Sharing All the Fealys

March 4 is the D.O.B. of stage and screen actress and educator Maude Fealy (Maude Mary Hawk, 1883-1971).

Fealy was the daughter of actress Margaret Fealy (1865-1955) and stepdaughter of Rafaello Cavallo, conductor of the Pueblo Symphony Orchestra. For most of her life, Fealy was to bounce back and forth between her hometown of Denver and the wider world of show biz. She naturally started out acting as a child in productions with her mother; she was only a toddler when she appeared in a touring production of Faust.

The 1900 stage adaptation of Quo Vadis (in which Margaret also appeared) marked Maude’s Broadway debut. From 1901-02 she toured England with William Gillette’s production of Sherlock Holmes, followed by a tour with Henry Irving through 1905, punctuated by returns to Broadway in The Cardinal (1902), Hearts Courageous (1903), and That Man and I (1904). In 1907 she married drama critic Louis Sherwin, son of the “Tasmanian Nightingale” Amy Sherwin, and began touring with her own company. She also taught drama with her mother. The relationship was so close that Sherwin was pushed out. The pair divorced in 1909 (amusingly she also appeared on Broadway in a play called Divorce that same year).

But in 1909 Fealy also married Broadway actor James Durkin (1875-1934), who was to be her partner, on and off stages and screens, for the next eight years. In 1911 Fealy commenced acting in films for the Thanhouser Studio, in things like adaptations of Dickens David Copperfield (1911) and Little Dorritt (1913), and the melodrama warhorse East Lynne (1912). This was early days in the movie industry. Fealy was to become one of the first film stars, appearing in dozens of films for Thanhouser and other studios through 1917. At the same time, she kept one foot on the stage. In 1912 and 1912 she and her husband toured with the Fealy-Durkin Company, and performed summer seasons at Denver’s Lakeside Amusement Park. In 1913, Durkin joined Fealy at Thanhouser, where he would direct many of her features. In 1917, Fealy divorced Durkin and played her last major role in a film, Famous Players’ The American Consul.

Fealy focused on teaching over the next several years, and authored or co-authored several plays that were produced in Chicago. In 1920 she married her third husband, John Cort Jr, son of the famous theatre producer. That union lasted through 1923.

After talkies came in, Fealy moved to Hollywood to give movies a tumble again. (Her mother had preceded her in 1929, appearing in Lubitch’s The Love Parade, and The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu, as well as later things like The House of Seven Gables and The Wolf Man). Maude started out auspiciously with a small supporting role in Gregory La Cava’s Laugh and Get Rich (1931) with Edna May Oliver and Hugh Herbert, but this unfortunately led nowhere. She later managed to reconnect with her old friend Cecil B. DeMille and he cast her as an extra in films like The Buccaneer (1938) and Union Pacific (1939) and this led to some other extra work. From the late ’40s through the mid ’50s, she returned to Denver and taught drama again. In the ’50s she returned to Hollywood for a few years, where she again operated a drama school (Nanette Fabray was one of her pupils) and appeared as an extra in DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) and the remake of The Buccaneer (1958).

For more on silent film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.