Marilyn Miller as Sunny

From early 2013 to early 2014, Miller and the other 3 sculptures from the Miller Building disappeared for refurbishment while the building's facade was being renovated. Here's the cleaned-up version:

Marilyn Miller

Marilyn Miller, Star of Musical Comedy

Mary Ellen Reynolds (1/1/1898-4/7/1936) chose "Marilyn" as her stage name, thinking it would look catchier on a marquee than "Mary Miller." Her big break was catching the attention of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., who honed her talents at tap, ballet, singing, and acting, and put her in a starring role in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1918, alongside Eddie Cantor, W.C. Fields, and Will Rogers. In the 1920s she starred in Jerome Kern musicals such as Sally ("Look for the Silver Lining" became her signature song) and Sunny, Gershwin's Rosalie, and Youman's Smile, with Adele and Fred Astaire. Miller's salary of $3,000 per week made her the highest paid as well as the most popular Broadway star of the time.

Marilyn Miller

Above: Marilyn Miller

On stage, she showed a child-like, delicate, sunny disposition. In her private life she was something of a diva, married to her third husband by her early 30s. (The second husband was the brother of Mary Pickford, whose sculpture stands next to her on the Miller Building.) Miller died at age 37 after surgery for recurrent nasal infections, complicated by alcoholism.

A former boyfriend and co-star of Miller who had taken up a career as Hollywood agent suggested to one of his new finds, Norma Jean Mortenson Doughtery, that she change her first name to "Marilyn," because she was as beautiful as Marilyn Miller. Marilyn Monroe eventually married Arthur Miller, which made her, too, "Marilyn Miller."

The Miller Building

Miller Building

This sculpture is on the façade of the I. Miller Building, which bears the motto “The show folks shoe shop dedicated to beauty in footwear.” Israel Miller, a Polish immigrant who excelled at making shoes for theater people, ran a public contest to find America's best-loved actresses to decorate the building's facade. The winners were (left to right) Ethel Barrymore (drama), Marilyn Miller (musical comedy - no relation to the shoemaker), Mary Pickford (movies), and Rosa Ponselle (opera).

Click here for a great series of before-and-after photos of the Miller Building, and here and here for more on the history of the building.

Further Reading