Odette Tyler

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Odette Tyler
Tyler in 1896
Elizabeth Lee Kirkland

September 26, 1869
DiedDecember 8, 1936(1936-12-08) (aged 67)
ResidenceNew York City, New York, U.S.
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other namesBess
OccupationActress, writer, arts patron
Partner(s)Howard Gould (1894)
RelativesWilliam J. Hardee (uncle)
Hardee Kirkland (brother)
Robert E. Lee (godfather)
Odette Tyler, from a 1901 publication.

Elizabeth Lee Kirkland (September 26, 1869 – December 8, 1936) was an American actress, writer and arts patron known professionally as Odette Tyler.

Early life and education[edit]

Elizabeth Lee "Bess" Kirkland was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1869 (some sources give 1872),[1] the daughter of William Whedbee Kirkland and Susan Ann Hardee Kirkland. Her father was a Confederate general in the American Civil War.[2] Her maternal uncle William J. Hardee was also a Confederate general.[3] Her older brother, Hardee Kirkland, was an actor and director in silent films.[4] Robert E. Lee was her godfather.[5]

Her education included time at a convent school in Georgetown and at the Loretto Convent in Guelph, Ontario.[6]


Odette Tyler started her New York stage career in 1884, in Sieba, a spectacle. Her other theatrical appearances included roles in the shows The Private Secretary, In Spite of All, Featherbrain (1889), Men and Women (1890), Lost Paradise, The Councillor's Wife (1892), Shenandoah (1892), The Girl I Left Behind Me (1893), The Younger Son (1893), Poor Girls (1894), The Man Upstairs (1895), The Gay Parisians (1895),[5] William Hooker Gillette's Secret Service (1896, in London 1897),[7][8] Phroso (1899), The Heart of Maryland (1905), The Love Route (1906), It Happened in Dixie (1914).[2] She acted in several Shakespearean roles, including Desdemona, Juliet, and Portia, and roles in Coriolanus and King John.[9][10][11] In 1906, she headed her own stock company.[12] She appeared in one silent film, The Saphead (1920).

Tyler wrote a novel, Boss: A Story of Virginia Life, published in 1895.[13] "It is quite as good as most novels that are printed," noted the New York Times reviewer.[14] She later adapted Boss for the screen. She also wrote a play, Red Carnation, which she starred in with her second husband in 1905.[11] Months before she died in 1936, she directed a play in Los Angeles.[15]

As Elizabeth Lee Shepherd, she was a patron of the arts in Los Angeles, California. She was one of the organizers of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and of the women's wing of the Los Angeles Grand Opera Association.[16][17] She also chaired the city's Shakespeare Foundation, and worked toward the building of a theatre dedicated to productions of Shakespeare plays.[18]

Personal life[edit]

When she was very young, in 1883, Odette Tyler married Edgar P. Crissman; they divorced. In 1894, she was engaged to marry wealthy Howard Gould, but both of their families objected, and the engagement was broken.[19][20][21] She married fellow actor R. D. MacLean (also known as Rezin Davis Shepherd, and Donald MacLean Shepherd) in 1897.[22][23] The couple moved to California in 1919 for R. D. MacLean's film career.[24] Odette Tyler died in 1936, in Los Angeles, California.[25][26]


  1. ^ "Our Portraits" Burr-MacIntosh Monthly (January 1907).
  2. ^ a b "Odette Tyler" Opera Glass (March 1897): 108-109.
  3. ^ John W. Leonard, Woman's Who's who of America (American Commonwealth 1914): 829.
  4. ^ Cleveland Jamison, "The Stage and the Service" Green Book Magazine (February 1910): 409.
  5. ^ a b "'The Gay Parisians' Leading Woman", Munsey's Magazine (January 1896): 492.
  6. ^ Jack Peyrouse, "Rezin David Shepherd III (R. D. MacLean): He Loved His Shakespeare as his Life", The Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society (1991): 30-31.
  7. ^ "'Secret Service', a Romance of the Confederacy" The Illustrated American (October 31, 1896): 598.
  8. ^ J. P. Wearing, The London Stage 1890-1899: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel (Scarecrow Press 2013): 340. ISBN 9780810892828
  9. ^ Lewis Clinton Strang, Famous Actresses of the Day in America (L. C. Page 1899): 285-290.
  10. ^ Dixie Hines, Harry Prescott Hanaford, Who's Who in Music and Drama (Hanaford 1914): 207.
  11. ^ a b Who's Who in Theatre (Pitman 1922): 819.
  12. ^ "The Odette Tyler Stock Company" Washington Post (April 22, 1906): 8. via Newspapers.comopen access
  13. ^ Odette Tyler, Boss (Continental Publishing 1897).
  14. ^ "A Novel by Odette Tyler" New York Times (December 25, 1895): 14. via ProQuest
  15. ^ "You Know These People" Los Angeles Times (February 16, 1936): 40. via Newspapers.comopen access
  16. ^ "Hostess During Opera Week" Los Angeles Times (September 20, 1925): 46. via Newspapers.comopen access
  17. ^ "Society Prepares for Season of Grand Opera" Los Angeles Times (September 4, 1932): 24. via Newspapers.comopen access
  18. ^ "Shakespeare Center Plan of Foundation" Los Angeles Times (April 12, 1934): 28. via Newspapers.comopen access
  19. ^ "Opposed by Brothers and Sisters" New York Times (April 13, 1894): 9.
  20. ^ "Howard Gould May Marry Miss Tyler" New York Times (November 9, 1894): 12. via ProQuest
  21. ^ "Does Not Correspond with Gould" New York Times (June 2, 1894): 9. via ProQuest
  22. ^ "Topics of the Theatre" Ainslee's Magazine (June 1899): 618.
  23. ^ "Odette Tyler a Wife" New York Times (April 28, 1897): 4. via ProQuest
  24. ^ Curt Mason, "R. D. Shepherd, aka R. D. MacLean" Historic Shepherdstown & Museum.
  25. ^ Allan R. Ellenberger, Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory (McFarland 2001): 154. ISBN 9780786450190
  26. ^ "Odette Tyler Dies; A Former Actress" New York Times (December 9, 1936): 27. via ProQuest

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