Early life and career
Born Mary Tomlinson in Boggstown, Indiana, Main attended Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, and adopted a stage name to avoid embarrassing her father, Samuel J. Tomlinson (married to Jennie L. McGaughey), who was a minister. She worked in vaudeville on the Chautauqua and Orpheum circuits, and debuted on Broadway in 1916. Her first film was A House Divided in 1931.
Main began playing upper class dowagers, but was ultimately typecast in abrasive, domineering, salty roles, for which her distinct voice was well suited. She repeated her stage role in Dead End in the 1937 film version, and was subsequently cast repeatedly as the mother of gangsters. She again transferred a strong stage performance, as a dude ranch operator in The Women, to film in 1939. She made six films with Wallace Beery in the 1940s including Barnacle Bill (1941), Jackass Mail (1942), and Bad Bascomb (1946). She played Sonora Cassidy, the chief cook, in The Harvey Girls (1945). The director, George Sidney, says in the comments on the film that Ms. Main was a "great lady" as well as a great actress who donated most of her paychecks over the years to the support of a school.
Personal life and death
Main married Stanley LeFevre Krebs, who died in 1935. Three authors, Boze Hadleigh, Axel Madsen, and Darwin Porter, have asserted that Main was a lesbian.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.