Annie Russell

Annie Russell

Annie Russell (1864-1936) was an American actress, born in Liverpool, England, of Irish parents.

Annie Russell moved to Canada when she was a child. She made her first appearance on the stage at eight years old at Academy of Music, Montreal, Canada. She moved to the West Indies for a brief period when she was twelve. [New York Times, March 28, 1904 p.1] In her adult career, Russell performed mostly in New York City, earning the lead role in many productions, such as "Esmeralda", Bret Harte's "Sue", and "Major Barbara". She also performed in California and in England, and was active in stage productions, despite periodic illnesses, until her death in 1936.

Personal life

Annie Russell's first marriage was to Eugene W. Presbrey, an artist and playwright in 1884. They met at the one hundredth performance of "Esmerelda", and Russell agreed to sit for him. They were married soon after their first meeting. [Dictionary of American Biography and supplements, New York : Scribners, 1938-58. Retrieved on January 21st, 2008] Their marriage lasted until their divorce in 1896. [THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1897, June 19). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 7. ] In 1904, she secretly married Oswald Yorke, an English actor. The date is believed to be March 27, 1904. [New York Times, March 28, 1904 p.1] The marriage lasted twenty-five years, until their divorce in 1929. [New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives. Retrieved on January 21, 2008.]

Russell suffered from periodic illnesses throughout her life, contributing to large gaps in her theatrical career. In late December, 1890, many of her professional friends arranged a testimonial to be performed in February 1891. A M Palmer, her company manager, offered free use of his theatre to stage the event. Three prominent theatre companies of the time volunteered to participate: the Madison Square Theatre Company, Lyceum Theatre Company, and Charles Frohman's Twenty-Third Street Theatre Company. [ANNIE RUSSELL'S LONG ILLNESS :A TESTIMONIAL TO THE POPULAR ACTRESS PROPOSED BY BROTHER ARTISTS.. (1890, December 26). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 8.] The testimonial was performed February 10, 1891 and earned $3,000 to offset medical and other costs. [AMUSEMENTS :THE ANNIE RUSSELL BENEFIT.. (1891, February 11). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 4]

Annie Russell also gave several speeches to drama students in the latter part of her life. The first speech she gave was to the graduates of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts at the Empire theatre in March 1902. [ACTORS AS SPEECHMAKERS :Annie Russell and Kyrle Bellew Give Advice to Young Actors.. (1902, March 23). New York Times (1857-Current file),15. ]


In 1881, in New York, she performed in "Esmerelda", a play written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and William Gillette [New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Oct 30, 1881. pg. 15] — this play would later become one of her most successful and popular performances. Notwithstanding, reviews for the play, and for Russell's performance were becoming unfavourable by the ninth month of the play's run — the reviewer says of her performance: "If she cares for her future, she will not waste time in spoiling her voice. ...Lacking knowledge and training, she screams in a most unhappy fashion." [New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Jun 18, 1882. pg. 7] It ran for a year at the Madison Square Theatre and had over two hundred showings.

After "Esmerelda", Russell did not perform on a similar scale for a few years. However, she was not completely removed from theatrical life. In 1883 she joined the New York Fifth Avenue Theatre company, with her mother, Jane, and little brother, Tommy. [New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Oct 5, 1883. p. 5] She performed in the play "Hazel Kirke", acting as the title role. [New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Oct 5, 1884. pg. 8] She left this role several months later create a new theatre company with her new husband in 1884. [ New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Nov 2, 1884. p. 14]

Nothing materialized with this new company, as Russell fell ill shortly after — the first reported illness of many throughout her career. She returned in 1885, playing Zaire in the play "Broken Hearts" written by W.S. Gilbert. [NOTES OF THE WEEK. (1885, January 11). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 7] [GENERAL MENTION. (1885, February 12). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 5.] Later in the year, she performed in "Young Mrs. Winthrop" with the Palmer Company in Philadelphia. [GENERAL MENTION. (1885, September 25). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 5] She later returned to New York with the same company to perform at Madison Square Theatre as Ada [Classified Ad 15 -- No Title. (1885, October 2). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 7] in "Sealed Intentions". [AMUSEMENTS :NOTES OF THE WEEK.. (1885, September 27). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 9] which received a stellar review on opening night. [MADISON-SQUARE THEATRE. (1885, October 6). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 5] She performed in "Engaged" as Maggie McFarland starting in 1886, [Classified Ad 19 -- No Title. (1886, January 31). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 11] where acclaim for her performances began to mount. A reviewer in the New York Times said she "Imparts the charm that belongs to her delicate beauty." [NOTES OF THE WEEK. (1886, March 7). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 2.] Other performances in 1886 that Russell performed in with Mr. Palmer's company at Madison Square Theatre include "Young Mrs. Winthrop" as Edith [RECORD OF AMUSEMENTS :DRAMATIC AND MUSICAL WALLACK'S THEATRE. " THE LEATHER PATCH." MR. FREDERICK WARDE. THE CASINO. METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE. ACADEMY OF MUSIC. GENERAL MENTION.. (1886, February 16).] "Our Society" [NOTES OF THE WEEK :Miss Mary Anderson will begin a short Spring season at the Star Theatre May 10. "The Little Tycoon" is announced for nightly repetition at the Fifth-Avenue Theatre.. (1886, April 25). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 9] and "Love's Martyr".

In 1887, Annie Russell earned the title role in the play "Elaine" by George Parsons Lathrop, [AMUSEMENTS :NOTES OF THE WEEK.. (1887, March 27). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 2.] a play later adopted by Mr. Palmer's company. Also in 1887, she earned the role of Slyvia in an adaptation of "L'Monde ou l'on ennuie" originally by Édouard Pailleron. [MADISON-SQUARE THEATRE. (1887, May 3). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 5.]

After a brief illness, Russell returned to the Madison Square Theatre company on a tour to San Francisco in 1888 in "Partners". [THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1888, August 1). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 8.] She continued to appear in more plays afterwards including "Captain Swift" in 1889, [THE AMUSEMENT SEASON :DRAMATIC AND MUSICAL. THE THEATRICAL WEEK.. (1889, August 25). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 3.] This was her last role before an extended illness in 1890.

Russell remained with Mr. Palmer's company at the Madison Square Theatre until 1894, upon joining Charles Frohman's company, Empire Stock. [NOTES OF THE STAGE. (1894, May 13). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 12.] She returned to the stage in 1894, playing the lead female part in "The New Woman". [THEATICAL GOSSIP. (1894, October 24). New York Times (1857-Current file),8] [ANNIE RUSSELL TO ACT AGAIN :She Will Make Her Return to the Stage at Palmer's Next Week.. (1894, November 8). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 9.] She reprised her role in "Esmerelda" in 1894 as well. [THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1894, December 11). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 8.] By 1895, Annie Russell appeared in an increasing number of plays. She performed in a new one act play called "Lethe", [THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1895, February 6). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 8] Later that year, she appeared in a prelude to Romeo and Juliet called "Romeo's First Love" [THE THEATRICAL WEEK :Mr. Lancaster's Prelude to the Tragedy of "Romeo and Juliet." THE DEMAND, FOR MORAL PLAYS Story of "An Ideal Husband," by Oscar Wilde, and Something About Mrs. Langtry's New Play. "Gossip." . (1895, March 10). New York Times (1857-Current file),12.] and in "The Gilded Fool" which earned Russell more critical acclaim. [HOME-MADE COMIC PLAYS :May Irwin in McNally's New Farce at the Bijou Theatre. MR. GOODWIN AS CHAUNCEY SHORT Quite as Good Stuff as We Can Import from Europe and a Little Better than the Average. . (1895, September 17). New York Times (1857-Current file),5.] Towards the end of the year, she took a new role in "Senator and Ingenue" as Ruth. [SENATOR AND INGENUE :Nat Goodwin and Annie Russell in Two New Roles. BELASCO'S "HEART OF MARYLAND" A Character Comedy That Only Needs a Little Condensation and a Lively Drama of Incident. . (1895, October 23). New York Times (1857-Current file),5]

After an extended stay in Europe, Russell returned to the stage in Bret Harte's play "Sue". [THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1896, September 3). New York Times (1857-Current file),8. ] She later reprised this role in London in 1898 at the Garrick Theatre. [Death of Miss Annie Russell. (1936, February 25). New York Times, 12] In the interim, she appeared in "The Mysterious Mr. Bugle" as Betty Fondacre, ["The Mysterious Mr. Bugle.", (1897, April 6). New York Times (1857-Current file),9] [THE EASTER WEEK PLAYS :Wilton Lackaye as a Bibulous Demon in "Dr. Belgraff" at the Garden Theatre. TWO FUNNY NEW FARCES. Miss Rehan Makes Her First Appearance as Miranda at Daly's and Mr. Sothern Returns to Town -- Other Changes in the Bills.. (1897, April 20). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 9] "A Bachelor's Romance", [Display Ad 17 -- No Title. (1897, October 10). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 7. ] "Salt of the Earth", [MUSICAL AND DRAMATIC :Two Rosalinds Compete for Public Favor in Shakespeare's Pastoral Comedy. RETURN OF JULIA MARLOWE Ada Rehan in "As You Like It" at Daly's -- "The Salt of the Earth" at Wallack's -- "The Governors" at Hoyt's.. (1898, January 4). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 9.] and "Dangerfield '95" [DRAMATIC AND MUSICAL :A Play by the Spanish Dramatist, Echegaray, Acted in English at the Berkeley Lyceum. OPERETTA AT THE AMERICAN Annie Russell in "Dangerfield '95" at Hoyt's -- Various Other Changes of Bill.. (1898, March 1). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 6. ] She performed many of her popular plays in London, including "Sue" and "The Mysterious Mr. Bugle". She fell ill partway through 1899 [Annie Russell Too Ill to Rehearse. (1899, May 17). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 7.] and in June of that year returned to the United States to rest. [LONDON THEATRICAL GOSSIP :Mrs. Carter to Play in "Zaza" in April -- Plays Bought by Americans.. (1899, June 11). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 17.] She did, however, appear in a few plays, in 1899, "Miss Hobbs" with Ann Gilbert [DRAMATIC AND MUSICAL :Annie Russell and Mrs. G.H. Gilbert at the Lyceum Theatre. A PLAY BY JEROME K. JEROME " Miss Hobbs" Is a Tenuous Comedy, with a Smart First Act and Many Reminiscent Passages -- Gossip of the Theatres. . (1899, September 8). New York Times (1857-Current file),6. ] and 1900 in "A Royal Family". [DRAMATIC AND MUSICAL :"A Royal Family" a Great Hit at the Lyceum Theatre. Annie Russell Acts Her Part Charmingly in a Romantic Comedy that Will Have a Long Run -- Gossip of the Theatre.. (1900, September 6). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 12. ]

In 1902, Russell appeared in other plays with Ann Gilbert, in "The Girl and the Judge". [DRAMATIC AND MUSICAL :Dramatization of "The Helmet of Navarre" at the Criterion.. (1901, December 1). New York Times (1857-Current file),15. ] The play had great success, and ran from December 1901 to the fall of 1902. Subsequently, Russell starred in "Mice and Men", still with Frohman's company. [Special to The New York Times. (1902, March 13). DANIEL FROHMAN'S PLANS :The Manager Will Establish His Stock Company at the New Lyceum Theatre.. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 6.] On December 30, 1902, Mrs. Roosevelt and other Washington dignataries saw Russell perform in this play. [Mrs. Roosevelt Sees Annie Russell.(December 31 1902) New York Times,p 9]

In 1903, Annie Russell performed in Boston, playing the title role in "The Younger Mrs. Parling". [THE YOUNGER MRS. PARLING (November 18, 1903) New York Times,p2] She met her second husband, Oswald Yorke, in this play. Shortly after her marriage, Russell starred in a new play "Brother Jacques". [ANNIE RUSSELL'S NEW PLAY;Opens at Cleveland. (1904 October 19) New York Times, p6]

Annie Russell returned to London in 1905. Her first play upon her return was the role Barbara Undershaft in Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara" in that same year. [Foreign Notes. (1905, November 28) New York Times] She later returned to the United States, appearing in "Friend Hannah" in 1906. [ANNIE RUSSELL'S NEW PLAY (1906 April 10). New York Times, p.9] In the same year, she performed in "Midsummer Night's Dream" at the newly built Astor Theatre in Boston. [NEW THEATRE TO OPEN. (1906 September 9) New York Times. p17]

In 1908 she appeared with Robert Drouet in "The Stronger Sex." Wagenhals & Kemper, owners of a company that Russell was a part of, bought land to build a $300,000 theatre bearing her name in New York City. It was described to be "state-of-the-art" [New Theatre for Annie Russell. (1908 December 5) New York Times. p9] In 1910 she joined the New Theatre Company, New York, appearing in "Twelfth Night" (1910), "The Nigger" (1909) ["TWELFTH NIGHT" AT NEW THEATRE (1910 January 27) New York Times. p9] She performed "Twelfth Night" in Washington for President Taft and the first Lady, Helen Taft. [President Not Ill. (1910 May 13) New York Times, Front Page] She appeared in a number of small plays, one under Charles Frohman's management, [Annie Russell in New Play (1910 December 9) New York Times, p9] "Gordon's Wife" under Leibler Company [Annie Russell in Gordon's Wife (1911 March 29) New York Times, p9] until 1912 when she organized the Old English Comedy Company. They occupied The Princess Theatre in New York, a small theatre of 299 seats. A special feature of her new theatre company was that special matinées for schoolchildren on Fridays and Saturdays were performed, in addition to performances for private schools. [Princess Theatre For Annie Russell (1912 July 12) New York Times, p11]

Life after the stage

Annie Russell officially retired from the stage in 1918 and moved to Winter Park, in Florida. [ Biography (Annie Russell Theatre, Rollins College)] ] She was encouraged by a friend to teach at Rollins College, and in 1931, the Annie Russell Theatre was founded at the college. She opened the theatre in 1932 with a performance of "In a Balcony". [Annie Russell Dies. (25 February 1936) New York Times. p12]

Annie Russell taught at Rollins College until she died in February 24, 1936. She was seventy-two years old.


* The Wallet of Time

NAME = Russell, Annie
SHORT DESCRIPTION = American Actress
PLACE OF BIRTH = Liverpool, England
DATE OF DEATH = February 24, 1936
PLACE OF DEATH = Florida, United States

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