One of the favorite movies for my daughter when she was little was the Shirley Temple films. She would watch them over and over. She has always loved classic movies and it was something her and her grandmother shared since it was my mother who got her into watching those movies.
My mother remembered going to the movies as a little girl and watching them and even had a Shirley Temple doll that she loved.
In a lot of those movies Shirley played opposite a little girl who was either her rival or her friend.
That actress was Marcia Mae Jones, a rider in the Final Taxi at age 83.
Marcia will be remembered for many movies and TV roles but the one that I will not forget is when she played the crippled girl Clara Sesemann in 1937’s Heidi. In it Shirley Temple is Heidi and is sent to be Clara’s companion in Frankfurt but misses her grandpa in the mountains. I am surprised what a good actor this little girl was especially in the scene where she is struggling to walk while getting out of the wheelchair and leaning on Shirley.
Another film that shows the kind of child actress Marcia was is These Three (1936) and based on Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour. It is a drama set in an all-girls boarding school run by two women, and an angry student runs away from the school and to avoid being sent back she tells her grandmother that the two headmistresses are having a lesbian affair. The accusation proceeds to destroy the women’s careers, relationships and lives. In this version the lesbian affair is changed to the women having an affair with the same man. Marcia plays Rosalie, a girl who is bullied and threatens by the angry student. to such an extent that cinema goers were horrified at the intensity of the cruel treatment, and Marcia’s pitiful face was etched on their hearts.
Marcia Mae Jones started acting in films at age 2 and she was proud of the fact that she was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild at age 6. Although she never achieved the stardom of Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney, Jones played important roles in such films as “The Garden of Allah,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Champ.”
In an interview Jones remembers ‘The Little Princess’ (1939) with Shirley again. “They made a double of the outfits we wore so that if the scene wasn’t right we could change into the spare set quickly. Shirley has to throw ashes over me. I play a mean girl. The ashes were made out of corn flakes and flour. Horrible stuff. Shirley dumped the ashes on me, and then she went out the door and then when the director, Walter Lang, said, ‘Cut,’ she came back in and looked at me and went over to him and said, ‘Can we do that again?’ I wanted to kill her and run, but that’s with a child’s eye view. I was a mean girl in that film, and I didn’t like it at all, having played the nice girl in Heidi. I felt as if I were on the outside looking in. But Shirley’s mother did request me for The Little Princess despite me receiving as much fan mail as Shirley for Heidi.”
Jones played teenage roles in such films as “Let’s Go Collegiate” and “Secrets of a Co-Ed.” As a grown-up, she acted in television sitcoms and in Westerns such as “Wild Bill Hickock ,” “The Cisco Kid” and “The Life of Riley” and many of the Buster Keaton series. She did Peyton Place, Burns and Allen, The Joan Davis Show, and wound up on General Hospital. She did Mr.Ed, My Three Sons, Gomer Pyle and the short-lived Saturday morning show about Captain Marvel, Shazam!
Marcia Mae Jones had an acting career spanning 47 years and her last major film appearance was in 1973’s “The Way We Were.”