- Historic Sites
Ladies Of The Lithograph
December 1963 | Volume 15, Issue 1
Although the dramatic scene was slock in trade for the lithograph artist, now and then an outstanding star u’as enough of a box-office magnet to justify a poster portrait. Such was the splendid Julia Arthur, whose jet black hair, dark, luminous eyes, rich voice, and tremendous stage presence evoked raptures in many an audience between 1885 and iooo. Her sultry beauty suggested an exotic background, but she was born in Hamilton, Ontario. By the time she reached her teens she vas on tlie rond with an American company as an unpaid apprentice. Julia’s audience response was enormous from the start, however, and her manager, recognizing valuable talent when he saw it, was soon paying her ten dollars a week. Ten years later, alter exercising her great equipment in most of the current melodramas (including East Lynnej, she had captivated London as well as New York, and was confining herself mostly to Shakespearean roles (including Hamlet in Hamlet) at very ample salaries. After marriage to a wealthy businessman, she came out of retirement in 1915, and late in her career played nurse Edith Cavell in an early movie- The Woman the Germans Shot.
Some feminine stars of the melodrama went on to higher things; others were graduates of, and sometimes backsliders into, vaudeville. Melodrama, according Io a New York commentator in the nineties, “employs good specialty talent, [and] lifts the better class of vaudeville artists out of the necessity of battling against cheap and dishonest agents and a glutted market wliere nerve is rather considered before genius.” What roles Sylvia Thorne played is not known; very little, in fact, is recorded of her, considering that she ruas for years regarded as the typical New York showgirl and was billed as “the golden Venus iuilh tlie pale blue lights.” A hundred and one pounds of fun, she is said to have made the blasé blood of Broadway flow more rapidly whenever she came out of the wings, to the accompaniment of a flourish from the orchestra and much hasty adjustment of opera glasses. Her later career, however, provides a dismal contrast to that of Julia Arthur. Around iooo she ioas named as corespondent in a prominent divorce action; a few years later, after a stint in the Folies Bergère, she was reported destitute and sick in Paris. And thereupon she was lost from view.