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Nethersole, Olga (1863–1951)

English actress. Name variations: Olga Isabel Nether-sole. Born in Kensington, England, on January 18, 1863 (some sources cite 1866 or 1870); died on January 9, 1951; daughter of Henry Nethersole (a solicitor); educated in London and on the Continent.

An English actress of Spanish descent, Olga Nethersole was born in London in 1863 and made her stage debut at Brighton in 1887 as Lettice Vane in Harvest. From 1888 to 1894, she played important parts in London under John Hare at the Garrick, successfully opening as Janet Preece in Pinero's The Profligate. In 1894, she joined the management of the Court Theatre. She also toured in Australia and America, playing leading parts in modern plays, notably as Fanny Legrand in Clyde Fitch's stage version of Sapho. Based on an 1884 novel by French writer Alphonse Daudet about an "immoral" woman who takes numerous lovers, the play sparked an uproar when Nethersole brought it to New York City in 1900. Particularly offensive to respectable sensibilities was the fact that the play ended not with the downfall or death (à la Camille) of the heroine, which would have been appropriate retribution for her wicked ways, but with her alive and well and exiting the stage with a lover, presumably on their way to a bedroom. The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice was outraged, and Nethersole was hauled into court and charged with "violating public decency." During the weeks of her trial, the story was fodder for newspapers across the country, and the public was on her side. One of the witnesses called to testify was a police officer who informed the court that he had seen the play half a dozen times, "in the line of duty," and had not been the slightest bit offended. The jury acquitted Nethersole in 15 minutes, and audiences clamored to see her when she went back on stage in Sapho. The play was also produced in London in 1902. It was not media hype but her powerful acting, however, that made a strong impression in a number of other plays, including Carmen, in which she again appeared in America in 1906. Nethersole was created a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in recognition of her acting skills.

Nethersole, Olga (1863–1951)

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