The Two Lives of Gladys and Corinne Malvern

And by two lives, I really mean four lives: two lives for two people. From this image you can hopefully deduce that the two Malvern sisters created children’s books. But they both had other careers prior to that. Theatrical ones.

The sisters were Gladys Malvern (1897-1962) and Corinne Malvern (1901-1956) and they were born and raised on the road by their mother, a theatrical wardrobe mistress. As a matter of expediency the girls became touring child actresses from a young age, performing in melodramas, vaudeville and operas. Corinne was in of the first American productions of Madame Butterfly, playing Dolore, in 1905 and 1906. Both girls were in William A. Brady’s Broadway production of The Man Who Stood Still (1908). Corinne also starred in at least one film, Kalem’s The Luring Lights in 1915.

When still a teenager, Corinne was injured in a train accident while touring the circuits and was sent to boarding school. She later attended classes at the Art Students League in New York, becoming a professional commercial artist and illustrator by the early 1930s. Meanwhile Gladys had also left the stage, working first at department stores, eventually graduating to a job as an advertising copywriter, which led to her becoming an author. And Corinne supplemented her work creating magazine covers and doing fashion ads with book illustration. The sisters often collaborated starting in the late 1930s. Some of the works were novels, Bible stories and biographies for young adults and some were Little Golden Books for young children. Gladys wrote over 40 books, perhaps most notably several biographies of showfolk, including ones on Anna Pavlova (1942), Katharine Cornell (1943), Sir Harry Lauder (1943), Joseph Jefferson (1945), Rossini (1959), and Verdi (1960). In 1944 she also worked on a piece on Helen Hayes that was later published posthumously. Something close to a full bibliography and a fuller biography may be found here.

For more on the history of vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous