Today is the birthday of Fannie Ward (Fannnie Buchanan, 1872-1952). She began acting in local companies in her native St. Louis as a teenager. moving to New York for her career in 1889. She became a part of Charles Frohman’s stock company, acting in major roles for him throughout the 1890s both in New York and in London. In 1898 she retired (for the first time) to become the wife of London diamond tycoon Joseph Lewis.
By 1910 the couple were drawing apart; Fannie returned to the states and began touring big time vaudeville with a series of one-act playlets, some melodramatic, some lightly comic. In 1913, she divorced Lewis and married actor Jack Dean (who would later co-star in many of her films). Starting in 1915 she became a major silent movie star, starting with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Cheat. After a couple of dozen films, she retired again in the early 20s when her daughter married into the British aristocracy (although throughout the decade she emerged repeatedly to take major vaudeville dates at the Palace and other venues). She had always been known for her beauty; in these latter years, her youthfulness was often also the subject of praise. Her last performance was in 1931.
Now here she is with Jack Dean and Sessue Hayakawa in The Cheat:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc