May McAvoy was the silent screen beauty who played Esther to Ramon Novarro's Ben Hur in the film classic of the same name and Al Jolson's girlfriend in the historic talkie "The Jazz Singer."
A petite brunet with wide eyes, she was know for her portrayal of innocent heroines and her ability to project "a gentle purity," as biographers have noted.
Her big success came in "Sentimental Tommy," a 1921 movie adaption of a James M. Barrie story. Paramount signed her and she went to Hollywood already an established star.
In 1923, the year she reigned as queen of Pasadena's Tournament of Roses, she refused an offer from Cecil B. DeMille to appear scantily dressed in his production "Adam's Rib," and bought out the remainder of her contract at Paramount to freelance.
As a freelancer, she appeared in such films as "The Enchanted Cottage," with Richard Barthelmess, and "Lady Windermere's Fan," with Ronald Colman.
Warner Bros. signed her to a contract in 1927 and cast her in several roles before giving her the leading female role in the "The Jazz Singer."
McAvoy abandoned her career after her 1929 marriage to Maurice G. Cleary, a United Artists and later Lockheed executive. In 1940, MGM signed her as a contract player and she worked in bit parts and as an extra into the 1950s.