Mother Goddam”). Reed’s character kills her daughter in a startling end to the play. This play was turned into a very sanitized film in 1941 with Gene Tierney. Mary Duncan also starred in the 1930 film City Girl by director F.W. Murnau. Duncan’s last film appearance was in the 1933 film Morning Glory, which starred Katharine Hepburn.┬áMary Duncan met and married Stephen “Laddie” Sanford, who was an international polo player as well as director of the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company, in 1933, after which she retired from films. They remained married until his death in 1977. She spent much of her remaining years working with several major charities, and earned a reputation as a socialite in Palm Beach, Florida. She kept herself active by playing golf twice a week and swimming every morning before breakfast, which helped her maintain her size 8 figure. As an actress, she had followed the ministrations of Sylvia of Hollywood to keep her shape.┬áMary Duncan died in her sleep aged 97. She was survived by a niece and great-niece, and she was the last known person to have in her possession a copy of the lost Murnau film 4 Devils; Martin Koerber, curator of Deutsche Kinemathek, has speculated that her heirs may still have the valuable print somewhere.

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  • August, 13, 1895
  • USA
  • Luttrellville, Virginia


  • May, 09, 1993
  • USA
  • Palm Beach, Florida


  • Green Hill Cemetery
  • Amsterdam, New York
  • USA

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