Monday, March 12, 2012

Toronto's Most Famous Daughter

Mary Pickford and friends.
The late Herbert Whittaker, distinguished Canadian theatre critic, once dubbed Mary Pickford "Toronto's most famous daughter." Although Mary was the most stunning example of a Canadian performer adopted into the American theatrical family, there were others.

Clara Morris (1848–1925), an actress, dancer, and writer, was also Toronto-born. Vaudevillian Eva Tanguay (1878–1947) was born in Marbleton, Quebec; and comedienne May Irwin (1862–1938) and her sister Flo were from Whitby, Ontario.

I've already written here about the tragic life of Florence Laurence (1886–1938), who was born in Hamilton, Ontario. The original "Biograph Girl," she never recovered from the trauma she suffered during a studio fire, and Laurence ended her own life by ingesting ant paste.

Like Mary Pickford, these women all began their professional careers as children. The theatre provided the means of escaping poverty for them and their families. Unfortunately there was not enough happening in Canadian theatre in the early years to allow them to stay in this country.

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