Today is the birthday of the popular Shakespearean actor Frederick Warde (1851-1935). His theatrical career began in his native England in the mid 1860s; he moved to the U.S. in 1874 to appear at Booth’s Theater at the suggestion of Dion Boucicault. He is said to have cut a deal with Maurice Barrymore in the late 1870s, divvying the country into territories and touring their own separate play units to them. On one of his western tours, Warde spotted a young actor in Denver named Douglas Fairbanks and persuaded him to try his luck in New York. Starting in the late 19th century, Warde began touring the Chautaqua circuit with his solo recitations of Shakespeare. In 1898 he added the vaudeville circuits to his itinerary, appearing at Proctor’s Fifth Avenue that year with a selection from Julius Caesar.
Warde is also notable for his involvement with several groundbreaking films. He starred in a 1912 version of Richard III which was rediscovered in 1996 and is now claimed by some to be the oldest extant American feature film. He also stars in a 1916 King Lear, also extant. He also appeared in an early talkie experiment, Frederick Warde Reads Poem: Sunset Reverie (1921).
And now, some of that King Lear. We live in a miraculous age.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
For more on silent film history 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