Page images
PDF
EPUB

imagination he has given no denotement.

He is no more worthy to be named with Joseph Jefferson than Martin Tupper is worthy to be named with Alfred Tennyson.

Mr. Warfield was born in San Francisco, California, on November 28, 1866. He began theatrical life as a programme boy, in the Standard Theatre of that city. Later he became an usher, at the Bush Street Theatre there. His first professional appearance was made as a member of a travelling theatrical company at Napa, California, in 1888, as the specious, rascally Jew, Melter Moss, in “The Ticket-of-Leave Man.” That company was disbanded at the end of one week, and thereafter Mr. Warfield appeared at several San Francisco variety halls, and in a piece called “About Town,” and gave imitations of actors whom he had seen,-among them Tommaso Salvini and Sarah Bernhardt,—and of "types" that he had observed in the streets of his native city. In 1890 he removed to New York and obtained professional employment, for a short time, in Paine's Concert Hall, in Eighth Ave

His next engagement was to act Hiram Joskins, in a play called “The Inspector,” produced by Mr. William A. Brady: that employment lasted two months. In March, 1891, he performed as Honora, in “O'Dowd's Neighbors,” in a company led by Mark Murphy. In the season of 1891-'92 he acted with Russell's Comedians, under the management of John H. Russell, appearing as John Smith, in “The City Directory.” In 1892-'93 he was seen as Washington Littlehales, in "A Nutmeg Match.”

nue.

In September, 1895, he became associated with the New York Casino Theatre, where he remained for three years, acting in “About Town,” “The Merry Whirl,” “In Gay New York,” and “The Belle of New York,” -pieces which are correctly described as medleys of tinkling music and nonsense. In those “entertainments,” frivolous and often vulgar, Mr. Warfield presented several variations of substantially the same identity, an expert semblance of the New York East Side Jew. In 1898 he joined the burlesque and travesty company managed by Messrs. Weber and Fields, at their theatre in Broadway, between Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth Streets, New York. At that house he appeared in various rough and commonplace travesties of contemporary theatrical successes, generally presenting, in different lights, his photographic copy of the huckstering, acquisitive, pusillanimous Jew of low life. One notable variation of that type was his assumption of The Old Man, in a burlesque of the offensive play of “Catherine.” Among the salient characteristics of his acting, in whatever parts he played, were fidelity to minute details of appearance and demeanor and consistent and continuous preservation of the spirit of burlesque,-a spirit which combines imperturbable gravity of aspect with apparently profound sincerity in preposterous situations and while delivering extravagant, ludicrous speeches.

In 1901 Mr. Warfield had the good fortune to form a professional alliance with Mr. David Belasco, who presented him in a frail drama, called “The Auctioneer,” by Charles Klein and Lee Arthur. That vehicle was utilized for his professional industry during

In 1904 he was prominently brought forward in a play called “The Music Master," written by Mr. Charles Klein and revised by Mr. Belasco, and on that play, which proved exceptionally popular, he relied, exclusively, for the ensuing three years. On October 16, 1907, Mr. Belasco produced a play written by himself, in association with Pauline Phelps and Marion Short, called “A Grand Army Man,” in which Mr. Warfield acted the principal part. duction signalized the opening of the Stuyvesant Theatre, now (1912) called the Belasco. Mr. Warfield acted there, in “A Grand Army Man,” until February 22, when “The Music Master” was revived. During a subsequent tour of the country both those plays were presented, but “The Music Master,” proving more remunerative than the newer play, became again his sole professional reliance. On January 2, 1911, a play called “The Return of Peter Grimm,” written by Mr. Belasco, announced as based on a suggestion by Mr. William C. De Mille, was produced in Boston. On October 18, 1911, that play was presented for the first time in New York, at the Belasco Theatre-Mr. Warfield acting the central part. Mr. Warfield has devoted himself during the season of 1912-'13 to presentation of “Peter Grimm” throughout the country. He has, many times, publicly signified ambition and intention to produce “The Merchant of Venice,” and to act Shylock,—a part to which he may prove equal, but for the suitable embodiment of which he has not, as yet, shown the slightest qualification. Few actors, in any period, have received such abundant monetary remuneration as it has been Mr. Warfield's good fortune to obtain. He is, besides, reputed to be the owner of many “moving picture theatres” which earn large profits.

three years.

That pro

“THE MUSIC MASTER.”

On September 26, 1904, Mr. Warfield appeared at the Belasco Theatre, New York (formerly the Republic and now, 1912, again so designated), in "The Music Master” and, by a performance of deep sincerity and exceptional merit, gained the most substantial success of his professional life.

The play is not remarkable for either originality of design or felicity of construction, but it is pure in spirit, interesting in story, picturesque in setting, and healthful in influence, and it was apparent, from the first, that it would have a long and prosperous career. It was announced as having been written by Mr. Charles Klein.

It is, in fact, a patchwork, based to some extent on a play by Felix Morris (1847-1900) called “The Old Musician,” and worked over by David Belasco, with a distinctly perceptible infusion of dramatic expedients from that fine old play "Belphégor, or the Mountebank.”

The central person, Herr Anton von Barwig, the Music Master, is a German musician, of a familiar type,-peculiar but attractive; impassioned but gentle; droll but piteous; fervid but patient; an image of moral dignity and selfsacrifice,—and the posture of situations and incidents that have been utilized for his presentment shows him a's a loving father, occupied, under conditions of almost sordid adversity, in a quest for his daughter, whom an unworthy wife and mother has taken from him, flying, with a paramour, from Germany to the United States. That daughter, at last, he finds and, under conditions cruel to himself, practically befriends, by keeping the secret of her paternity. The conspicuous attributes of this person,-attributes blended and woven beneath a serio-comic surface of foreign manner and broken English,—are, intrinsically (of course, with variant investiture), those that have long endeared such characters as Michonnet, Triplet, Mr. Peggotty, Caleb Plummer, and Doctor Primrose; the attributes, namely, of love, charity, fidelity, fortitude, patience, humor, simplicity, spontaneous goodness, and an unconscious grace equally of conduct, manner, and thought. The purpose,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »