In 1934, Mrs. Mary C. Hayes became the centerpiece of a poster that was placed in 25,000 English-speaking theaters throughout the world. Mrs. Hayes was chosen as the model by famous Ipswich artist M. Leone Bracker (1885 – 1937) as the personification of the great body of movie-goers. The theme of this poster was, “Forgetting a Thousand Cares,” the first in a series of posters that the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America distributed for exhibition in virtually every theater lobby in the country. Each poster carried a message dramatizing “the Service of the Screen to the Community.”
Bracker had returned to Ipswich from a discouraging hunt in New York City for the perfect face for the poster. Emery Bragdon, manager of the Strand Theater suggested Mrs. Hayes for the model. He had noticed her at the theater, her eyes shining and lost in the world of the silver screen. Bracker’s wife agreed, and she gave Mrs. Hayes a call. To Bracker’s delight, Mary had the very face he was seeking. Although only 63 years of age, she depicted perfectly the image of a care-worn woman who knew toil and trouble, but retained her dreams and a warm smile. As a thank-you, Mary was given a lifetime pass to the Strand Theater and all of the Paramount Theaters in Boston.
The Ipswich Chronicle wrote, “In Ipswich is the one woman whose face has been portrayed to more men, women and children in this nation than any other woman alive, with the possible exception of the President’s wife. The face of the ‘Little Old Lady from Ipswich’ has been viewed by more than 80,000,000 people in America, Canada, Great Britain and Australia,”
Thanks to Sheilah Bodwell for providing information for this article.
- “The Motion Picture and the Family” January 15, 1935
- Ipswich Chronicle
- Boston Sunday Herald, February 20, 1935