THE TRIAL OF MARY DUGAN
Produced and Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released: June 8, 1929
Featured cast: Norma Shearer, Raymond Hackett, Lewis Stone, H.B. Warner, Lilyan Tashman
Producer: Irving Thalberg
Director: Bayard Veiller
Screenwriters: Becky Gardiner, Bayard Veiller
Source: The Trial of Mary Dugan, a play by Bayard Veiller
Cinematographer: William Daniels
Did the chorus girl murder her “protector” or was she set up?
“Norma Shearer has been cast as the lead in The Trial of Mary Dugan, which its author Bayard Veiller will direct, as M-G-M’s second all-talker. The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, slated as Miss Shearer’s next vehicle, has been postponed.”
- “Mary Dugan for Norma Shearer,” The Film Daily, November 23, 1928
“The Trial of Mary Dugan was called to order at M-G-M studio Friday morning [December 21], with Bayard Veiller directing. A complete courtroom was built on one of the soundstages, and all scenes will be taken there, following the sequence of the stage play.”
- “Mary Dugan All Talker Now in Work,” The Film Daily, December 23, 1928
“Norma Shearer, the waxy, ephemeral beauty of a score of light romances of the screen, invests Bayard Veiller’s skillful lines with a tragic power that frankly astounded this observer. No cheap histrionics for her—no spurious assumption of virtue. All in all, we are prepared to say the The Trial of Mary Dugan is the best talking picture so far made."
- A.M. Sherwood Jr. in Outlook, April 17, 1929
“For Norma Shearer the picture is a vindication and a triumph, the former because it validates her claim to stardom in the minds of some of us for the first time, and the latter because in her first talking picture she skillfully combines the technique of both stage and screen and emerges as an actress of greater individuality than she ever revealed in silent pictures. From now on she must be recognized as a leader on the audible screen, whose pictures will be awaited with keenest interest.”
- Norbert Lusk in the Los Angeles Times, April 7, 1929
“Norma Shearer is the first lady of the talkies. She proves it in The Trial of Mary Dugan. With no stage training to give her confidence, Miss Shearer steps quietly into a most difficult role and she handles it like a veteran. Her poise, her voice, and her artistry eclipse many actors of long standing. She is truly superb.
- Delight Evans in Screenland, June, 1929
LETTER FROM REGIONAL THEATER OWNER
“Good for its kind. Had fair business. Paid too much for rental. Would advise barring children, as this is exclusively an adult picture. Recording on disc very good.”
- W.J. Powell, Lonet Theatre, Wellington, Ohio, Exhibitors Herald World, December 21, 1929
“Who could imagine me playing a chorus girl accused of murder? Certainly not Mr. Mayer or Mr. Thalberg. But I could. I met the playwright Bayard Veiller while he was crossing the lot one day and told him how much I admired his play and asked if he would give me a chance to read the part for him. The result was good, and he, on a wave of enthusiasm, went to Mr. Thalberg and told him he thought I should play Mary Dugan.”
- Norma Shearer, Memoir Notes
The Trial of Mary Dugan cost $402,000 and grossed $1,434,000. Its profit of $421,000 confirmed that Norma Shearer had made a successful transition to sound films.
(These figures have not been adjusted for inflation nor do they include profits from reissues, television syndication, and home entertainment formats.)