Julia Marlowe America's Favorite Shakespearean Actress (August 17, 1865 – November 12, 1950)

Julia Marlowe by Arnold Genthe, 1911, vintage gelatin silver print

Julia Marlowe was a stage actress during the late 1800's and early 1900's. She was born Sarah Frances Frost at Caldbeck, England, on August 17, 1865.  She came to the United States with her parents, John Frost and Sarah Hogston Frost when she was five years old.  Upon entering the United States, her family settled in the state of Kansas.  From there, they moved to Ironton, Portsmouth and Cincinnati, Ohio. From 1873 to 1877 she resided in a 3-story brick building on Second Street in the city of Portsmouth, Ohio.  She lived here from age 7 to age 10.

In the March 3, 1903 edition of The Marion Daily Star newspaper, details of Julia's life in Portsmouth was recounted by Mr. Edward Staiger,
"When Mr. Staiger was a boy and attended school at Portsmouth, a certain girl who was known as a tomboy was his classmate.  This tomboy left Portsmouth when she was about ten years of age and went out into the world to become known and admired, later, as Julia Marlowe.

When Miss Marlowe lived at Portsmouth, her name was Fannie Brough and she was the daughter of a woman who ran a boarding house and saloon which was one of the most popular resorts in the town.  Mr. Staiger recalls the girl as an unpromising youngster, a dare-devil willing to do anything any boy or girl was afraid to do.

Mrs. Brough moved to Cincinnati when Julia was about twelve years old, and opened a boarding house on Sixth street, which she is still running, despite the achievements of her wonderful daughter.  She has since been married to a man by the name of Beck.

Mr. Staiger has met his old classmate but once since the days of their childhood and that was in Cleveland after she had won great favor at the hands of the theater-going public.  Julia greeted him in an old-time rollicking way, and an evening of most pleasant reminiscences followed."

Another article in the February 2, 1942 issue of The Marion Star newspaper recounted:
"There are still living in Portsmouth those who remember Frances as a gay, lively girl, fond of making speeches, riding horseback, going on excursions into the Kentucky hills."
Julia Marlowe as 'Rosalind' in Shakespeare's As You Like It (1904-1913)
I just love her softness in her facial expression here!

Still in Cincinnati, Ohio, nicknamed, ‘Fanny’ she first began her career in the chorus of a juvenile opera company. She toured with them for a year performing in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M. S. Pinafore in 1879, under the direction of Colonel Robert E.J. Miles who was the manager of the Cincinnati Opera House. She played Sir Joseph Porter and later in Pygmailion and Galatea. She also starred in her first Shakespearean roles: as Balthazar in Romeo and Juliet and then as Maria in Twelfth Night. When she met Ada Dow, a relative of her theatre director, she was told to go to New York to study vocal training formally and attempt to become a serious stage actress. Her brief roles back in Ohio did not prepare her for life in New York. Now, a twenty-year old unknown Julia Marlowe attempted to audition for Shakespearean roles to no avail. When Colonel Miles became the new manager of the New York Bijou Opera House this gave her an opportunity to tour for two weeks in New London, Connecticut. She received acclaim for her portrayal of Ingmar, the Barbarian in Friedrich Halm’s Der Sohn der Wildnis during October of 1887. Her next step would be on the Broadway stage.

Julia Marlowe was touring in Philadelphia in 1891 when she came down with typhoid fever. Her face became so swollen that doctors suggested lancing it to release the toxins but another treatment was performed instead. Thank goodness her face was saved and her career continued. 
 Julia Marlowe and her first husband Robert Taber, NYPL

She made her Broadway stage debut in 1895 going on to appear in more than seventy Broadway productions;  most of them alongside her second husband and fellow stage actor, E.H. Sothern. Her first husband was Broadway actor Robert Taber. They were married in 1894 through 1900 but had no children.  Apparently, the marriage ended because she was more successful than her husband and Mr. Taber couldn’t handle it. She divorced him in 1900. Having saved her money wisely she independently decided to purchase a five story townhouse in New York City’s Upper West Side neighborhood at 337 Riverside Drive which is the corner of W. 106th Street.
 337 Riverside Drive on W. 106th Street, NYC, as it stands today!

 Julia Marlowe in Jeanne d'Arc. This reminds me so much of a J.W. Waterhouse painting

 Julia Marlowe with her second husband E.H. Sothern in Hamlet, NYPL

 The successful partnership between Julia Marlowe and E.H. Sothern began in 1904 when they appeared together in Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, and the lead roles in Hamlet then The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night through till 1905. They left their manager Charles Frohman and went with the Shubert Brothers increasing their profits. In 1906 they starred together in Percy MacKaye’s Jeanne d’Arc, he played the Duc d’Alencon and Julia played Jeanne d’Arc; becoming one of her most successful roles. Next came Sudermann’s John the Baptist and Heinrich in The Sunken Bell to  favorable reviews. E.H. Sothern became famous and most loved for his performances as Benedick and Malvolio. After another season in New York it was off to London but the audiences weren’t really there so they returned to America with a run at the Academy of Music in New York where audiences who could not afford a Broadway ticket could now see them perform together. They continued their Shakespearean repertoire starring in Antony and Cleopatra at the New Theatre and in Macbeth where they were a hit. They also put on special performances at children’s schools throughout New York City. By this time E.H. Sothern was divorced from his first wife having two children from that marriage he married Julia Marlowe in 1911 and they remained married until his death in New York City at the Plaza Hotel where they resided until 1933. She retired from acting in 1924, living at The Plaza until her death in 1950. She died of pneumonia at the age of 73.

Mr. and Mrs. E.H. Sothern in 1922 aboard the RMS Aquitania.

Julia Marlowe in 1950 at 73 years old Vintage publicity photograph

Julia Marlowe by John Daniel Barry, 1899, Richard G. Badger & Co., Boston, Massachusetts

Julia Marlowe: Her Life and Art by Charles Edward Russell, Kessinger Publishing, 2011


Pamela Britley said…
I love this post! I've never heard of her but I enjoyed reading about her! She lived in a beautiful building!
Kimberly Eve said…
I've only recently discovered Julia Marlowe. So, I'm happy others can learn a bit about her. Yes, I love that townhouse. Thanks so much for stopping by, Pamela.
Kevin Marsh said…
Hello Kimberley,

I have heard of Julia Marlowe but knew nothing about her. Thank you for an interesting blog. Great photographs too.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Kevin,

I'm glad you stopped by and enjoyed this post. I was thinking it might interest you and I'm so glad it did. Have a happy St. Patrick's Day and thanks for commenting :)
Hels said…
Living a life on the stage must have been very unreliable in terms of ongoing employment and income, at least until she was well established. So she was a brave woman. But the rewards ultimately arrived, it would seem: fame, travel, a fabulous town house, a happy second marriage, ship board life. Very nice indeed.
Kimberly Eve said…
I agree, Hels. Julia Marlowe seems to have been such an accomplished woman theatrically and financially! Happy to know her second marriage seemed to be with the right man for her. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

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