William Gillette (jəlĕt´), 1853–1937, American actor and dramatist, b. Hartford, Conn. His New York debut in Mark Twain's Gilded Age (1877) was shortly followed by his own first play, The Professor (1881). In the same year Esmeralda, written with Frances Hodgson Burnett, established his success. Held by the Enemy (1886) was the first of his popular Civil War plays, the second being Secret Service (1896). Both won him high personal praise. With Sherlock Holmes (1899), however, Gillette scored his lasting triumph, creating a play and a character with which he was permanently associated. He was one of the first to profess that an actor should build his characterization on the dominant qualities of his own personality.
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