Phyllis Rankin

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Phyllis Rankin

Phyllis McKee Rankin (August 31, 1874 – November 17, 1934)[1] was a Broadway actress and singer from the 1880s until the 1920s.


Phyllis McKee Rankin[2] was the second daughter of stage actors Elizabeth "Kitty" Blanchard[3] and McKee Rankin.[4][5][6]

Her older sister, Gladys Rankin (1870–1914), was also an entertainer with her husband Sidney Drew in an act billed Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Drew, and her younger half-sister, Doris Rankin (1888–1946), was a stage and screen actress and one-time wife of actor Lionel Barrymore. In September 1890, Elizabeth Rankin filed a motion contesting her husband's resistance to providing support for their daughter. A previous suit, in which she filed for separation from McKee, was being considered by the New York Supreme Court.[6] Mrs. McKee Rankin was regarded as the foremost and best-known character actress and stage artist of her generation.[7]

Phyllis Rankin was tutored by her father in old school drama.[8] She made her first stage appearance as a youth of 10 with her parents in Stormbeaten.[1] She eventually left her father's companies and was managed by Charles Frohman.[8]

A house belonging to McKee Rankin at 40 Edgecombe Avenue, near One Hundred and Thirty-Sixth Street, burned in the early morning of April 1, 1891. Rankin and her mother were inside when the fire began in a linen closet. The blaze was contained and put out through the efforts of a bucket brigade. Damage was estimated at $400 and was covered by insurance.[2]

Acting career[edit]

Rankin was in the supporting cast of Sara, a play performed at the Palmer Theatre (Wallack's Theatre), in the summer of 1890.[9] Sara was the abandoned wife of a French adventurer named Antoine la Rue.[10] Albert M. Palmer gained control of Wallack's Theatre in 1888 and produced plays in New York City through 1896.[11]

Rose Coghlan obtained Rankin to replace Jennie Yeamans in an 1892 production of The Check Book.[12] In April 1893 she appeared in the Arabian Nights on a variety bill at the Standard Theatre,[13] 6th Avenue (Manhattan) between 32nd Street and 33rd Street,[14] Frohman's comedians were also featured performers.[13]

In February 1897 Rankin was part of a bill at the Olympia Music Hall,[15] 1514–16 Broadway (Manhattan) (44th Street),[16] that included Auguste van Biene.[15] The same month she appeared at the Twenty-Third Street Theatre,[17] 139 West Twenty-Third Street,[18] of Frederick Francis Proctor.[17] In May she entertained at the St. Nicholas Music Hall,[19] West 66th Street near Columbus Avenue (Manhattan).[20] She sang at Koster & Bial's Music Hall,[21] 729 6th Avenue and 23rd Street (Manhattan),[22] in June.[21] In July Rankin performed with Lizzie Evans and George Thatcher at Keith's New Union Square Theatre,[23] near Broadway at 14th Street (Manhattan).[24] During her engagement at the B.F. Keith establishment, she did impersonations of Anna Held.[25] At the Casino Theatre,[26] 1404 Broadway (West 39th Street),[27] Rankin played Fifi[28] Fricot[1] in The Belle of New York, which had a one-week booking in December 1897.[26]

By August 1898 she was receiving offers from English managers of comic opera.[29] The Belle of New York was staged at the Shaftesbury Theatre with Harry Davenport in the company.[30] Davenport portrayed a doctor and Rankin, a housekeeper, in Three Wise Fools. The two met and married in the original production of The Belle of New York.[8] In the musical they sang a famous duet, When We Are Married.[1]

In 1921 she had performed on stage for fifty years. Other productions in which she acted were The Rounders, It Happened In Nordland, and Fascinating Flora.[1]


Rankin died in Canton, Pennsylvania, in 1934 at the age of 60.[1] She and Harry Davenport married and were the parents of Arthur Rankin, a writer and actor in motion pictures (1923–34). He died from a cerebral hemorrhage following an extended illness in 1947.[31]

Their grandson was producer and director Arthur Rankin, Jr. After her wedding to Davenport, Rankin left the stage for eleven years before returning in a small role in Lightnin, in August 1918. The couple later teamed at the Criterion Theatre for a production of Three Wise Fools.[8] Rankin was the mother of three other children, 2 of whom acted on stage.[1]

After the death of his wife, Harry Davenport entered motion pictures and reached fame with his supporting role as Dr. Meade in Gone with the Wind.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Phyllis Rankin Dies; Former Stage Star, New York Times, November 18, 1934, pg. 35.
  2. ^ a b M'Kee Rankin's House On Fire, New York Times, April 2, 1891, pg. 8.
  3. ^ Elizabeth "Kitty" Rankin;; retrieved September 9, 2016
  4. ^ McKee Rankin;; retrieved September 9, 2016
  5. ^ Parker, Jon, Who's Who in the Theatre, 1916, p. 402 Retrieved 6.28.13
  6. ^ a b Mrs. Rankin's Suit For Separation, New York Times, September 26, 1890, pg. 8.
  7. ^ "A Queenly Woman", Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1899, pg. 4.
  8. ^ a b c d "Davenport and Rankin", New York Times, February 9, 1919, pg. 42.
  9. ^ Amusements, New York Times, June 20, 1890, pg. 4.
  10. ^ Mrs. Rankin's Matinee, New York Times, June 21, 1890, pg. 4.
  11. ^ EJ Phillips' Manhattan 1830–1904, Palmer's Theatre. Retrieved on 12-24-07.
  12. ^ Theatrical Gossip, New York Times, April 19, 1892, pg. 8.
  13. ^ a b Display Ad 11-No Title, New York Times, April 23, 1893, pg. 7.
  14. ^ EJ Phillips' Manhattan, Standard Theatre. Retrieved on 12-24-07.
  15. ^ a b Alberti At Olympia, New York Times, February 16, 1897, pg. 7.
  16. ^ IBDB Olympia Theatre Music Hall. Retrieved on 12-24-07.
  17. ^ a b Notes Of The Week, New York Times, February 28, 1897, pg. 21.
  18. ^ Cinema Treasures Proctor's 23rd Street Theatre. Retrieved on 12-24-07.
  19. ^ Display Ad 14-No Title, New York Times, May 13, 1897, pg. 12.
  20. ^ Theatres, New York Times, May 16, 1897, pg. 16.
  21. ^ a b Theatres And Music Halls, New York Times, June 29, 1897, pg. 7.
  22. ^ Koster & Bial. Retrieved on 12-24-07.
  23. ^ Display Ad 12—No Title, New York Times, July 18, 1897, pg. 8.
  24. ^ Musicals 101 Theatre in New York. Retrieved on 12-24-07.
  25. ^ Roof Gardens And Theatres, New York Times, July 20, 1897, pg. 7.
  26. ^ a b Theatres, New York Times, December 19, 1897, pg. 9.
  27. ^ IBDB Casino Theatre. Retrieved on 12-24-07.
  28. ^ Article 4—No Title, New York Times, December 11, 1898, pg. IMS10.
  29. ^ American Actors Abroad, New York Times, August 7, 1898, pg. 5.
  30. ^ Mr. Lederer At Home Again, New York Times, March 12, 1899, pg. 17.
  31. ^ Arthur Rankin, 50, Actor And Writer, New York Times, March 24, 1947, pg. 25.

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