Today is the birthday of Edith Taliaferro (1894-1958). Taliaferro was born into a theatrical family in Richmond Virginia. Not only were her parents in the theatre but so were her sister (Mabel Taliaferro) and her cousin (Bessie Barriscale). While her surname is Italian, her family doesn’t fit the customary American immigration profile: the Taliaferros had moved to the U.S. in the early years of the 17th century.
Taliaferro was a “legit” performer who had made her stage debut at age two. Her greatest successes were as a child actress, in roles like Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the the title parts in Polly of the Circus and, her most famous role, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. She was also in the original Broadway production of Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch. She acted on Broadway through 1935, and also appeared in three silent films: Young Romance (1915), The Conquest of Canaan, 1919 and Who’s Your Brother? Like many of the legit actresses of her day she also toured with one act plays in big time vaudeville, notably New York’s Palace Theatre. Sadly, she lost her vision in the late 1930s, forcing an early retirement from the theatre.
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.