|Born||Mary Kate Kipping
1 February 1873
|Died||10 May 1941
Ovingdean, Sussex, England, UK
|Other names||"The Girl with the Wink"|
|Spouse(s)||Oliver Mark Tucker|
|Children||Oliver Mark Fitzgerald(son)
Cissy Fitzgerald (1 February 1873 – 10 May 1941) [as Mary Kate Kipping] was an English-American vaudeville actress, dancer, and singer who appeared in numerous silent and sound films. She appeared in her first film almost at the beginning of film in 1896 appearing in a self-titled short film shot by Thomas Edison. She did not appear in films again until 1914 where she signed with the Vitagraph company and was quite popular in feature films and her own series of Cissy short films. Very little of Fitzgerald's silent material survives today but she can be seen in a comic backup role in the 1928 Lon Chaney vehicle Laugh, Clown, Laugh.
Fitzgerald later laid claims to having been the first woman ever filmed in motion pictures when she went to the Edison labs at New Jersey in 1896 to shoot 50 feet of film. This claim is certainly disputed as Annabelle Whitford had been filmed in 1894 by Edison engineer W. K. L. Dickson and the Lumiere's over in France were shooting motion pictures, i.e., men and women coming and going from a factory, by 1896. Fitzgerald had been appearing in a popular play The Gaiety Girl beginning in 1894 and was still in this play when she went to Edison.
Fitzgerald was best recognized during her time and after for her left-eye "wink". This winking was uncontrollable due to an extra amount of tension in her orbicular muscles. While this wink was her trademark in the industry, it was quite controversial, and was also uncomfortable and had effects on her health. She did not have control over the wink, which was more so a twitch, and the wink outside of the studio was sometimes taken as a promiscuity. Today, Fitzgerald's wink serves a greater purpose to the feminist film industry. This somehow caused the media reproducibility to provide an eased nature to Cissy’s disorder. Cissy Fitzgerald’s wink provides a productive example for feminist historians, filmmakers, and producers today that are investigating and identifying the gender contradictions of early film entertainment. The constant repetitive image of Cissy’s wink in her performance caused the stage comedian involuntarily to imbrute her own gestures.
Cissy Fitzgerald did not transition from short films to motion pictures until 1914. This was at the very end of the nickelodeon years of film, when the industry had been widely seen as a respectable, middle-class business. Fitzgerald took a hiatus from her acting to get married to Oliver Mark Tucker in Great Britain and travel the world to celebrate their marriage. Cissy and her new husband had visited India, Africa, Australia, China, until the start of World War I. This is when Fitzgerald came back to the United States to re-launch her film career. Fitzgerald took a break from acting in films from 1916 until the beginning of 1921. Later in 1921, Cissy was featured in five comedies she produced in her own production company called “Cissy Fitzgerald Productions.” Her company was a small business located on the West Coast of America. Cissy Fitzgerald is credited as being the first female to producer film. The films she starred in under “Cissy Fitzgerald Productions” were merchandized as “refined comedies,” and included Cissy’s Saucy Stockings, Seeing America Thirst, Cissy Invades Bohemia, Cissy’s Economy, and Comes Back Cissy. Cissy. Fitzgerald reinvented herself yet again after her short time of producing films as a feature film actress in the 1920s and the 1930s. She was filmed in many silent and sound films of a plethora of genres, many of which are still existing. The most commonly known of these feature film parts is Cissy as Giancinta in Laugh, Clown, Laugh of 1928, a Lon Chaney film about a circus clown who cannot seem to cheer up, that befriends an Italian count who experienced bouts of uncontrollable laughter. Because Fitzgerald as Giancinta is a minor character, it is speculated that the histories of Fitzgerald’s uncontrollable winking from her eye condition limited the importance of her role in Laugh, Clown, Laugh. Cissy Fitzgerald was signed with several film companies during her time as an actress. These companies include Kleine Studios, Vitagraph, Casino Studios, and Broadway Star Studios. Fitzgerald was shot in about twenty films during her career between 1914 and 1916. In most of these films, she was playing a comedic character, but occasionally displayed a different facet of her talents, for example, her performance in The Esterbrook Case, a which was a melodrama with a subtle hint of a mystery theme.
- Cissy Fitzgerald - (50 feet of actuality film of Fitzgerald by Edison; presumably elements from the 1894 play The Gaiety Girl) (1896) *short
- Mary Jane (1913) *short
- Curing Cissy (1915) *short
- Cissy's Innocent Wink (1915) *short
- Leave It to Cissy (1916) *short
- Cissy's Saucy Stockings (1921) *short
- Seeing America Thirst (1921) *short
- Cissy Invades Bohemia (1921) *short
- Cissy's Economy (1921) *short
- Cissy's Financial Flivver (1921) *short
- Lilies of the Field (1924)
- Cornered (1924)
- Vanity's Price (1924)
- The Crown of Lies (1926)
- Flames (1926)
- Two Flaming Youths (1927)
- Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)
- No Babies Wanted (1928)
- The Diplomats (1929)
- The Painted Angel (1929)
- The Masquerader (1933)
- Strictly Illegal (1935)
- The Green Book Magazine Volume 9; page 521
- Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel Blum c. 1953
- Best of Plays of 1894-1899, p. 3 c.1955 by John Chapman and Garrison Sherwood
- Silent Film Necrology 2nd Edition by Eugene Michael Vazzana c. 2001
- Who Was Who on Screen by Evelyn Mack Truitt c. 1983
- Hennefeld, Maggie. "Cissy Fitzgerald." In Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and Monica Dall’Asta, eds. Women Film Pioneers Project. Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2013. Web. July 2, 2015.
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