Pauline Lord: More Than Mrs. Wiggs

Today, Pauline Lord (1890-1950) is remembered almost exclusively (by the few who remember her) for one of her two film roles, the title character in Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1934), which also featured W.C. Fields, whose fans tend to be the contingent who keep the film alive. Her second film, A Feather in Her Hat (1935) was Basil Rathbone and Billie Burke, convinced her of what she already believed, that movies were not her, and she went back to being what she really was: a major Broadway star.

Lord was a San Francisco local who’d begun acting as a teenager with the Belasco Stock Company. Following the Earthquake and Fire of 1906 she took up Nat C. Goodwin’s offer to join his company in New York. She toured for several years before her first Broadway role in The Talker (1912). Her 26 Broadway assignments included the title role in the original 1921 production of O’Neill’s Anna Christie (she also replaced Lynn Fontanne in Strange Interlude during its long run in 1928); as well as roles in the original productions of Sidney Howard’s plays They Knew What They Wanted (1924) and The Late Christopher Beane (1932), the first stage adaptation of Ethan Fromme (1936), and revivals of things like She Stoops to Conquer and Trelawney of the “Wells”. Her last stage role was in a 1946 touring production of The Glass Menagerie, taking over Laurette Taylor’s role as Amanda.