Julia Marlowe

Fanny Brough, Sarah Frances Frost
04/17/1865 - 11/12/1950

Julia Marlowe was an English-born American actress known as the preeminent Shakespeare actress of her time. Born Sarah Frances Frost in Cumerland, England, to John Frost and Sarah Strong Hodgson on August 17 1865, Marlowe moved with her family to Kansas, U.S.A. in 1870. Marlowe spent her childhood in Cincinnatti, and joined a children's opera company in her early teenage years. Performing various Shakespearian roles, under the name of "Fanny Brough", Marlowe toured with the company for nearly a year under the direction of the Manager of the Bijou Theatre of New York, Colonel Robert E.J. Miles. Soon after, Miles' sister-in-law Ada Dow took Marlowe to New York, where she retreated from the stage for several years in order to receive voice lessons from Parson Price, alongside other classical training. After her training Marlowe dropped her teenage nickname of "Fanny Brough" and assumed the name which would accompany her rise to fame: "Julia Marlowe".

 

At first Marlowe had a difficult time securing a role. Colonel Miles eventually gave Marlowe the opportunity to tour for two weeks in New England, performing Shakespearian roles. Directly thereafter in October of 1887, Marlowe made her first really successful debut in "Ingomar, the Barbarian" at the Bijou Theatre in New York. Marlowe made her Broadway debut in 1895, and swiftly rose to the height of fame, garnering great acclaim for her the beauty of her voice and the natural quality of her performances in over 70 Broadway productions.

 

In 1894 Marlowe married her first husband, Robert Taber. Together, Marlowe and Taber performed in Seattle, Washington, during the opening week of the Seattle Theatre in December of 1892. Marlowe's two headlining roles as Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing" and Viola in "Twelfth Night" receieved positive acclaim as usual, with the critics of the Seattle Post-intelligencer speaking effusively of her "natural" manner: "Modest, with the ways of a child, assuming nothing that she is not , she presents herself to the public as a young actress endowed with naturalness of manner created for the position that she has so successfully filled." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dec. 4 1892). Marlowe would later be credited with the most beautiful speaking voice of her time, and the most "modulated, elaborately shaded", if not effusive, manner of speaking (Notable American Women 499).

 

Marlowe and Taber became divorced in 1900. However, Marlowe became financially independent four years later after her enormously successful performance as Mary Tudor in Paul Kester's production of "When Knighthood was in Flower". Also in 1904, Marlowe began a partnership with E.H. Southern, whom she would eventurally marry in 1911. Together, Marlowe and Southern toured the United States performing many Shakespearian plays, with Marlowe reprising, among others, her role as Juliet, and receiving yet more acclaim for her natural grace. In 1905 the pair fired their manager, Charles Frohman, and signed instead with the Shubert Brothers, who offerred them a fairer wage, and a share of their profits. After several successful seasons in the U.S., the pair briefly tried their luck in London, before returning to the states where they had a more devoted following.

 

In 1921, Marlowe was awarded an honorary doctorate by George Washington University. In 1924, her health began to fail, and she retired. E.H. Southern died in 1933, after which Marlowe lived a somewhat reclusive life, though she would receive another honorary doctorate from Columbia in 1943. Marlowe spent her final years in New York, and passed away in 1950 at the age of 85.

Gender: 
Female
Cultural Identity: 
Notable Roles: 
Mary Tudor in "When Knighthood was in Flower"
Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing"
Viola in "Twelfth Night"
Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet"
Portia in "Ther Merchant of Venice"
Sources: 
James, Edward T. Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971. Print., The Seattle post-intelligencer. (Seattle, Wash. Terr. [Wash.]), 09 Dec. 1892. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress., The Seattle Post Intelligencer 10 December 1892, p.8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.