Marilyn Miller was a musical comedy star whom Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfield once called the greatest box-office attraction in the country.
Miller's parents were vaudeville performers, and she joined the family song-and-dance team at age 5.
With her parents and two older sisters, she made her theatrical debut at Lakeside Park in Dayton, Ohio. She was billed as “the little lump of sugar,” which accounted for the inappropriate nickname, “Lumpy,” that followed her through life.
Finding it difficult to obtain bookings because of the laws that restricted theatrical employment of children in this country, the family went abroad and toured foreign countries for a decade.
Then one night in London, producer Lee Shubert saw Miller dancing at the Lotus Club and immediately brought her to New York, where she appeared in the chorus of his “Passing Shows” of 1914, 1915, 1916 and 1917.
In 1920, at the age of 22, she attained stardom in “Sally,” a Ziegfeld production.
After a three-year run, from 1920 to 1923, she broke with Ziegfeld over financial matters and went under the aegis of Charles Dillingham, who produced her greatest success, “Sunny,” in which she costarred with Jack Donahue. As one of the first musical comedy stars lured to Hollywood by large contracts, she later appeared in a motion picture version of “Sunny.” She reunited with Ziegfeld in 1927 and made “Rosalie” and “Smiles” under his management.
She was married to Jack Pickford, brother of actress Mary Pickford, from 1922 to 1927.