Born 1902 in Chicago, Illinois, American actress Mary Philbin began her acting career after winning a beauty contest sponsored by Universal Pictures in Chicago. After she moved to California, Erich von Stroheim signed her to a contract with Universal, deeming her a “Universal Super Jewel.”
Philbin made her screen debut in 1921, and the following year was honored at the first WAMPAS Baby Stars awards, a promotional campaign sponsored by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers in the United States, which annually honored young women whom they believed to be on the threshold of movie stardom.
During the 1920s, Philbin starred in a number of high-profile films, most notably in D. W. Griffith’s 1928 film Drums of Love. In 1927, she appeared in the horror film Surrender, though her most celebrated role was in the Universal horror film The Phantom of the Opera in 1925.
Philbin played a few parts during the early talkie era and most notably dubbed her own voice when The Phantom of the Opera was given sound and re-released. She retired from the screen in 1930 and devoted her life to caring for her aging parents.
Philbin never married and rarely made public appearances. She died of pneumonia at age 90 in 1993. Take a look at these gorgeous photos to see the beauty of a young Mary Philbin in the 1920s.