Cowl, Jane (1883–1950)

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Cowl, Jane (1883–1950)

American actress and playwright . Name variations: (pseudonym) C.R. Avery; (joint pseudonym with Jane Murfin) Alan Langdon Martin. Born Grace Bailey in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 14, 1883; died in Santa Monica, California, on June 22, 1950; attended Erasmus Hall, 1902–04, and Columbia University; married Adolph Klauber (an American theatrical producer), in 1908.

Selected films:

The Garden of Lies (1915); The Spreading Dawn (1917); Stage Door Canteen (1943); Once More, My Darling (1949); No Man of Her Own (1949); The Secret Fury (1950); Payment on Demand (1950).

Selected writings:

(with Jane Murfin) Lilac Time (1917); (with Murfin) Daybreak (1917); Information Please (1918); (with Murfin under joint pseudonym Alan Langdon Martin) Smilin' Through (1919); (with Theodore Charles) The Jealous Moon (1928); (under name C.R. Avery) Hervey House (1935).

Once considered the most beautiful woman on the American stage, Jane Cowl made her theatrical debut in David Belasco's Sweet Kitty Bellairs in 1903, while still a schoolgirl. Over the next few years, she played numerous small parts while perfecting her acting technique under Belasco's direction. Her first major role in Is Matrimony a Failure? (1910) was greeted with critical acclaim, and she went on to star billing in Within the Law (1912), which enjoyed a run of 540 performances.

Cowl wrote most of her plays, many of which she also starred in, with Jane Murfin , a friend from her Belasco days. Their first effort, Lilac Time (1917), was a moderate hit, but the later Smilin' Through (1919) turned into a Broadway phenomenon, running for 1,170 performances. (The play was written under the joint male pseudonym Alan Langdon Martin, because Cowl and Murfin suspected that sex discrimination might have contributed to the failure of two earlier plays, Daybreak and Information Please.)

In 1923, Cowl reached the peak of her acting career as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, which ran for 856 consecutive performances (157 in New York, the remainder on tour), establishing the world record for Shakespearean productions. In 1924, she appeared in Pelleas and Melisande. A brief dry spell was followed by two hits: Noel Coward's Easy Virtue (1925) and Robert Sherwood's comedy The Road to Rome (1927).

Subsequent efforts floundered, including a production of The Jealous Moon, which she wrote with Theodore Charles, and a 1930 revival of Twelfth Night, which she also designed. Cowl's last substantial run was in John Van Druten's Old Acquaintance, which opened in 1940. After some years playing stock and revivals around the country, she made her last New York stage appearance in The First Mrs. Fraser, in 1948.

Most of Cowl's films were undistinguished. In 1943, she appeared as herself in the movie Stage Door Canteen, of interest mainly because she was a co-director of the actual Stage Door Canteen operated by the American Theatre Wing during World War II. The actress died in Santa Monica, California, on June 22, 1950.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Cowl, Jane (1883–1950)

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