Home / Performers / Nance O'Neil - Passion Incarnate_profdash [11]

Nance O'Neil Passion Incarnate
by David for group historicalziegfeld Dec 24, 2010

She was big--a shade under 6 feet--dreadfully beautiful--volatile--edgy. Axe murderess Lizzie Borden was rumored to be her lover. On stage she could ignite the curtains with emotion . . . if the play interested her. If it didn't, she went through the motions. Early in her career, her management didn't know how to handle her. The Benjamin Falk images below from 1897 date from her first foray on the Broadway stage, when she appeared in a series of ill-thought out melodramas. McKee Rankin, retreated from the New York stage, shipped her to Australia and London and made her a star in female-centered vehicles such as "Magda." When she reappeared in America, she had grown sufficiently eminent to helm her own acting company. As a native of California's Bay area, she did not reckon New York the be-all-and-end-all of the American stage. Indeed, she preferred Boston as a theater town, and Boston photographer Will Armstrong to the New York camera artists. Her finest shoots however were done by Los Angeles photographer Mojonier (see images 1 & 2 below). Her unconventional views on acting and stage life extended to a ready acceptance of film as a performing medium. She first appeared in 1913's filming of James O'Neill's vehicle, "The Count of Monte Cristo," and became a regular featured performer in 1915, tending toward unusual and artistic projects such as the Theda Bara "Kreutzer Sonata" of 1915 and the strange 1917 Russian Revolution drama staged by Russian ex-pats, "The Fall of the Romanoffs." Her vogue as a film performer evaporated in 1919. For a decade she reverted to touring in plays. Then the coming of sound revitalized her career. She had an extraordinary voice and had aged into the sort of imperious mighty matron that script-writers considered a character anchor for ensemble dramas. For seven years she relished in a variety of screen roles, performances that had the curious effect of reanimating her stage credibility as well. Her performing career ending with the Second World War. She lived until 1965, dying at the age 90 in an actor's home. David S. Shields.

1 comment



Add a comment

Notify me of followup comments :



Subscribe without commenting

CAPTCHA Image

  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    ohikkoshi wrote on Dec 27, '10
    David, thanks for this gift!
    A simply amazing album.
Total hits: 5144468
Most recent 10 minutes hits: 65
Current hour hits: 205
Yesterday hits: 2521
Last 24 hours visitors: 402
Current hour visitors: 32
Recent guest(s): 13