Life seems to have imitated art in the life of child film
star Baby Marie Osborne, according to an obituary for her in the New York
Times. “She was cast as an orphan, a child of social climbers, the charmer of a
crotchety millionaire, a diplomat, a cupid,” but her real life was equally
With its triumphs, setbacks, poignant struggles and
unpredictable turns, her life churned with the stuff of silent films. She was
born Helen Alice Myres in Denver on Nov. 5, 1911, the daughter of Roy and Mary
Myres. She soon became — under mysterious circumstances — the child of Leon and
Edith Osborn, who called her Marie and added the “e” to the surname, apparently
to obscure the adoption.
When the Osbornes Found work in Hollywood in 1914 they took
baby Marie along to the studios with them and the cute kid was soon signed up.
Next thing, she had her own production studio and was churning out Baby Marie movies.
She retired at age 8 and might have lived happily ever after — if it were not
for trouble at home.
Behind the scenes, her parents squabbled over custody, money
and infidelities. In 1919, Baby Marie’s career waned. She made a last film,
“Miss Gingersnap,” and retired. In 1920, The New York American ran a cautionary
tale of lost money and bitter divorce under a banner headline: “How Baby
Marie’s Big Salary Ruined Her Happy Home.”
Her adult life started out in an unpromising way with an
unhappy marriage, but, just when all seemed lost, it took a turn worthy of
In 1933, as her first marriage deteriorated, Ms. Osborne took a job in a
dime store. It was a low point. Then came an astonishing call from the
superintendent of the Colorado Children’s Home, who informed her that she had
been adopted as an infant by the Osbornes! And that a man who said he was her
real father, H. L. Shriver, had become a tycoon!! And that he had left her a
Things looked up after that — you can read how at The Times
— and Ms Osborne lived, perhaps happily enough, to the age of 99.
I suppose if today’s attitude to unplanned pregnancy and adoption
had prevailed in 1911, little Helen Alice Myers would never have seen the light
of day. Hollywood — and US society at large — would have been that much
poorer, at least in entertainment. And Mr Shriver, if he was really her father,
might never have acknowledged his paternity, but left this money to Margaret
Sanger’s Birth Control League. The real story of Baby Marie Osborne is so much
better than that.