Elsie Leslie

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Elsie Leslie as Little Lord Fauntleroy (1888), photographed by Napoleon Sarony

Elsie Leslie (1881–1966) was an American actress. She was America's first child star and the highest paid and most popular child actress of her era.

Life and career[edit]

Leslie's first role in 1884 was Little Meenie in Joseph Jefferson's production of "Rip Van Winkle". In 1887, she was recognized as a star with her performance in "Editha's Burglar" opposite E. H. Sothern at the Lyceum Theatre in New York and opposite William Gillette on the road tour.[1] She achieved further fame with her roles in "Little Lord Fauntleroy" in 1888 and "The Prince and the Pauper" in 1890. The most enduring image of Leslie is the portrait of her, posing as Little Lord Fauntleroy, painted by William Merritt Chase. [2]

Leslie lived in the rarefied kingdom of the theater. She moved amongst and conversed with people everywhere she went and her friends were not only nearly all adults, they were among the most accomplished in the nation. She had pen pals everywhere with whom she maintained a lively correspondence, including leading actors, actresses and statesmen, as well as two young girls nearer her own age, one younger, the other a year older: Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller. "I like to write letters," she once said, "but I like to get the answers still better."[3]

Leslie took a break from acting, but returned to the stage in 1898 to play parts in The Rivals, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Christian, The Taming of the Shrew, The Man on the Case in 1907, and Louis N. Parker's Disraeli with George Arliss in 1911; but after years away from the stage she could not recapture the old magic as an adult. She had married Jefferson Winter, son of drama critic William Winter, but this marriage ended in divorce, after which Leslie married Edwin J. Millikin in 1918. She and her husband traveled the world until they returned to New York, where she lived until her death in 1966.[4]

Elsie Leslie as Lydia Languish in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play "The Rivals" in 1899, photographed by Zaida Ben-Yusuf.

Leslie was known as a wonderful child. She carried on correspondence with her friends from her acting days until her death. Photographs of Leslie, parts of her diary, along with letters and cards from such luminaries as Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Edwin Booth, William Gillette, Elliott Roosevelt and Joseph Jefferson, are recorded in "Trustable & Preshus Friends".[5][6]

She is also remembered by the "Elsie Leslie" doll by Madame Alexander, No. 1560 in the series.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zecher, Henry, William Gillette, America's Sherlock Holmes (Xlibris Press, 2011), pp. 164-65
  2. ^ http://www.paintingall.com/product.php?productid=7385
  3. ^ 34. Leslie, Elsie, Trustable and Preshus Friends, Douglass, Jane, Editor, (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977), Title Page.
  4. ^ Zecher, Henry, William Gillette, America's Sherlock Holmes, p. 166.
  5. ^ http://www.spanierman.com/Online-Exhibitions/American-Masters-(1840s_1920s)/essay/top/Essay
  6. ^ Trustable & Preshus Friends Edited by Jane Douglas 1977 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
  7. ^ Zecher, Henry, William Gillette, America's Sherlock Holmes, p. 166.

External links[edit]