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Eugenie Besserer
Eugenie Besserer 01.JPG
Besserer in 1914
Marseilles, France
DiedMay 29, 1934(1934-05-29) (aged 64–65)
Resting placeCalvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1910–1933
Albert W. Hegger
(m. 1885)

Eugenie Besserer (1869/1870 – May 29, 1934)[1] was an American actress who starred in silent films and features of the early sound motion-picture era, beginning in 1910. Her most prominent role is that of the title character's mother in the first talkie film, The Jazz Singer.

Early life

Born in Marseilles, France, Besserer attended the Convent of Notre Dame in Ottawa, Canada.[1] She was taken by her parents to Ottawa, Ontario, as a girl, and spent her childhood there. She was left an orphan and escaped from her guardians at the age of 12. She came to New York City and arrived at Grand Central Station with only 25 cents (Canadian currency, equivalent to US$0.34 at the time) in her pocket. She managed to locate a former governess, with the assistance of a street car conductor, who helped Eugenie locate an uncle, with whom she lived. She continued her education there.


Besserer's initial theatrical experience came with McKee Rankin when the producer had Nance O'Neill as a star. Soon, she appeared with notable stage actors including Frank Keenan and Wilton Lackaye. As a youth, she played a juvenile part with Maurice Barrymore. She performed a season at Pike's Opera House in Portland, Oregon. Another season, Besserer acted in a drama opposite Henry Kolker. The illness of her sister brought her to the West Coast, and she came to Hollywood in 1910 when films were just starting to be made.

In motion pictures, Eugenie was usually cast in mother roles, most famously as the mother of Al Jolson's character in The Jazz Singer. Eugenie became associated with the Selig Polyscope Company. A significant part for the actress was her role as Aunt Ray Innis in The Circular Staircase (1915), based on the novel by Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Personal life

When Besserer was 15, she married art dealer Albert W. Hegger. They had one daughter.[1]


On May 29, 1934, Besserer died at her Hollywood home, aged 64.[1] A funeral mass was held at St. Theresa's Church, with a rosary service at Edwards Brothers Colonial Mortuary, Venice Boulevard, in Los Angeles. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles.

Selected filmography

The Sacrifice (1916)
The Sacrifice (1916)





  1. ^ a b c d "Eugenie Besserer". The New York Times. Associated Press. May 31, 1934. p. 19. Retrieved June 6, 2021.