Margaret Wycherly: “In Self Defense”

Today is the birthday of Margaret Wycherly (1881-1956). Born in London, she began her stage career in 1898. She made her vaudeveville debut in 1906 in a Protean act called “In Self Defense” in which she portrayed six different characters. From 1905 through 1947 she was almost constantly on Broadway in straight plays and comedies, essaying the works of Shaw, Ibsen, Pirandello, Elmer Rice, et al. Her most notable success was in the seven year run of Tobacco Road. Her film career was more sporadic, but also had its high points. There was The Thirteenth Chair (1929, written by her husband Bayard Veiller, directed by Tod Browning, and featuring Bela Lugosi), Sargeant York, with Gary Cooper (1941), The Yearling, with Gregory Peck (1946), and White Heat, with James Cagney (1949). She continued acting until her last days. Readers, write in! I haven’t been able to ascertain if she is descended from the Restoration playwright.

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.


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