A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the American Stage by Barbara Wallace Grossman

By Barbara Wallace Grossman

As soon as referred to as "America's maximum actress," popular for the eagerness and tool of her performances, Clara Morris (1847-1925) has been mostly forgotten. A Spectacle of affliction: Clara Morris at the American level is the 1st full-length research of the actress's value as a feminist within the past due 19th and early 20th centuries. Detailing her daunting illnesses and the altering tastes in leisure that ended in her retirement from the degree, Barbara Wallace Grossman explores Morris's dramatic reinvention as an writer. in the course of a moment strong profession, she released countless numbers of newspaper and journal articles and 9 books—six works of fiction and 3 memoirs. Grossman attracts at the fifty-four-volume diary that Morris saved from 1868 till 1924, in addition to at the manuscript fragments and notes of journalist George T. MacAdam, who died in 1929 prior to finishing the actress's biography. Grossman offers a dramatic account of Morris's existence and paintings from her stricken early years, via an unsatisfied marriage, morphine dependancy, and invalidism, to the demanding situations of traveling, the decline of her creative popularity, and the calls for of the writing profession she pursued so tenaciously. A Spectacle of soreness unearths how Morris, even after experiencing blindness and the lack of her domestic, livelihood, and family members, didn't succumb to melancholy and located convenience within the small pleasures of her circumscribed existence. A Spectacle of pain recovers an enormous determine in American theatre and guarantees that Morris should be remembered now not easily as an actress yet as a revered author and loved public determine, famous for her braveness in facing adversity. The booklet, that is more desirable by means of twenty-four illustrations, is the single released biography of Clara Morris. it really is as a lot a tribute to the ability of the human spirit because it is an efficient technique of exploring American theatre and society within the Gilded Age.   

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She also made her first trip to France, returning to New York at the end of August to prepare for the upcoming season with Daly’s company. It began on 3 September with Diamonds, an unexceptional comedy by Bronson Howard, in which she and Fanny Davenport had small parts. ”10 Morris appeared in three of the next ten productions and won favorable notices for all. Her performance as Magdalen Atherleigh in New Year’s Eve, or False Shame, a three-act comedy by Frank Marshall, was especially well received.

Other clues can be found in her troubled childhood, when years of poverty and deprivation shaped an ambitious but physically and emotionally scarred adult. Cabinet photograph of Morris as innocent, sixteenyear-old Alixe, 1873. If Cora’s maniacal ravings inspired fear, Alixe produced its cathartic partner, pity, as audiences wept. Courtesy of the Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library. 16 2 The M aking of an Emotional Actress IN LIFE ON THE STAGE, Morris provides a selective account of her early years, a childhood as melodramatic as the plays in which she appeared.

Morris said little about Article 47 in her diary but discussed in Life on the Stage her intense and careful preparation for the role of Cora. Almost thirty years after the eventful premiere, she remembered how apprehensive she had been when Daly told her the production’s success or failure depended on her performance. She was particularly worried about fashioning the scar she considered essential. Although the actress who played Cora in Paris had left her face unblemished, simply draping a scarf beneath her chin to suggest the damage that Duhamel had inflicted, that was an option Morris rejected.

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