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Adams, Edwin (03 February 1834–28 October 1877), actor, was born in Medford, Massachusetts. Little is known about his parents or childhood. He made his professional debut in 1853 in Boston, where he appeared at the National Theatre as Stephen in Sheridan Knowles’s The Hunchback...

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Adler, Jacob Pavlovich (12 February 1855–31 March 1926), actor, was born in Odessa, South Russia, the son of Feivel (Pavel) Abramovitch Adler and Hessye Halperin, both of the orthodox Jewish faith. He was educated in Hebrew school, but because of his father’s failure in business he was sent to work at any early age in a textile factory. His youth was dominated by a desire for pleasure that led him into bad company, but a new and all-absorbing interest in the Russian theater saved him from what he called the “grave moral danger” of this period. His enthusiasm for a leading Odessa actress came to her attention, and at her request the sixteen-year-old Adler became the leader of her clacque. In this post, which he held for several years, he saw the plays of Shakespeare, Schiller, and Ostrovsky, and the realistic acting of the Russian theater remained his ideal throughout his later life....

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Adler, Luther (04 May 1903–08 December 1984), stage, film, and television actor, was born in New York City, the son of Jacob Pavlovich Adler, founder of the American Yiddish theater movement, and Sara Levitzkaya Adler, an actress. While all of the children acted professionally, only Luther and his sister ...

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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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Albert, Eddie (22 April 1906–26 May 2005), actor and environmental activist, was born Edward Albert Heimberger in Rock Island, Illinois, the son of Frank Daniel Heimberger, a realtor, and Julia Jones. At the age of one his family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he attended parochial school before graduating from Central High School in 1924. He then entered the University of Minnesota where he majored in business and worked his way up to manager at the local theater. Young Eddie left school without graduating and worked a series of odd jobs before joining a singing trio that appeared on the local radio station. Tired of hearing his name mangled as “hamburger” he changed it to Eddie Albert, and after successfully auditioning at NBC he moved to New York with partner Grace Bradt to star in ...

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Aldrich, Louis (01 October 1843–17 June 1901), actor and theatrical manager, was born Louis Lyon. Aldrich led a difficult early life, though precise details about his childhood or parentage are scant. He is variously said to have been born in Germany, on a ship in passage to the United States, or in a small town in Ohio. After his father’s death and his mother’s subsequent remarriage, he was adopted by a Cincinnati, Ohio, family, which then moved to Cleveland. In an 1894 interview Aldrich commented that he had been on his own since childhood, touring with a manager as a child prodigy. In 1855, at age eleven, he made his stage debut performing the title role in ...

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Melissa Vickery-Bareford

Aldridge, Ira Frederick (24 July 1807–10 August 1867), actor, was the son of Daniel Aldridge, a minister, and Lurona (maiden name unknown). Though certain historical accounts record that he was born in Senegal, Africa, the grandson of the Fulah tribal chieftain, modern biographical scholarship proves that Aldridge was born in New York City and that while Fulah ancestry is possible, his lineal descent from tribal royalty is unconfirmed. Extant evidence concerning Aldridge’s life is largely sketchy, conflicting, or exaggerated, possibly due in part to the aggrandizements of theatrical publicity....

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Anders, Glenn (01 September 1889–26 October 1981), actor, was born Charles Glenn Anders in Los Angeles, California, the son of Charles Gustave, a contr and Etta Arvilla Slade. His father was born in Sweden, and his mother, whose ancestors were Scotch-Irish, was born in Vermont. Both parents were strict Methodists and initially opposed his intention to become an actor. After Anders graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1908, his mother persuaded his father to let him attend the local Wallace Dramatic School. His first professional stage appearance came in a bit part in the Los Angeles Stock Company’s production of ...

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Backus, Charles (20 October 1831–21 June 1883), actor and minstrel troupe founder, was born in Rochester, New York, the son of a prominent physician. His parents’ names are unknown. Backus’s grandfather Azel Backus was the first president of Hamilton College and a deeply religious man. Despite the Backus family plans of a literary or professional career for Charley, the young boy’s affinity for comedic imitation was apparent from his earliest school days. After completing his public school education, Backus made his acting debut in 1851 in the role of Jerry Clip in ...

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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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Daniel J. Watermeier

Bangs, Frank C. (12 October 1833–12 June 1908), actor, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the son of David Barnwell Bangs and Margaret Cannon. As a teenager, he worked on a Washington, D.C., newspaper as a typesetter and writer; then, urged by his mother, he studied briefly for the ministry. But from the age of thirteen, he was determined to be an reportedly after seeing ...

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Barnabee, Henry Clay (14 November 1833–16 December 1917), singer and actor, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of Willis Barnabee and Mary (maiden name unknown). His father was a stagecoach driver who became an innkeeper. Willis Barnabee’s wife was cook, and his adolescent son Henry was odd-jobs man and at times bartender....

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Barrett, George Horton (09 June 1794–05 September 1860), actor and theatrical manager, was born in Exeter, England, the son of Giles Leonard Barrett, a popular provincial actor, and a highly esteemed tragic actress widely known in London by her professional name, “Mrs. Rivers.” Barrett’s father immigrated in 1796 to the United States, where after a moderately successful acting career he became manager of the Federal Street Theatre in Washington, D.C. It is believed that Barrett made his first appearance on stage in 1798 as one of the children in ...

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Barrett, Lawrence (04 April 1838–20 March 1891), actor, manager, and sometime theater historian, was born in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of an indigent Irish-born tailor whose name is variously reported as Thomas Barrett and Thomas Brannigan, though Lawrence insisted on the former. His authorized biography records only his mother’s first name (Agnes), further indication of difficult early years. By the age of ten he had left home for employment in the linens department of a dry goods store in Detroit. Entirely self-educated, he was an avid reader of Shakespeare and at age fifteen turned to the stage as a career, his first role being that of Murad in ...

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Barry, Thomas (27 July 1798–11 February 1876), actor and stage manager, was born in England. Nothing else is known about his birth, parentage, childhood, or education. He made his first appearance in the United States on 16 December 1826 at the Park Theatre, New York City, in the title role in August von Kotzebue’s ...

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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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Robert Benchley. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108029).

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Benchley, Robert (15 September 1889–21 November 1945), humorist, drama critic, and actor, was born Robert Charles Benchley in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Charles H. Benchley, the mayor’s clerk, and Maria Jane Moran. After the death of his older brother Edmund in the Spanish-American War, an event that stunned Benchley’s family, Edmund’s fiancée, Lillian Duryea, largely financed Robert’s education. Benchley attended Phillips Exeter Academy, where his bent for satire early revealed itself when his assigned essay on “a practical subject,” embalming, earned an ...

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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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Blake, William Rufus (1805–22 April 1863), actor and theater manager, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Little is known of his parents except that his father was a descendant of the Blakes of Galway, Ireland. His father died when he was young; his mother apparently saw to his education, intending that he would either enter the mercantile trade or, as one obituary suggests, become a doctor or surgeon. When Blake was seventeen he attended a performance given by a strolling theater company visiting Halifax, and he decided to pursue a career in the theater. His first stage role was as the prince of Wales in ...