Mrs. Fiske

Mrs. Fiske

Minnie Maddern Fiske (Mrs. Fiske) (December 19, 1865February 15, 1932), was one of the leading American actresses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She also spearheaded the fight against the Theatrical Syndicate for the sake of artistic freedom. Often billed as simply "Mrs. Fiske", she was widely considered the most important actress on the American stage in the first quarter of the 20th century. Her performances in several Henrik Ibsen plays widely introduced American audiences to the Norwegian playwright.

Born Marie Augusta Davey in New Orleans, Louisiana, she was a professional actress from age five. Fiske is perhaps most famous for starring as Becky Sharp in the original 1899 production of Langdon Mitchell's "Becky Sharp", a play based on William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair. She wrote several plays and collaborated with her husband Harrison Grey Fiske in writing "Fontenelle". Mr. Fiske directed virtually all of his wife's plays after their marriage. According to a New York Times article "Ibsen or Shakespeare?" of March 18, 1928, Harrison Fiske was 11 years old when he first set eyes on the future Mrs. Fisk--she was but 3, performing in a Shakespearean role. Her pay was lollypops.

Among Mrs. Fiske's many triumphs on the Broadway stage were "Becky Sharp" (1899, revivals 1904, 1911), "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" {1897, revival 1902), "A Doll's House" (1902), "Hedda Gabler" (1903, revival 1904), "Leah Kleschna" (1904-05), "Salvation Nell" (1908-09), "The High Road" (1912-13), "Madame Sand" (1917-18), a play about George Sand; "Mis' Nelly of N'Orleans" (1919), "Helena's Boys" (1924), "Ghosts" (1927), "Ladies of the Jury" (1929-30), as well as her self-written plays "The Rose" (1905), "The Eyes of the Heart" (1905), "The Light from St. Agnes" (1906). Mrs. Fiske starred in everything from farce to tragedy and even appeared in a comedy with puppets "Wake Up, Jonathan!" (1921). Her final appearance on Broadway was in 1930 in an acclaimed production of "The Rivals" cast as Mrs. Malaprop.

In the mid 1910's, Mrs. Fiske starred in two feature film adaptions of two of her greatest stage triumphs, "Tess Of The D'Urbervilles" in 1913 and "Vanity Fair" in 1915, both of which were surprisingly successful with moviegoers, although she herself felt she was not at her best in the medium and declined further film work.

Her love for performing Ibsen over Shakespeare, and her posture that Ibsen is the better study for actors, can not be overstated. She told the New York Times in January of 1908, "Ibsen is of interest to the actor because properly to understand a role you must study the character from its earliest childhood. Most Ibsen men and women have lived their lives before the curtain rises. Shakespeare has often been pronounced tedious by actors because his characters require a great deal of study. But even Shakespeare seems easy when compared with the thought that must be bestowed upon Ibsen. The beautiful verse, the wonderful character drawing of Shakespeare furnish solutions of perplexing problems, but Ibsen is so elusive. He fascinates by his aloofness. He is the Wagner of the drama. Wagner struggled for understanding just as Ibsen has struggled."

Fiske was one of the most prominent animal welfare advocates of her era.

She died from congestive heart failure at the age of 67 in Queens, New York. She & Harrison had no children. Her cousin was the actress Emily Stevens(1882-1928) and her niece was stage actress Merle Maddern(1888-198?) who looked remarkably like Mrs Fiske.

elected Theater Appearances

* 1871 - Hunted Down by Dion Boucicault, New York
* 1882 - Fogg's Ferry by Charles Callahan, Wisconsin
* 1883 - Juanita by Charles Callahan, Illinois
* 1884 - Caprice by Howard P. Taylor, Missouri
* 1885 - In Spite of it All by Victorien Sardou, New York
* 1893 - Hester Crewe by Harrison Grey Fiske, New York
* 1894 - A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, New York
* 1896 - This Picture and That! by Brander Matthews. Texas
* 1896 - Cesarine by Alexandre Dumas, fils, Pennsylvania
* 1896 - The Queen of Liars by Harrison Grey Fiske, New York
* 1896 - "A Doll's House", New York
* 1896 - A Light From St. Agnes by Minnie Maddern Fiske, New York
* 1896 - "Cesarine", Illinois
* 1896 - Divorcons by Victorien Sardou, Illinois
* 1896 - The Right to Happiness by Marguerite Merington, Louisiana
* 1897 - Tess of D'Urbervilles by Lorimer Stoddard, New York
* 1898 - Little Italy one act by Horace B. Fry with "Divorcons", Illinois
* 1898 - Magda by Hermann Sudermann, New York
* 1899 - Frou Frou by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, New York
* 1898 - A Bit of Old Chelsea by Mrs. Oscar Beringer, New York
* 1898 - Love Finds the Way by Marguerite Merrington, New York
* 1899 - Becky Sharp by Langdon Mitchell, New York
* 1901 - Miranda of the Balcony by Anne Crawford Flexner, New York
* 1901 - The Unwelcome Mrs. Hatch by Mrs. Burton Harrison, New York
* 1902 - "A Bit of Old Chelesa", New York
* 1902 - "Tess of D' Urbervilles", New York
* 1902 - A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, New York
* 1902 - "Little Italy" and "Divorcons", New York
* 1902 - Mary of Magdala by Paul Heyse, New York
* 1903 - Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen, New York
* 1904 - "Becky Sharp", New York
* 1904 - "Hedda Gabler", New York
* 1904 - Leah Kleschna by C. M. S. McLellan, New York
* 1905 - Three One Act Plays by Minnie Maddern Fiske "The Rose", "A Light From St. Agnes", "The Eyes of the Heart"
* 1906 - The New York Ideaby Langdon Mitchell. Mew York
* 1907 - "Tess Of D'Urbervilles", Louisiana
* 1907 - "Leah Kleschna", Louisiana
* 1907 - Rosmersholm by Henrik Ibsen, New York
* 1908 - Salvation Nell by Edward Sheldon, New York
* 1910 - Pillars of Society by Henrik Ibsen, New York
* 1910 - The Green Cockatoo by Arthur Schnitzler, New York
* 1910 - Hannele by Gerhart Hauptmann, New York
* 1911 - "Becky Sharp", New York
* 1911 - Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh by Harry James Smith, New York
* 1911 - The New Marriage by Langdon Mitchell, New York
* 1912 - Julia France by Gertrude Atherton, Toronto, Canada
* 1912 - Lady Patricia by Rudolf Frohman] , New York
* 1912 - The High Road by Edward Sheldon, Montreal, Canada
* 1913 - "The High Road", Massachusetts
* 1914 - "Mrs Bumpstead-Leigh", New Jersey
* 1914 - Lady Betty Martingale by John Luther Long and Frank Stayon
* 1916 - Erstwhile Susan by Marian de Forest, Massachusetts
* 1917 - Madame Sand by Philip Moeller, New York
* 1918 - Service by Henri Lavedan, translated by William C. Taylor, New York
* 1918 - Out There by J. Hartley Manners, allstar play toured America to raise funds for The Red Cross
* 1919 - Mis' Nelly of N' Orleans by Lawrence Eyre, New York
* 1921 - Wake Up, Jonathan! by Hatcher Hughes and Elmer Rice, New York
* 1923 - The Dice of the Gods by Lillian Barrett, Illinois
* 1923 - Mary Mary Quite Contrary by St. John Ervine, New York
* 1923 - Helena's Boys by Ida Lublenski Erlich, New York
* 1925 - The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Massachusetts
* 1927 - Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen, New York
* 1928 - The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, New York
* 1928 - Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, Pennsylvania
* 1929 - "Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh", New York
* 1929 - Ladies of the Jury by Fred Ballard, New York
* 1930 - It's a Grand Life by Hatcher Hughes and Alan Williams, New York
* 1930 - "The Rivals", New York
* 1931 - "Ladies of the Jury", Illinois
* 1932 - "Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh", California
* 1933 - Against The Wind by Carlos Drake, Illinois


* "Mrs Fiske and the America Theatre"by Archie Binns. New York: Crown Publishers, 1955.
* "Mrs. Fiske: Her views on actors, acting, and the problems of production". Recorded by Alexander Woolcott. New York: The Century Co., 1917.
* Strang, "Famous Actresses of the Day in America" (Boston, 1899)
* McKay and Wingate, "Famous American Actors of To-Day" (New York, 1896)
* Hapgood, "The Stage in America, 1897-1900" (New York, 1901)
* Winter, "The Wallet of Time" (two volumes, New York, 1913)
* "Ibsen or Shakespeare?" New York Times, Sunday, March 18, 1928. Section 9, pg.4

External links

* [ Minnie Madern Fiske (1865-1932)]

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