Stage and Silent Star Maude Fealy
A new feature of our web site: photos and short biographies of glamor girls of the past.
These are women that were more than just beautiful, they were talented and were able to cut out successful careers for themselves during an era when men dominated the entertainment industry. Of course with the passage of time, many of these stars have dimmed and are now distant memories. We hope to bring them to light again to a wider audience.
Maude Fealy (born Maude Hawk) in Memphis, Tennessee, started her career at the age of 3 in the legitimate theater with her mother, actress Margaret Fealy. Margaret divorced Maude’s father, James Hawk and then went by her maiden name of Fealy and Maude also adopted her mother’s maiden name.
Fealy’s exact birth date was never clearly established and contemporary reports range from March 4, 1881 to 1886. The Social Security Death Index lists her birthday as March 3, 1882
Fealy hit the big time just before the turn of the century when theatre impresario Augustin Daly discovered her playing Juliet and signed her to a five year contract. Daly died in 1899, effectively canceling the contract and Fealy was then courted by all the major playwrights to appear in their productions. Fealy quickly became a star in many Broadway and London productions. Among the many plays she appeared in were: Quo Vadis, Sherlock Holmes, The Professor’s Love Story, Heart’s Courageous, The Truth Tellers and On the Quiet. She cemented her reputation as a fine actress by playing the female lead in several of the first British actor ever knighted, Sir Henry Irving’s plays including, Becket, The Lyons Mail, Waterloo and Louis XI.
In an interview Fealy summed up her philosophy of life,
“I never lose my temper, because I hate scenes and I hate wasting time. Moreover I can’t bear to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
“As for cheerfulness, it’s the greatest tonic in the world. It makes one breathe well and deeply and helps one’s complexion, and a good complexion helps one’s appearance. The appearance is an asset in making friends, and having friends helps success. And while success doesn’t always bring happiness, it certainly goes a long way.”
A 1916, a Los Angeles Times reporter covering a party hosted by Maude Fealy noted that the actress, then in her mid-thirties, looked closer to 18, rather than her current age.
Fealy later became a playwright, starred in vaudeville and made films. One very intriguing side note is that Fealy appeared as an extra in every talking picture that producer / director Cecil B. DeMille made.
DeMille and Fealy had met in 1906 in Denver when they were together at summer stock at Elitch Gardens Theatre. The very married DeMille became enchanted with Fealy and they maintained a close friendship throughout their lives.
Fealy settled in Denver and had ties there throughout her life. Fealy was married three times and was divorced twice.
Her first marriage, a secret one, in 1907 to an Englishman, Denver newspaper writer (Hugo) Louis Sherwin, lasted barely 2 years. It was a marriage in name only, as it was never consummated according to Fealy. The short duration was in no small part due to meddling from Fealy’s mother who when she found out about the marriage went ballistic.
Margaret was so dismayed at Maude’s marriage that she left her home and husband saying in a letter to Maude she would never return. In Margaret’s letter to Maude she said “she had gone hungry and made many sacrifices in order that her daughter might realize her ambition for a histrionic career and that, having been so bitterly disappointed, she never wished to see her daughter or her husband again.”
Maude Fealy capitulated soon after receiving the letter, saying that she cared for her mother too much and there was only one answer – to have the marriage annulled. Fealy apologized for any injustice she had done to Sherwin and made reparations to her mother by not seeing him again. Two years later a quiet divorce was completed. Sherwin would go on to a romantic relationship with fallen star Mary Miles Minter and a become a very well respected film and drama critic with The Rocky Mountain News, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Evening Globe.
At the time of her divorce in 1909, Fealy sued her manager, theatre owner and producer John Cort Sr. over a broken contract. Cort in turn sued Margaret Fealy’s husband Rafaello Cavallo for monies he says he had lost with Maude Fealy while on tour with her. Cavallo was in the entertainment field as well, being the founder of the Denver Symphony Orchestra and later the conductor of the Pueblo Symphony. Incidentally, John Cort Sr. built the Cort Theatre, which remains in business today at 138 West 48th Street.
Soon after securing her divorce from Sherwin, Fealy married broker and actor James Durkin in 1909. The marriage lasted eight years until they divorced in 1917.
In what can only be described as a tangled web, Fealy’s final marriage in 1920 was to New York’s, Park Theatre manager, John Edward Cort Jr., the son of John Cort Sr.! That marriage was annulled in 1923. All three marriages failed to produce any children.
In the twenties and thirties, Fealy concentrated on her work as a playwright and appearing in vaudeville. After a break in film work from 1917 to 1931, Fealy began appearing again in films, mostly in uncredited, brief walk-ons. As time went on roles and money dried up. On June 26, 1949 Fealy wrote a letter to director George Cukor who had given her a small uncredited part in Gaslight (1944), telling him of her financial difficulties and asking him for help.
Throughout her life Fealy was also a drama coach to many noted personalities including Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Ernest Truex, and Nanette Fabray. Fealy continued doing stage work until her semi-retirement in 1963.
Maude Fealy died on November 9, 1971, and Cecil B. DeMille who had died in 1959, provided in his will that Maude Fealy be entombed at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery Mausoleum (now known as Hollywood Forever Cemetery), where her mother Margaret Fealy was interred in 1955.
DeMille is buried in the same cemetery.
Below is footage of Maude Fealy in the early and later stages of her film career.