Nat Goodwin played "A Gilded Fool" to standing room at the Funke last night. It was one of those satisfactory productions which are exquisite in detail. The stage settings were both elaborate and artistic and the usual glaring unrealness of stage surroundings was almost entirely overcome. There were real goldfish in the aquarium, real chrysanthemums on the tables and Perkins sprayed real perfume on Short's coat. Mr. Goodwin's company is in good taste, like his stage settings. Miss Minnie Dupree is gifted with a good voice and charming intonation and a determined naturalness. Without being the least bit sentimental, she likes Jack so much more really and sensibly than women generally like on the stage, just as any other girl might, and not at all like an actress. Miss Lilla Vane is just a little too careful and correct in her elocution and too precise in her pronunciation. She leaves the audience with a painful consciousness of just how she sounded her "as" and "es." She is rather too angelic to be appreciated and she tried to reconcile too many colors in one of her gowns. Estelle Mortimer still holds her place in matters dramatic, as she has held it lo! these many years.
As to Mr. Goodwin himself, well, he is just Mr. Goodwin, jolly, easy-going, clever Nat Goodwin. A good deal of a Bohemian, considerable of a chappy, something of a vagabond, and just enough of an artist to redeem all the other ingredients. It is true that Mr. Goodwin only plays one role under many names, but in that role he is a clever and skilful actor. It is true that his personality and peculiar temperament limit him rigidly, but if they make certain lines of comedy entirely impossible for him, they also especially fit him for others. The coarser phases of his role seem to come to him just a little too easily, so easily that they jar on one at times. Yet when he was serious last night it was with effect. He tore that rose to pieces like a man who could feel, and he said his "thousand years of life and sunlight" line like a man who had a little of the poet in him after all. He gave that long and difficult monologue about his mother and his youth without being prosy, and if he did not put real feeling into it then he can imitate feeling wonderfully well. Mr. Go odwin is not of the highest order of artists who can shake off the fetters of the flesh and set aside the limitations of temperament; who can "rise on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things." Mr. Goodwin has not crucified his "self." It is very much alive and it is his limit. But within that limit he is all that any man could be. He belongs to the great majority of good actors who cannot escape from their own shadows. The actor who can be other and greater than himself is the rare exception.
Nat Goodwin: American actor Nathaniel Carl Goodwin (1857-1919) was born in Boston; he discovered his ability to mimic as a boy and determined to go on the stage. After several false starts in the early 1870s, he was discovered by Stuart Robson and gave his imitations of serious actors on stage (though he refused to do Edwin Booth). He appeared successfully in several burlesques, such as Rice's Evangeline, and organized his own touring company in 1877. His roles in Henry Guy Carleton's A Gilded Fool (1889) and The Nominee (1890) were among the greatest hits of his long career. He appeared occasionally in classic comedy, such as Sheridan's The Rivals, and in Shakespeare, notably his elaborate productions of The Merchant of Venice (1901) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (1904). Late in his career Goodwin played in a few silent films, appearing as Fagin in Oliver Twist (1912) and in four films in 1915-16.
Goodwin was married five times. In 1877 he married actress Eliza Weatherby; after her death in 1887, he married Nellie Baker Pease (known as the Belle of Buffalo) in 1890; they were divorced in 1896. In 1898 he married Maxine Elliott, known as one of the most beautiful actresses of her day; they were divorced in 1908. A marriage to actress Edna Goodrich lasted from late in 1908 to 1910. He married Margaret Moreland in 1912 and they were divorced in 1918. Goodwin wrote an article in 1912, "Why Four Beautiful Women Married Me."
Images of Nat Goodwin are available at Shakespeare and the Players at Emory University.
"A Gilded Fool": Henry Guy Carleton's play, A Gilded Fool, opened in New York at the Union Square Theatre on November 7, 1892. A young man, Charley Short, comes unexpectedly into money. A crooked stockbroker, Bannister Strange, tries to manipulate the gilded young man, but Short, with the aid of a detective friend, Jacob Howell, circumvents him, making enough money to save Margaret Ruthven's father's company from bankruptcy and win her hand.
In the New York production, Nat C. Goodwin played Charley Short, Clarence Holt played the stockbroker, Theodore Babcock played the detective, Lizzie Hudson Collier played Margaret, and Henry Lee played her father.
Amy Leslie, in Some Players: Personal Sketches (1900) wrote of Nat Goodwin's production of A Gilded Fool that he "holds the audience in the palm of his shapely hand from the time his sleepy voice yawns from the satin-curtained bed until wreaths of happiness cover his adorable red head at the final curtain of the play. He is amazingly sympathetic, and the high tide of his infectious comedy never swamps the beauty of the sentimental side of character. Mr. Goodwin appears in an exciting series of trousers, vests, bath robes and jewels quite as important as any soubrette's wardrobe. Every article of his visible decoration is thoroughly in keeping with the Gilded Fool's bank account and reckless expenditures" (278).
A Gilded Fool was made into a silent film in 1915, with William Farnum as Chauncey Short.
The Funke: The Funke Opera House was built in 1885 by Fred Funke (d. 1890), a Lincoln wholesale cigar, wine, and liquor dealer, on the southwest corner of 12th and O St. Until the Lansing Theatre was built it was the largest and finest theater in town. The first manager was Ed A. Church (d. 1927), followed by Robert McReynolds; Frank Zehrung managed it briefly, from July 1889 to January 1890, when L. M. Crawford took over. Zehrung resumed management in 1894. The building housed shops on the ground floor and offices in parts of the upper floors, as well as the theater itself.
Perkins: Perkins is a character in Henry Guy Carleton's play, A Gilded Fool (1892), played by J. H. Boone in the first New York production.
Short: Charley Short is the protagonist of Carleton's A Gilded Fool (1892), the young man who suddenly comes into money; the role was played most notably by Nat C. Goodwin.
Miss Minnie Dupree: American actress Minnie Dupree (c. 1870-1947) was born in California and grew up in San Francisco, where she made her debut as an actress about 1887. She toured for three years with Gillette's Held by the Enemy. Afterwards she played in the companies of Richard Mansfield, Stuart Robson, and Nat Goodwin. In 1896, after appearing in The Great Northwest, Burmah, and Two Little Vagrants with Charles Frohman's company, she announced her retirement from the stage to marry reputed millionaire Major William H. Langley. The marriage apparently did not materialize, although Langley left her $25,000 in his will. Dupree appeared in many Broadway productions in the early twentieth century, then retired again in 1916; she was active in women's war work in World War I. Dupree returned to the stage in 1920; she took over the role of Martha Brewster in the long-running stage hit, Arsenic and Old Lace in 1941, and last appeared on stage three months before her death.
Minnie Dupree appeared in two silent films in the 1920s, had a notable role in Selznick's Young at Heart (1938), and a minor role in Anne of Windy Poplars (1940).
Davenport, Ia.: The town of Davenport, in eastern Iowa on the Mississippi River, was founded in 1836 by Antoine Leclaire, and named for Colonel George Davenport (d. 1845) of the nearby army post. The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi was built there in 1854.
Miss Lilla Vane: Actress Lilla (or Lila) Vane first appeared on the New York stage in 1884, in Stolen Money; she played in Palmer's company in the late 1880s, when Odell called her "a rising young actress" (XIII 411), and was in one of Frohman's touring companies in Shenandoah in 1891. She had a leading role in Frohman's production of The New Wing in 1892, although the New York Times reviewer considered her a disappointment in it. Later in the 1890s and in the early 20th century she played in companies with such actresses as Lizzie Hudson Collier and Amelia Bingham; her last recorded Broadway appearances were in 1905.
Image can be found at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Miss Estelle Mortimer: Both Odell and the New York Times drama review index show Estelle Mortimer (1882-1904) first playing in Nat Goodwin's company in early 1887. She appeared in at least eight of his plays until 1900, with occasional roles in other companies in such plays as Hazel Kirke in 1887, Darlington's Widows in 1891, and in Mansfield's production of Henry V in 1900. Her last recorded Broadway appearance was with Ethel Barrymore in Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines (1901).
lo! these many years: In the Bible, Luke 15 tells the story of the prodigal son, who is welcomed home by his father with a feast of fatted calf after going away and squandering his inheritance. His older brother, who had stayed home and worked faithfully for his father, says to him in verse 29, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends."
the chappies: The 'chappies' is a slangy diminutive for the chaps, fatuous upper-class young men.
"thousand years of life and sunlight" line: A line from Henry Guy Carleton's play, A Gilded Fool (1892).
"rise on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things": Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, "In Memoriam," begins: I held it truth, with him who sings To one clear harp in divers tones, That men may rise on stepping-stones Of their dead selves to higher things.