When I first moved to NYC in the dim, dark years of the 20th century, what is now the Stephen Sondheim Theatre was still known as Henry Miller’s Theatre, after the man who built it. I gave it little thought at the time, other than to wonder how on earth a Broadway house came to be named after a dirty novelist. But of course that was a different Henry Miller. OUR Henry Miller (John Pegge, 1859-1926) was one of the few people who actually bridged the era of 19th century theatre and modern Broadway.
Born in London, Miller began as a child performer in Canada, eventually spending time on the boards with the stock companies of Helena Modjeska and Augustin Daly. While acting with Daly’s company he met and worked with Bijou Heron (Helene Wallace Stoepel, 1863-1937), daughter of the popular actress Matilda Heron, American’s premier Camille, and composer Robert Stoepel. Bijou had previously acted with the likes of Fanny Davenport, Maurice Barrymore, and Dion Boucicault. As a child she had gained famed for playing the title character in an adaptation of Oliver Twist. Miller and Heron became acting partners and married in 1883.
Later Miller acted with Boucicault and Minnie Maddern Fiske at the Madison Square Theatre Company and became leading man at Charles Frohman’s stock company. Circa 1908 Miller became an impresario himself, presenting the likes of Laura Hope Crews, Ruth Chatterton, Walter Hampden, and Alla Nazimova. He built Henry Miller’s Theatre in 1918.
Miller and Heron had three children: Broadway producer Gilbert Heron MIller, stage and screen actor Henry Miller Jr (sometimes known as “Jack”) and actress Agnes Miller, who married western star Colonel Tim McCoy.
For more on old time theatre, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous