I have forever been fascinated with the Victorian and Edwardian time periods. There is just something very dynamic regarding these eras. Perhaps it’s the fashion, or the traditions, or the very fact that the world was teetering on the edge of change with the outbreak of World War I. Whatever the reason I have found myself studying, researching and even setting my stories during these time periods.
Film has always been an escape for me. I love going to the movies and losing myself in the glitz, glamour, suspense or even humor of a film. And once again my favorites all tend to be those made during the heyday of old Hollywood. Arsenic and Old Lace, Bringing up Baby, Adams, Rib, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and of course the sweeping epic Gone with the Wind. These loves led me to the idea of doing a series of blogs surrounding two of my favorite things. Film and the Victorian/Edwardian actress.
To start my series I’m going to introduce you all to Maude Fealy. She is one of my favorites. I find her to be not only beautiful but an intriguing enigma. She never seemed fully happy almost as if she were on a constant search for her own happy ending.
Maude Fealy was born Maude Mary Hawk in 1883 in Memphis, Tennessee. Her mother was an acting coach named Margaret Fealy. Margaret’s teaching brought her and her daughter to Denver, Colorado where she taught acting at the Tabor School of acting.
Maude first appeared on stage at the age of three when she performed beside her mother. By the age of five, Maude was performing in dramatic roles. She made her official Broadway debut in the 1900’s production of Quo Vadis once again beside her mother. This eventually lead to Maude touring England with William Gillette in a production of Sherlock Homes from 1901-1902. Between 1902-1905 she toured the United Kingdom with Sir Henry Irving’s company. By 1907 she was the star of the show and touring with productions back in the United States, appearing on numerous magazine covers and earning critical acclaim for her roles in both dramatic and comedic roles.
Silent film was making a big splash and Maude performed in her first silent film in 1911 for Thanhouser Studios. She managed to appear in eighteen films for this studio between 1911-1917. Maude would not perform for fourteen years after this. This was not to say she wasn’t active in the industry. She had some minor commercial success as a playwright, co-writing The Read Capwith. She also taught acting in the various cities she’d lived in.
Maude may have had success in her field of acting, writing and teaching but she always seemed to be in search of her own happy ending. Her first marriage to Hugo Louis Sherwin, in 1907 was performed in secret. Her mother, who was by all accounts domineering, did not approve of the match. She actively sabotaged the couple and the marriage soon fell apart in 1909. Not long after this Maude married actor James Peter Durkin this time with the full support of her mother. Together the couple formed the Fealy-Durkin stock company who performed plays in Denver. This marriage also sadly ended in divorce in 1917. Third time unfortunately was not the charm for Maude. Her last marriage to James E. Cort ended in 1923 and was annulled. None of her marriages produced children.
Maude was described by theater magazines as petite 5’1” actress with dark blue eyes. Her hobbies had included writing, art, swimming and she enjoyed animals.
Maude died in 1971. Her acting/writing resume was impressive and she’d officially retired from the industry in 1958. She is interred in Woodland Hills, California.