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Aiken, George L. (19 December 1830–27 April 1876), actor and playwright, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Lemuel G. Aiken, an actor, and Susan A. Wyatt. His “first remembrance [was] of a theater,” and it was not long before his services were enlisted in children’s roles at Boston’s Tremont Theatre. Douglas Jerrold’s ...

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Bacon, Frank (16 January 1864–19 November 1922), actor and author, was born in Marysville, California, the son of Lyddell Bacon, a rancher, and Lehella Jane McGrew. A few years after Frank’s birth, the family moved to San Jose, California. Bacon received little formal education and by the age of fourteen had left school to work in a photography studio. Until his early twenties, Bacon was intermittently employed as a photographer, a newspaper advertising solicitor, and a journalist. He started newspapers in Mountain View and Mayfield, California, and was for a time co-owner of the Napa ...

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Barrymore, Maurice (21 September 1849–25 March 1905), actor-playwright, was born Herbert Arthur Chamberlayne Hunter Blyth in Amritsar, India, the son of William Edward Blyth, a deputy commissioner, and Charlotte Matilda de Tankerville. At age ten, following the tradition of prominent Anglo-Indians, Herbert sailed for England to prepare for a direct appointment to the East India Company’s service. Bright, spirited, athletic, and strikingly handsome, he opted instead for the less restrictive pleasures of London, becoming, to the horror of his proper Victorian family, the middleweight boxing champion of England in 1872. That same year, going from bad to untenable in the estimate of his relatives, he made his acting debut on 1 April at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, as Cool in ...

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Bernard, John (1756–29 November 1828), actor and playwright, was born in Portsmouth, England, the son of John Bernard, a naval lieutenant, and Ann (maiden name unknown). From childhood, Bernard was fascinated with the stage. After seeing a play in London when he was seventeen, he ran away from home to join what he calls in his autobiography “a band of dramatic desperadoes.” By the time he was in his mid-twenties, he had worked his way through the theatrical ranks in touring and small resident companies to become a popular low-comedy actor in London’s Covent Garden Theater company. His repertoire, much of which would stand him in good stead for the rest of his life, included parts in ...

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Boucicault, Dion (27 December 1820–18 September 1890), dramatist, actor, and man of the theater, was born Dionysius Lardner Boursicault in Dublin, Ireland, possibly the illegitimate son of the Reverend Dr. Dionysius Lardner and Anna “Anne” Maria Darley, the wife of Samuel Smith Boursiquot, a wine merchant. After desultory schooling, supported by Lardner, at age fifteen he wrote his first play. He began work as a peripatetic actor in 1838 under the pseudonym of Lee Moreton, alternately adulated and attacked by critics, his strong Irish brogue by turns an asset and a liability. By 1839 his first play for the professional stage, ...

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Brougham, John (09 May 1810–07 June 1880), actor and playwright, was born in Dublin, Ireland, of Irish and French Huguenot parentage. Schooled at Trinity College, University of Dublin, he participated in amateur theatricals during his university years and attended productions by touring companies in Dublin....

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Denham, Reginald (10 January 1894–04 February 1983), director, playwright, and actor, was born in London, England, the son of Harry Barton Denham, a government civil servant, and Emily Constance Chapman, a music teacher. He attended the City of London School from 1904 until 1911 and then studied music and singing with Cairns James at the Guildhall School of Music in 1913. He made his stage debut in 1913 as a walk-on in ...

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Ditrichstein, Leo (06 January 1865–28 June 1928), actor and playwright, was born Leo James Ditrichstein in Tamesvar, Hungary, the son of Count Sigismond Ladislav Ditrichstein and Bertha von Etvoes, daughter of the renowned Austrian novelist Joseph von Etvoes. Ditrichstein apprenticed in Berlin and performed at the Royal Theater in Hamburg, where, because of his acting skills, he became the company’s leading actor. In 1890, at the request of Gustav Amberg, who hired German-speaking actors, Ditrichstein immigrated to the United States. He first appeared in German plays at the Amberg Theatre in New York while he studied English. After three years he had acquired fluency in English (although he spoke with a noticeable accent throughout his acting career), and he signed with ...

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Field, Joseph M. (1810–28 January 1856), actor, playwright, and humorist, was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of Matthew Field, a Catholic publisher; his mother’s name is unknown. When he was two, his family arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, and then moved to New York City. Field made his acting debut in 1827 at Boston’s Tremont Theatre in the fall of 1827. During the 1829–1830 season Field made his first New York appearance at the Park Theatre. He played Pierre in ...

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William Gillette Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92304).

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Gillette, William Hooker (24 July 1853–29 April 1937), actor and playwright, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the youngest of six children of Francis Gillette, a politician who once filled out an interim term as a U.S. senator, and Elizabeth Daggett Hooker. He early displayed histrionic abilities and was a leading orator in high school. Some uncertainty exists about his subsequent education. He claimed at one time or another to have studied at numerous colleges and universities, including Yale, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, and the City College of New York, but records show he was graduated from none of these. In his later years he did receive several honorary degrees, however, including one from Yale....

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Harrigan, Ned (26 October 1844–06 June 1911), playwright and actor, was born on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of William Harrigan, a sea captain and ship caulker, and Helen Rogers. Ned Harrigan, born Edward, left public school at fourteen, served a while as printer’s devil, and then apprentice ship caulker until he was eighteen. As a boy he learned much of minstrel stage business and old songs from his mother, who also taught him to play the banjo. And he saw minstrel shows, burlesques, Irish farces, and especially ...

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Herne, James A. (01 February 1839–02 June 1901), actor and playwright, was born James A’Herne in Cohoes, New York, the son of Patrick A’Herne and Ann Temple, Irish immigrants. At age thirteen James was put to work in the hardware store that employed his father, and later he worked in a brush factory. In 1859, after a stint with the barnstorming Coney and Webb Company, who produced “dog dramas” starring well-trained canines, he was hired by Troy’s Adelphi Theater, playing in ...

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Hodge, William Thomas (01 November 1874–30 January 1932), actor and playwright, was born in Albion, New York, the son of Thomas Hodge, a businessman and real estate agent, and Mary Anderson. He began his education in the Albion public schools and continued in the public schools of Rochester, New York, after his family moved there early in his childhood. In 1891, at the age of seventeen, he ran away from home determined to go on the stage. He began his career as a property man for the Hill Repertoire Company, which was managed by his brother Joseph. During his stay with this company and all through his apprentice years he gained experience in virtually all aspects of the theater, becoming a member of a number of lesser touring companies that frequented the small towns in New York. These early days also found him performing with companies in Canada and appearing in vaudeville in Chicago, Illinois....

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Kennedy, Charles Rann (14 February 1871–16 February 1950), playwright, actor, and producer, was born in Derby, England, the son of Edmund Hall Kennedy and Annie Leng Fawcett. He was the grandson and namesake of a famous Greek scholar and English barrister who was best known for his translations of Demosthenes’ orations. Educated at College School in Saltley of Birmingham, Kennedy initially intended to enter the Anglican priesthood but at the age of thirteen changed his mind and entered business as a clerk. At sixteen he began to write short stories, poetry, articles, and drama, became a lecturer, and cultivated a talent and desire for acting....

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Logan, C. A. (04 May 1806–22 February 1853), actor and playwright, was born Cornelius Ambrosius Logan on a farm near Baltimore, Maryland. He was descended on his father’s side from a line of upper-class Irish families who held large estates and figured prominently as officials both in the church and in government; but when his parents (whose names are unknown) immigrated to America, they took up farming. In 1814 his father was killed by British troops moving through Maryland, and Cornelius, one of eight children, was brought up by his mother. He prepared for the priesthood in the Roman Catholic faith at St. Mary’s College, where he learned some Latin and some principles of writing. When he was severely reproved by an older priest, he left the college and worked in a shipping house. From there he went to sea, a venture that took him to China. Returning to New York, Logan worked as a reporter and critic for a newspaper. With this experience—later he was characterized as a “man of letters”—Logan turned to the theater for a career....

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MacKaye, Steele (06 June 1842–25 February 1894), playwright, actor, and director, was born James Morrison Steele McKay in Buffalo, New York, the son of James Morrison McKay, a lawyer and president of Western Union, and Emily Steele. It is not known when he changed his name from McKay to MacKaye. In his youth MacKaye’s life was one of privilege, ease, and opportunity. At the age of sixteen he was sent to study in Paris at the École des Beaux Arts to develop his talent and interest in painting. He returned to the United States in 1859. At the outbreak of the Civil War MacKaye enlisted in the Union Army, and while his regiment was stationed in Baltimore he and fellow soldiers produced several amateur theatrical events. MacKaye seems to have been the star, playing Othello, Shylock, and Hamlet, among other roles, and playing them so impressively that he was offered but declined a professional engagement by ...

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Melissa Vickery-Bareford

Mann, Louis (20 April 1865–15 February 1931), actor and playwright, was born in New York City, the son of Daniel Mann and Carolina Hecht. At age three, he made his first stage appearance in Snowflake, a Christmas pantomime performed at the Stadt Theatre in New York. Educated in the New York public school system, Mann enrolled in the University of California, but he never finished a course. Instead, he dropped out of school and joined the McCullough & Barrett Stock company in San Francisco where he played boys’ parts. On his Sundays off from McCullough & Barrett he played with the General Stock Company. During this time he also performed with many of the leading performers who toured through San Francisco, including ...

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Manners, John Hartley (10 August 1870–19 December 1928), actor and playwright, was born in London, England, of Irish parentage. Little is known of his parents or his youth, but he was raised a Catholic, received a private education, and, in spite of his mother’s wish that he become a priest, entered the British civil service. Manners soon tired of that life and became an actor, making his first appearance in Melbourne, Australia, on 19 February 1898. He played small roles for a season and apparently wrote his first play, never produced because the immensely popular Victorien Sardou wrote a piece on the same subject for Sir Henry Irving that overshadowed the fledgling Manners’s effort. By April 1899 he had returned to London, performing with George Alexander’s company at the St. James’s Theatre and later with Johnston Forbes-Robertson’s troupe, where he played Laertes to that star’s Hamlet. In 1899, while acting in London, he wrote another play, a one-act for two characters called ...

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Mayo, Frank (18 April 1839–08 June 1896), actor and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of now unknown Irish parents about whom Mayo remained silent (perhaps because he was embarrassed about his poverty-stricken heritage). Although it is probable that Mayo received some basic elementary school education, little is known about his life up to age fourteen, when he left Boston by ship bound for California, hoping to strike it rich in the aftermath of the gold rush. Finding no success in the gold fields, Mayo wandered into theatrical life in San Francisco in 1855 or 1856, at first working at a variety of behind-the-scenes tasks and walk-on parts before advancing to speaking roles by July 1856. As a teenager, Mayo received valuable experience in a variety of roles and theatrical companies in California, for the most part in San Francisco but often touring through the mining country, acting in support of such stars as ...