Beauties Of The Past – Maude Fealy

Stage and Silent Star Maude Fealy

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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.

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Maude at age 8 with mother Margaret Fealy.

Maude at age 8 with mother Margaret Fealy.

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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

17 thoughts on “Beauties Of The Past – Maude Fealy

  1. Kennah Manelli

    I dont know how to start this reply. You kind of just blew my mind a little. Feel like I’m in some sort of matrix rabbit hole right now. Lol. Who knows if you’ll even see this two+ years later but felt compelled to reply. And I’ll take a reply from anybody else who knows if the above is true??

    Anyway here’s my little story. Although raised Christian I’ve always had a sort of underlying spiritual belief in reincarnation past lives etc. And I do have this one vision from a past life conpletely unrelated. But it’s not part of my daily thought or something I ever really think about at all. I’ve never researched anything about it, looked into it, had any moments whatever. Until… a few weeks ago I’m watching a random YouTube video about the 20 most beautiful women from the past. When her picture pops up, my mind or my soul says, that’s me!, like plain as day with zero questions. I was almost in shock, I mean I’ve never had a feeling or thought like that before but nothing has ever felt more true at the same time. We do look alike very much but it’s more the gaze in her eyes I recognized. Anyway obviously she starts becoming a little side interest when I’m sitting on the couch. Tonight I find this page and your comment.
    My name is Kennah and idk maybe twenty years ago when I was around 20 someone told me about this movie after being reminded of the main character McKenna when I introduced myself. It was already pretty old at the time, but I found it somehow and watched it anyway. I’ve always been interested in time travel so was delighted when I found out that was a main theme in the movie and pf course also connected to the love story 🙂 Anyway it made an impact, it stuck,felt like I was meant to see it and all that. But life goes on, I grow up, pretty much forget about it. Early this year I’m at walmart and decide to dig through there 4$ movie bin. I find Somewhere in Time and think no way!! And of course buy it and am delighted to watch again. Still in shock how much its resonating and speaking to me after all these years.

    So here I am tonight researching Maude trying to figure out if it was in fact a past life of mine. And I find this specific page and your comment about a movie that somebody told me about 20 years ago w a character that has my this life name that I randomly found at walmart 9 months ago may have been written about my past lifes life. Lol. I mean wow. Lol. So I would really like to know if this is true!! If you have any more info about it or my possible past life please email me or comment back or facebook me whatever. I’m totally intrigued.

    Hope you have a great day and sorry if I’m rambling, it’s just what are the odds??

    Kennah Manelli possibly aka Maude Fealy

  2. This Old Scarecrow

    Maude Fealy’s first husband, Louis Sherwin; although noteworthy, turned out a cad. His second marriage to Ann Winsor dogged him (and rightly so) throughout most of his professional career, and nixed his engagement to Mary Miles Minter. Maude may have endured the same fate as Ann, had not her mother and step-father intervened and severed the relationship. Tossing Louis under the bus was the right decision for all concerned. For more on Louis Sherwin, see my brief bio here:
    Also, I paint Louis Sherwin as the deadbeat character he was on his wife Ann Sherwin’s bio here:

  3. Fran thompson

    I was told that the book Bid Time Return and the movie that was based on the book Somewhere in time is based on her life after seeing a picture of her and read her BIO. Anyone know if that is true?

    1. B.P. Post author

      Right era, and right first name, but it is Maude Adams. For a while we have planned a full story on author Matheson and Maude Adams. It will appear sometime in the future. In the meantime, you can read this about Maude Adams

      1. Dan

        A very attractive young lady. And you better believe if she had been an actress 100 years later, she would have had a nose job.

  4. Irv O. Neil

    I just saw photos of Maude Fealy at a photography fair and, as I was not familiar with her, when I got home I just had to look her up on the good ole Internet. Found and enjoyed your lovely informative post, the pictures, and the clip compilation. Especially enjoyed the opening 1913 clip and the last one with Charles Boyer from 1958. Thanks for your work in putting this all together! I look forward to reading more here about these beauties from long ago.

  5. Sanja

    She is so beautiful. I’m enchanted by her a long time ago, so I was very happy when I saw this fantastic article with lots of interesting info. Thank you for this things that nobody cares about.
    p.s Love you

  6. Opelske

    Loved reading and watching the video clip on some of her appearances in talking films. Lovely actress. How wonderful it is to see this beauty age so gracefully. I must add these films to my classic collection. I now wonder what other early stage and silent stars had small parts or walk ons in later films. Great info, thanks.

  7. Dave

    Every so often I find sites about this gorgeous and timeless beauty. It’s to bad she isn’t around. She would have interesting tales.


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