Annie Russell

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Annie Russell
Annie Russell 001.jpg
Russell ca. 1899
Born (1864-01-12)January 12, 1864
Liverpool, England
Died January 16, 1936(1936-01-16) (aged 72)
Winter Park, Florida, U.S.A.
Occupation Actress and teacher
Years active 1872–1918

Annie Ellen Russell (January 12, 1864[1] – January 16, 1936) was an American stage actress.

Early life[edit]

Russell was born in Liverpool, England, of Irish parents, Joseph Russell and Jane Mount. She moved to Canada when she was a child. She made her first appearance on the stage at eight years old with Rose Eytinge at the Montreal Academy of Music in Montreal, Canada. She visited the West Indies when she was twelve, overseeing her younger brother Tommy, the child actor in a touring production.[2][3]


Annie Russell in Mice and Men

In 1881, in New York, she performed in Esmerelda, a play written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and William Gillette.[4] 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."[5] It ran for a year at the Madison Square Theatre and had over two hundred showings.[6][7]

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.[8] She performed in one of the tour companies of the play Hazel Kirke, in the title role,[9] before leaving to marry her first husband in 1884.[10]

Russell shortly fell ill—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.[11][12] Later in the year, she performed in Young Mrs. Winthrop with the Palmer Company in Philadelphia.[13] She later returned to New York with the same company to perform at Madison Square Theatre as Ada[14] in Sealed Intentions.[15] which received a stellar review on opening night.[16] She performed in Engaged as Maggie McFarland starting in 1886,[17] 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."[18] Other performances in 1886 that Russell performed in with A.M. Palmer's company at Madison Square Theatre include Young Mrs. Winthrop as Edith[19] Our Society[20] and Love's Martyr.

In 1887, Annie Russell earned the title role in the play Elaine by George Parsons Lathrop and Harry Edwards,[21] a play later adopted by Mr. Palmer's company. Also in 1887, she played the role of Sylvia in an adaptation of L'Monde ou l'on ennuie originally by Édouard Pailleron.[22]

After a brief illness, Russell returned to the Madison Square Theatre company on a tour to San Francisco in 1888 in Partners.[23] She continued to appear in more plays afterward including Captain Swift in 1889.[24] 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.[25] She returned to the stage in 1894, playing the lead female part in The New Woman.[26][27] She reprised her role in Esmerelda in 1894 as well.[28] By 1895, Annie Russell appeared in an increasing number of plays. She performed in a new one-act play called Lethe.[29] Later that year, she appeared in a prelude to Romeo and Juliet called Romeo's First Love[30] and in The Gilded Fool, which earned Russell more critical acclaim.[31] Towards the end of the year, she took a new role in Senator and Ingenue as Ruth.[32]

Annie Russell, English actress, in 1898

After an extended stay in Europe, Russell returned to the stage in Bret Harte's play Sue.[33] She later reprised this role in London in 1898 at the Garrick Theatre.[34] In the interim, she appeared in The Mysterious Mr. Bugle as Betty Fondacre,[35][36] A Bachelor's Romance,[37] Salt of the Earth,[38] and Dangerfield '95.[39] She performed many of her popular plays in London, including Sue and The Mysterious Mr. Bugle. She fell ill partway through 1899[40] and in June of that year returned to the United States to rest.[41] She did, however, appear in a few plays, in 1899, Miss Hobbs with Ann Gilbert[42] and in 1900 in A Royal Family.[43]

In 1902, Russell appeared in other plays with Ann Gilbert, in The Girl and the Judge.[44] 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.[45] On December 30, 1902, Mrs. Roosevelt and other Washington dignitaries saw Russell perform in this play.[46]

In 1903, Annie Russell performed in Boston, playing the title role in The Younger Mrs. Parling.[47] She met her second husband, Oswald Yorke, in this play. Shortly after her marriage, Russell starred in a new play Brother Jacques.[48]

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.[49] She later returned to the United States, appearing in Friend Hannah in 1906.[50] In the same year, she performed in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the newly built Astor Theatre in Boston.[51]

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."[52] In 1910, she joined the New Theatre Company, New York, appearing in Twelfth Night (1910) and The Nigger (1909.)[53] She performed Twelfth Night in Washington for President Taft and the first Lady, Helen Taft.[54] She appeared in a number of small plays, one under Charles Frohman's management,[55] and in Gordon's Wife under Leibler Company[56] 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.[57]

with Oswald Yorke in Major Barbara

Personal life[edit]

She married playwright and stage manager Eugene Wiley Presbrey on 6 November 1884, and divorced him in 1897.[58][59] She married English actor Oswald Harker (stage name Oswald Yorke) on 27 March 1904,[58] and divorced him in 1929.[2][60] She had no children from either marriage.

Russell suffered from periodic illnesses throughout her life, contributing to large gaps in her 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, Daniel Frohman's Lyceum Theatre Company, and Charles Frohman's Twenty-Third Street Theatre Company.[61] The testimonial was performed February 10, 1891, and earned $3,000 to offset medical and other costs.[62]

She also gave several speeches to drama students, the first speech to the graduates of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in March 1902.[63]

Russell was close friends with Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist, who would later contribute financially to the theatre in Russel's name [64]

Later years and death[edit]

Russell officially retired from the stage in 1918 and moved to Winter Park, in Florida.[65] 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.[66]

She taught at Rollins College until her death on January 16, 1936.[67] She was seventy-two years old. She was buried in St. Stephen's Cemetery in Millburn, New Jersey.[68]

See also[edit]


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Annie Russell". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 

  1. ^ Famous American women: a biographical dictionary from colonial times to the ...By Robert McHenry
  2. ^ a b New York Times, March 28, 1904 p.1
  3. ^ Kobbé, Gustav, Famous Actresses and Their Homes, Boston: Little, Brown, 1905, pp. 103-104.
  4. ^ New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Oct 30, 1881. pg. 15
  5. ^ New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Jun 18, 1882. pg. 7
  6. ^ Brown, Thomas Allston, A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 to 1901, Volume II, New York: Dodd, Mead, 1903, p. 418
  7. ^ Chapman, John, and Garrison P. Sherwood, eds., The Best Plays of 1894-1899, New York: Dodd, Mead, 1955, p. 111
  8. ^ New York Times (1857–Current file). New York, N.Y.: Oct 5, 1883. p. 5
  9. ^ New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Oct 5, 1884. pg. 8
  10. ^ New York Times (1857–Current file). New York, N.Y.: Nov 2, 1884. p. 14
  11. ^ NOTES OF THE WEEK. (1885, January 11). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 7
  12. ^ GENERAL MENTION. (1885, February 12). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 5.
  13. ^ GENERAL MENTION. (1885, September 25). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 5
  14. ^ Classified Ad 15 – No title. (1885, October 2). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 7
  15. ^ AMUSEMENTS: NOTES OF THE WEEK.. (1885, September 27). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 9
  16. ^ MADISON-SQUARE THEATRE. (1885, October 6). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 5
  17. ^ Classified Ad 19 – No title. (1886, January 31). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 11
  18. ^ NOTES OF THE WEEK. (1886, March 7). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 2.
  20. ^ 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
  21. ^ AMUSEMENTS :NOTES OF THE WEEK.. (1887, March 27). New York Times (1857–Current file), p. 2.
  22. ^ MADISON-SQUARE THEATRE. (1887, May 3). New York Times (1857–Current file), p. 5.
  23. ^ THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1888, August 1). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 8.
  24. ^ THE AMUSEMENT SEASON: DRAMATIC AND MUSICAL. THE THEATRICAL WEEK. (1889, August 25). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 3.
  25. ^ NOTES OF THE STAGE. (1894, May 13). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 12.
  26. ^ THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1894, October 24). New York Times (1857–Current file),8
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1894, December 11). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 8.
  29. ^ THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1895, February 6). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 8
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ 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
  33. ^ THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1896, September 3). New York Times (1857–Current file),8.
  34. ^ Death of Miss Annie Russell. (1936, February 25). New York Times, 12
  35. ^ "The Mysterious Mr. Bugle.", (1897, April 6). New York Times (1857–Current file), 9
  36. ^ 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
  37. ^ Display Ad 17 – No Title. (1897, October 10). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 7.
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ Annie Russell Too Ill to Rehearse. (1899, May 17). New York Times (1857–Current file), p. 7.
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ 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.
  44. ^ DRAMATIC AND MUSICAL: Dramatization of "The Helmet of Navarre" at the Criterion.. (1901, December 1). New York Times (1857–Current file),15.
  45. ^ 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.
  46. ^ Mrs. Roosevelt Sees Annie Russell.(December 31, 1902) New York Times,p 9
  47. ^ THE YOUNGER MRS. PARLING (November 18, 1903) New York Times,p2
  48. ^ ANNIE RUSSELL'S NEW PLAY;Opens at Cleveland. (1904 October 19) New York Times, p6
  49. ^ Foreign Notes. (1905, November 28) New York Times
  50. ^ ANNIE RUSSELL'S NEW PLAY (1906 April 10). New York Times, p. 9
  51. ^ NEW THEATRE TO OPEN. (1906 September 9) New York Times. p 17
  52. ^ New Theatre for Annie Russell. (1908 December 5) New York Times. p 9
  53. ^ "TWELFTH NIGHT" AT NEW THEATRE (1910 January 27) New York Times. p 9
  54. ^ President Not Ill. (1910 May 13) New York Times, Front Page
  55. ^ Annie Russell in New Play (1910 December 9) New York Times, p 9
  56. ^ Annie Russell in Gordon's Wife (1911 March 29) New York Times, p 9
  57. ^ Princess Theatre For Annie Russell (1912 July 12) New York Times, p 11
  58. ^ a b Who's Who on the Stage Profile Accessed 26 September 2009
  59. ^ THEATRICAL GOSSIP. (1897, June 19). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 7.
  60. ^ New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives. Retrieved on January 21, 2008.
  62. ^ AMUSEMENTS :THE ANNIE RUSSELL BENEFIT.. (1891, February 11). New York Times (1857–Current file),p. 4
  63. ^ ACTORS AS SPEECHMAKERS :Annie Russell and Kyrle Bellew Give Advice to Young Actors. (1902, March 23). New York Times (1857–Current file),15.
  64. ^ THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ANNIE (2016, June 5). Winter Park Magazine (
  65. ^ Biography (Annie Russell Theatre, Rollins College)
  66. ^ Annie Russell Dies. (25 February 1936) New York Times. p12
  67. ^ The New York Times – Jan. 17, 1936
  68. ^ Local History: Thespian Annie Russell's Time in Millburn from 17 May 2010

External links[edit]