On E.H. Sothern

The great American stage actor Edward Hugh “E.H.” Sothern (1859-1933) was born on this day.

The son of prominent actor E.A. Sothern, he made his debut in his father’s starring vehicle Brother Sam in 1879. After touring Britain and America in various roles for eight years, the Frohman Brothers Charles and Daniel contracted him to be their leading man at the Lyceum Theatre stock company for a dozen years (1887-1899). Notable plays from this period included Lord Chumley (1888-89), The Prisoner of Zenda (1895), and The King’s Musketeer (1899). In 1896 he married actress Virginia Harned, the first American stage Trilby, with whom he was to co-star in several productions. In 1900 he opened in Hamlet; illness forced him to close in New York, and a tour was cut short by a fire in Cincinnati which destroyed all his sets. In 1901 he played Francois Villon in If I Were King, which was later adapted by Preston Sturges.

In 1904, he launched the defining relationship of his career, what began as a theatrical partnership with Julia Marlowe, and was formalized seven years later in marriage (he divorced Harned in 1910). Sothern and Marlowe appeared together in Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, MacBeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and Percy MacKaye’s Jeanne d’Arc. Other notable Sothern roles included Raskolnikov in an early adaptation of Crime and Punishment, as well as the title characters in Don Quixote (1908), Richelieu (1909), Charlemagne (1914), and David Garrick (1916). Sometimes, he starred in popular roles associated with his father, notably Lord Dundreary in Our American Cousin and a sequel called simply Lord Dundreary. He also starred in three films for Vitagraph: The Chattel (1916), An Enemy to the King (1916), and The Man of Mystery (1917). E.H. Sothern retired from acting in 1927, and toured the lecture circuit until his death in 1933.