Anderson, Mary (1859–1940)

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Anderson, Mary (1859–1940)

American actress. Name variations: Mary de Navarro, Madame de Navarro. Born Mary Antoinette Anderson in Sacramento, California, on July 28, 1859; died in Worcestershire, England, on May 29, 1940; educated at the Ursuline Convent in Louisville, Kentucky; studied elocution with Vandenhoff; married Antonio F. de Navarro, in 1890; children: one son.

At age 13, Mary Anderson began to study for the theater. Three years later, on November 25, 1875, she made her first appearance on the American stage as Juliet in an amateur production at Macauley's Theater in Louisville, Kentucky, and scored an immediate success. During the following ten years, she played in all the principal cities of the United States and was immensely popular with all classes. Her beauty and magnificent voice made her the most famous actress of her day.

From 1885 to 1989, Anderson appeared in England, where she repeated her American triumphs. She had wanted to make her debut there in the part of Juliet but had been warned against it by American critic William Winter. "Your Juliet will be compared to that of the reigning favorite, Ellen Terry. Try Parthenia." In 1883, Anderson opened as Parthenia in Maria Anne Lovell 's Ingomar at the Lyceum and was once again successful. As a result, she was later accepted in any part she chose. Her most notable portrayals were Perdita, Hermione, Galatea, Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Bianca, Pauline, Meg Merrilees, and Juliet.

Illness in 1889 forced her to retire. The following year, she married Antonio de Navarro and made her residence in the village of Broadway, Worcestershire, England, nestled at the foot of the Cotswold Hills, in Shakespeare country. After World War I broke out, Anderson frequently appeared at special performances for the benefit of wounded soldiers and, later, in support of the poor. Working with composer and friend Maude Valerie White, she also developed her singing voice. On a bitterly cold winter evening, Anderson appeared in a benefit for the poor in the East End of London, as described in a 1905 edition of Munsey's Magazine: "It seemed probable that the West End folk who had paid high prices for their seats would not face the storm; it even seemed possible that the poor people for whom the entertainment was provided would prefer to crouch in the shelter of their poverty-stricken homes. Yet when the time came the great hall was packed." When Mary Anderson appeared, she was greeted "with a demonstration of applause so terrific that it seemed to tear the building…. When she was allowed to begin, she held her hearers in absolute thrall." Anderson gave two more performances in that hall, once to 4,000 children. She wrote two autobiographies, including A Few Memories (1896), and co-authored, with Robert Hichens, the long-running play The Garden of Allah.