McKee Rankin and the Heyday of the American Theater

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David Beasley, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 520 pages

McKee Rankin burst upon the theater world in the 1860s. By the age of twenty-one, Rankin, a Canadian by birth, had become leading man at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, considered to be the best theater in the country. A matinee idol and a superb character actor, he formed one of the first combination companies to tour America. He wrote successful Western dramas, in which he and his wife, the famous Kitty Blanchard, created unforgettable characters. He built a theater in New York City and one in San Francisco where, in the 1880s, he created a nationally famous repertory theater.

Persevering, intelligent, and dedicated, his passion for the theater brought him into conflict with the commercial attitudes of managers. Throughout his ups and downs, from riches to poverty, from handsome man to obese alcoholic, he continued to create great roles. When Rankin died in 1914, the brilliant innovations of this actor-manager, playwright, and director had changed theater forever.

This thoroughly documented biography is also a lively story of one of the most important, but least known, periods of American theater, encompassing a wealth of information about great but forgotten actors, a fascinating account of the relationship between the stage and its audience, and several rediscovered, once famous, plays.

Students of acting, historians of the theater, and those interested in the cultural development of a continent will find the book invaluable. All readers will be entranced by a world from which today’s entertainment emerged.

 

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McKee Rankin and the heyday of the American theater

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Beasley, a librarian and researcher, has unearthed a vast amount of information on McKee Rankin, a Canadian-born, now forgotten star of American theater whose career spanned from 1860 to 1914. Rankin ... Read full review

Contents

PROLOGUE
1
REPERTORY THEATER
15
STARDOM
89
OBSESSION
237
THE REIGN OF NANCE ONEIL
285
RANKIN ON THE REBOUND
417
APPENDIXES
435
NOTES
443
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
497
INDEX
501
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

David R. Beasley was born and schooled in Hamilton, Ontario. He graduated from McMaster University with a B.A. [Literature and History], studied in Paris and Vienna. In New York City, he earned a master’s degree in Library Science, worked in the New York Public Research Libraries, led the New York Library Guild, AFSCME Local 1930 and earned a PhD in political economy at the progressive New School for Social Research. He moved to Simcoe, Ontario in 1992 and continued to write and publish books under his imprint Davus Publishing. Awarded Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his writings.

 

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