Wilton Lackaye: The Original Svengali


Today is the birthday of Wilton Lackaye (William Andrew Lacky, 1861-1932). Lackaye was a major star of the legitimate stage starting with Francesca da Rimini in 1883. The biggest role of his career was that of Svengali in the original Broadway adaptation of George du Maurier’s Trilby in 1895; he re-created the role 20 years in the silent film starring Clara Kimball Young. Among dozens and dozens of other plays he was in on Broadway through his death in 1930, he also appeared in productions of Quo Vadis, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Trelawney of the Wells. He also appeared in nine films between 1914 and 1925 including an adaptation of Frank Norris’s The Pit. 

Vaudeville was also a very lucrative place for legit actors to ply their trade. Between 1912 and 1918, Lackaye made several tours of big time vaudeville, with the one act playlets Quits and The Bomb. 

He was also the president of the Lambs Club from 1906 to 1907. Lackaye’s portrait is hanging in the Lambs right now! We took this photo in  front of it at our W.C. Fields for President event in November, 2016:

Lauren Milberger as Gracie Allen, Glen Heroy as W.C. Fields; Lackaye portrait behind them

To find out more about vaudeville 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.

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