A Short Bio From Stage Beauty . Net (stagebeauty.net)

Maude Fealy was born Maude Hawke in Memphis, Tennessee on 3rd March, 1881. She was the daughter of Margaret Fealy, an actress of eighteen years standing, and later proprietor of a school of acting in Denver, Colorado. From an early age, Maude would occasionally appear with her mother on stage, so it was perhaps inevitable that she would follow in her mothers footsteps and pursue an acting career. She played in numerous childrens roles until the age of ten, when she was enrolled at the Highlees Academy in Memphis to complete her education.

Returning to the stage at the age of fourteen, she attracted the attention of prominent theatre producer Augustin Daly, who was so impressed at her portrayal of Juliet (in “Romeo and Juliet”) that he signed her to a five year contract. His unfortunate death soon after cancelled that contract however, whereupon she secured the role of ‘Eunice’ in a production of “Quo Vadis” at the New York Theatre (her first stage appearance in that city). Her performance in that role attracted the attention of celebrated actor/playwight William Gillette who invited her, still only sixteen years of age, to become his leading lady.

Gillette specialised in reprising the role of Sherlock Holmes, being virtually synonymous with the character on stage for over thirty years (it was Gillettes characterisation upon which Basil Rathbone would later base his own portrayal). Maude played the leading role of ‘Alice Faulkner’ in a production entitled “Sherlock Holmes”. After a short tour of the eastern USA the production arrived in London, where it opened at the Royal Lyceum in September 1901 and proved a considerable success with a run of over 200 performances. In London, rumours, which were widely reported in the press, began to circulate that Maude and Gillette, some thirty years her senior, had become engaged to be married. These rumours were vehemently denied by Maude’s mother in cablegrams which she sent to news agencies on both sides of the Atlantic and no such marriage ever took place.

After two seasons with Gillette, Maude returned to the USA, where she would spend each of the next few summers in “stock” at Elitch’s Garden in Denver. For the winter seasons, Maude was next engaged as leading lady by E.S. Willard and appeared in a number of roles in his theatre company. Next came a run in “Hearts Courageous” (co-starring with Orin Johnson) at the Broadway Theatre in New York, then in “That Man and I” at the Savoy Theatre in New York.

In 1906 Maude signed to a five year contract with the west coast theatrical producer John Cort. During the term of her contract she would appear in a number of Cort’s productions beginning with ‘The Illusion of Beatrice’ (a comedy by Martha Morton) adding substantially to her already growing reputation.

Maude’s next romantic involvement was with one Lewis Hugo Sherwin, a young Englishman who was at the time working as a drama critic for the Denver Republican. Fearing her mothers reaction, the couple secretly married in July of 1907. Her mothers disapproval was in fact as bitter as before and under pressure from her and Maude’s stepfather, orchestra leader Rafaello Cavello, the couple agreed to live apart for a year. The marriage did not survive the separation and they divorced in September 1909. Only two months later Maude married again, this time seemingly with her mothers approval, to the American actor James Peter Durkin. This marriage would last for eight years before it too ended in divorce.

Maude was by now a well-reknowned stage actress. She was also a petite and stunningly beautiful young woman, her delicate features framed with long dark wavy hair and highlighted by piercing blue eyes. She had already appeared in occasional film roles for the Thanhouser film company when, in April 1913, they signed her to a three year contract to be their leading lady in upcoming productions. Her husband James Durkin also being signed on as a director. Thanhouser obviously viewed Maude’s capture as something of a coup and she was featured in their advertising more than any other player.

The next few years saw Maude dividing her time between film and stage commitments. Her marriage to James Durkin ended in June 1917, and having already split from Thanhouser some time previously, she then set up her own theatre company based in Denver where she produced a number of plays – including one she had penned herself entitled ‘Shadow Lights’.

In January 1920 she married her third husband, John Cort Jr. Unfortunately the union was no better fated than her previous marriages and ended in an anullment in 1923.

Her success on stage continued however, and throughout the 1920’s she continued to be seen in numerous plays across across America. The 1930’s also saw her reappearance on film (although in generally lesser roles than those she had commanded earlier). In the early 1940’s she returned to Denver to teach dramatics, later relocating to Hollywood to do the same, whilst still appearing herself in occasional film roles (mainly for Cecille B. DeMille with whom she had become firm friends). Her last screen appearance was in DeMille’s 1956 epic ‘The Ten Commandments’ for which she also did voiceovers for some of the other players.

When Maude returned to Denver to retire in 1957, she was essentially alone, unmarried, and her mother and stepfather both having died two years previously. The stage had been a major feature of her life and it was not long before she was tempted back to appear in a few more productions before taking her final stage bow in 1961.

Maude Fealy passed away peacefully in her sleep on November 9th, 1971, in Woodland Hills, California (where she had been hospitalised at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital with arteriosclerosis).

Movie Credits (source http://www.imdb.com)
1911 – David Copperfield
1912 – Aurora Floyd
1913 – The Legend of Provence [Sister Angela]
1913 – Moths [Vere]
1914 – Frou Frou [Frou Frou]
1914 – Pamela Congreve
1915 – Bondwomen [Norma Ellis]
1916 – Pamela’s Past
1916 – The Immortal Flame [Ada Forbes]
1917 – The American Consul [Joan Kitwell]
1931 – Laugh and Get Rich [Miss Teasdale]
1937 – Race Suicide
1938 – The Buccaneer [Wife u/c]
1938 – Bulldog Drummond’s Peril [u/c]
1939 – Union Pacific [Woman u/c]
1940 – Emergency Squad [Mother u/c]
1944 – Gaslight [u/c]
1947 – The Unfaithful [Old Maid u/c]
1947 – A Double Life [Woman u/c]
1956 – The Ten Commandments
u/c = uncredited

“Reproduced courtesy of Don Gillan (Copyright), http://www.stagebeauty.net”

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Published in: on June 25, 2007 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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