Francine Larrimore: The First Roxie Hart

Acknowledging that the name of actress Francine Larrimore (Francine La Remee, 1898-1975) may not be immediately recognizable to some (all?) of you, we precede the chronology with a shortlist of trivia that may command your attention: she was the niece of Jacob Adler and thus a member of the large Adler theatrical dynasty; she appeared in silent comedies with Max Linder; she was married to Tin Pan Alley Con Conrad; she originated the part of Roxie Hart in the premiere Broadway production of Chicago (1926), about which much more here. Francine’s sister, Stella Larrimore (1905-1960) was married to Hollywood actor Robert Warwick.

Born in Verdun, France, Larrimore moved to the U.S. and appeared in her first Broadway play both in the same year (1910). She was twelve years old. 20 subsequent Broadway shows followed, nearly one a year through 1934. Other than Chicago, the best remembered of these is probably Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1917) which was later adapted into a movie starring Buster Keaton, Charlotte Greenwood, et al.

Larrimore’s cinematic footprint was much smaller. Her five silent films were The Devil’s Darling (1915), The Royal Pauper (1917), and Somewhere in America (1917), in which she starred, and two Max Linder team-ups Max Wants a Divorce and Max in a Taxi, made in America while France was still embroiled in World War One. Following Spring Song (1934), her last Broadway play, she appeared in her only talkie as a star, John Meade’s Woman (1937) opposite Edward Arnold.

In 1941 Larrimore had a recurring role for a stretch on the radio show Grand Central Station. Her last stage performance was in Temporarily, Mrs. Smith at Ford’s Theatre, Baltimore.

Her first marriage to songwriter Con Conrad lasted from 1922 to 1925. From 1968 until 1972 she was married to former low budget indie film producer Alfred T. Mannon, all of whose film credits are in the 1930s. IMDB claims that she was an extra in the low-budget race/horror film The Devil’s Daughter (1939). I am dubious for a variety of reasons; her later marriage to Mannon is my main reason for not dismissing it outright. One never knows, do one?

For more on show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous and for more on silent film, including the movies of Max Linder, read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.