Sunday, February 6, 2011

Maude Fealy, American Actress

My next beauty of the Belle Epoque period is the American actress Maude Fealy. But since the actual le Belle Epoque was a period in European social history from the late 19th century and lasting until WWI, this time period was the overlap of the Victorian Era and the Edwardian Era in Great Britain and in the United States this period was known as the Gilded Age.

Maude was born Maude Hawk in Memphis, Tennessee on March 3, 1881. She was the daughter of Margaret Fealy, a stage and film actress herself who conducted acting schools around the country, frequently out of their home and later was in charge of theTabor School of Acting in Denver, Colorado.


Maude made her first stage appearance at the age of 3 in an adaptation of Faust and Marguerite with her mother playing Marguerite. At the age of 5, Maude had roles in East Lynne and in Rip Van Winkle. In 1906 Maude signed a 5 year contract and soon became a well known actress appearing on many magazine covers and other publicity. She became a Thanhouser Films player in 1911 and through the  prominent, well respected independent film company, Thanhouser Company, Maude received extensive publicity being featured in advertising more than any other of the company's players. Many of those photos are still popular among artists and collectors.

In 1901 rumors of a secret engagement flourished throughout the press so much so that her mother had to cable denials to leading press agencies in the United Staes and England. The marriage never took place.

In July, 1907 Maude secretly married a young English drama critic in Denver whom her mother did not approve of, referring to him as a "nobody" who could not provide for her daughter. Her mother forced the young husband to live separately for a year during which time he moved east. Maude filed for divorce stating desertion and non-support as the reason and the decree was granted in September 1909.

In November 1909 Maude married a young actor in Washington D.C. of whom her mother approved by the name of James Peter Durkin. Mr. Durkin later also secured a position with the Thanhouser Company in the New Rochelle, New York studio. Maude appeared in many Thanhouser productions from 1911 to 1914. She then briefly joined and performed in a stock company in Detroit, Michigan; starred in moving pictures in 1915, 1916 for Paramount, and 1917 for the Jesse Lasky Picture Company, and was a headliner on stage around the country. Using Maude's financial assets the couple formed the Fealy-Durkin stock company which performed in Denver and elsewhere. Nevertheless, the marriage ended in divorce in Denver in June 1917.

Maude made one more attempt at marriage to James E. Cort but the marriage ended in annulment in 1923.

Maude was on stage throughout the country in numerous plays from 1917 to the 1930s when she was involved in the Los Angeles Theatre Project. There she became the center of a bitter undisclosed controversy and was seemingly demoted to a job in the sewing division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). During that same period she did perform in such films as Laugh and Get Rich, The Buccaneer and Southern Pacific. In the early 1940s Maude returned to Denver to teach dramatics and later moved to Hollywood to open a dramatics studio. Her mother died in 1955.

Maude continued to act in films for many years and had roles in many Cecil B. DeMille movies during the sound era including the 1956 release of The Ten Commandments. In that film she also did a number of voice overs which were dubbed for other actors. In 1957 she returned to Denver to retire but before long was on stage again in Colorado as well as giving lecture series at a local college.  She last appeared on stage in 1961 in Denver. She told a reporter: "Actors never give acting, it gives them up."

Maude Fealy died in her sleep on November 9, 1971 in Woodland Hills, California. She had been hospitaized at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital with arteriosclerosis. At her death she was interred in the Hollywood Memorial Park cemetery Mausoleum close by her mother. The expenses were provided for her by a provision in the will of Cecil B. DeMille. No close relatives survived her.


  1. what a wonderful post and photos!! thanks for sharing !!

  2. She certainly was a beauty. I can see that images of her must be quite popular.

  3. Wow..what beautiful vintage pictures you have! I just love black and white and sepia pics. I didn't realize that she was in the 10 Commandments. I have seen that movie so many times too. You have a great blog. Glad I stopped by. I will be following you. Hope you can come on over to my blog and visit too. ;-)

    Have a great evening,

    Janet Bernasconi
    Janet's Creative Pillows

  4. I love this wonderful homage to Maude Fealy. What a beautiful woman, and how great that her career was a long lasting one. I love the pictures of her.

  5. Wonderful post of such a lovely lady. I have seen some of the photos around the web but didn't know who she was till now. Thanks for sharing

  6. Maureen your beauty series posts are always so interesting. Thank you for doing this. I've been meaning to compliment you for some time now on how lovely your blog has become. You've put a lot of hard work into it.

  7. Maureen, a beautiful post about a tragic life! Talk about a stage mother -- Maude's mother seems to have held such control over her that no man would ever have been good enough. I hope she did find fulfillment in her acting. A great blog post!

  8. What a beautiful and successful actress! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Interesting photos and comments. She seemed a very talented and a clever actress. Being looking into her history at the Lyceum Theatre, London 1902

  10. Her beauty is breathtaking... what a lovely woman she was! I have seen numerous photos of her during the past few years, but never knew who she was. I love the fact that she was at the forefront in theater and films during a time that was dominated by men. As an acting coach or in a film role, how fortunate she was to be able to maintain being a part of the industry until her death. Certainly stunning, she seems to have been an intelligent, talented, sensitive, and kind person. Thank you for the beautiful photos.

  11. This is how i found your blog quite interesting and concern in the blog is really impressive keep updating your blog and i have also bookmarked your blog for future updates and thanks for sharing this kind of precious information...!!!

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