May (1906-1955) was the
daughter of Miriam O’Leary. She made
her Broadway debut on September 11,
1919 in She Would and She Did at
the Vanderbilt Theatre. A try-out play
with Katharine Cornell followed, which
led to her spending the summer of 1919
with Cornell at the Bonstelle Detroit
Company. May was back on Broadway that
fall in The Outrageous Mrs. Palmer,
produced by the Shuberts at the 39th
Street Theatre in New York.
then entered motion pictures in 1921.
Her first was The Shark Master for
Universal. In the film she played
Flame Flower, a young Caucasian girl
deified by a South Seas native tribe.
Her co-star was Frank Mayo.
appeared opposite Richard Dix in her
second film, All’s Fair in Love
(1921) in which she played a young
wife hoodwinked into thinking her
husband was unfaithful. It was adapted
from a play by Thomas Buchanan, and
directed by E. Mason Hopper. This film
met with some considerable success
upon its original showings.
in 1922, Little Eva Ascends was
a comedy based on a Saturday Evening
Post short story. It told the travails
of a small time repertory company that
tours Uncle Tom’s Cabin to
small towns and villages. May’s
leading man was juvenile heart throb
released in 1922, was a fast paced
comedy written by Anita Loos and John
Emerson. Set in a South American
monarchy on the brink of a revolution,
May played opposite British actor
Basil Sydney and Edward Connelly. It
was directed by Victor Flemming.
returned to the Broadway stage on
October 24, 1924 in Clubs are
Trumps, produced at the Bijou
Theatre. The next season, she played
the leading role of Lady Teazel in
Sheridan’s School for Scandal at
Broadway’s Knickerbocker Theatre.
Opening December 6, 1925 it was a
lavish revival produced by theatre
legends George C. Tyler and Basil
Dean. May’s co-stars were Ian Hunter
and Henrietta Crosman.
then spent two years touring
Australia, playing the title role in The
Trial of Mary Dugan, and returned
to Broadway on March 1930 in House
Afire at the Little Theatre off
Times Square. The fall of that same
year saw her in Ladies All, a
long run hit that opened at the
Morosco Theatre on July 28, 1930. May’s
leading man was Preston Foster.
the run of Ladies All, she
married Edmund E. Thomas, a mortgage
broker, and following the out of town
tryout of Alley Cat in 1934,
she retired to domestic life. She
reemerged on October 15, 1938,
originating the role of Elizabeth
Edwards in Abe Lincoln in Illinois at
the Plymouth Theatre. Written by
Robert Sherwood, directed by Elmer
Rice, and designed by Jo Mielziner,
the production won the Pulitzer Prize
for drama that season. It was May
Collins’ longest run on Broadway.
World War II, with her husband an Air
Force captain, May came out of
retirement once again to tour in the
George Abbott hit Kiss and Tell.
In 1945, when May joined the Broadway
company of Kiss and Tell at the
Biltmore Theatre, it was major news
and her "comeback" received
participated in an early experiment in
television broadcasting in 1945, when Abe
Lincoln in Illinois Act II was
televised live. Also in the cast were
Stephen Courtleigh as Lincon, Wendell
K. Philips as Bill Herndon, and Vinton
Haworth. Vinton and May were distant
cousins. Subsequently, Vinton spelled
his last name Hayworth for
her husband’s discharge from
military service, May Collins again
retired from the stage. She died of
heart disease in 1955.