An American Actress & John Wilkes Booth

DBF

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Joined
Aug 6, 2016
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Margaret Julia Mitchell (1836-1918)
(Public Domain)

September 13, 1858 - It’s a Monday and John Wilkes Booth is preparing for a performance at the Richmond Theater. Booth will be required to quickly learn many new pieces for he will be performing with the popular female stage actress, Margaret Julia Mitchell, professionally known as Maggie Mitchell. Not only is she a fan favorite, she is known as the best musical comedy actress of her time. In her Richmond production she plans to present three short pieces per night in which she plays seven different parts in one piece. This pace of stage acting puts pressure on her co-stars, in this case John Wilkes Booth, to know and play the straight parts. Also included in her act are dance and song numbers. To her contemporaries she is a petite actress with a “elfin” personality and an acting ability spanning from the dramatic to the comedic. She will be introduced as “Our Maggie” and will play to full houses with enthusiastic receptions.

John Wilkes Booth and Maggie Mitchell have a life-long friendship. It was Maggie that gave Booth his first star benefit after he decided to go out on his own as an actor. There will be much speculation about this relationship at the end of Booth’s life. But who was this actress “known to playgoers of another generation as one of the most famous of American actresses.”? {2}

When Maggie was twelve years old she left school for the stage. She was a popular child actress although many parts were silent roles. In 1852 she made her debut in a speaking role in a production of “The Soldiers Daughter”. She played boy’s parts at times and would dance between acts to entertain the audiences at the Bowery Theater. She made a name for herself and popularity among the young men when she appeared in Cleveland, Ohio playing a young heroine of various acts from “The Lady of Lyons, Richard III and Douglas”. At seventeen years old she was a star.​

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(Public Domain)

In 1861 the northern born lady would have southern sympathies which she demonstrated proudly. She was a friend of Jefferson Davis and attended his inauguration where she presented one of her famous dance numbers using an American flag as her carpet.

She was playing in a production of “The Cricket” in the south when the war began. To continue acting she had dual loyalties as she fled to northern cities to continue on the stage. She hit the jackpot with her role of Fanchon in “The Cricket” and this role made her a national celebrity. Maggie Mitchell was playing the part of a lifetime and she played it the rest of her life:

“She played the role of the elfish, spritely heroine for the next thirty years; she had acquired the rights to the play, which was often performed, giving her substantial royalties.” {4}

During the war she wowed the crowds with her performance as the heroine.

“Her characterization of the sprite of a heroine,
which included a graceful and entrancing shadow dance,
was an immediate sensation.”
{4}

In addition to being a talent on the stage she was incredibly smart. She purchased the rights to “The Cricket” and as she continued to grown in popularity she continued to grow her riches becoming one of the wealthiest actors alive. Abraham Lincoln (and Mary who sent a bouquet of flowers during the production of “The Cricket” while it was playing at Ford’s Theater*), Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wodworth Longfellow were among her long list of admirers along with John Wilkes Booth and his brother Edwin.​

* * *

Perhaps she should have retired at an earlier age at least according to this article published in the Nebraska State Journal on March 11, 1894:

"We have seen her pictures yearly ever since we were little, and we have grown unspeakably weary of them and of her. Fifty years ago, when Maggie was young she had nothing but a laugh with mirth in it and a face with a moderate allowance of beauty. But how any actress can be so behind as to imagine that she is beautiful after she is seventy remains unexplained. . . .But to see a woman of seventy, old and shrunken and "wrinkled deep in time," painted and padded and schottishing about the stage is more than most of us can stand with comfort." {5}
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Maggie Mitchell circa 1896
(Public Domain)

At the time of her death she carried the name Margaret “Maggie” Julia Mitchell Paddock Mace. She married twice her first to her manager in 1868 (Henry Paddock) and marriage lasting twenty years and gave her two children, and then she wed Boston born actor Charles Abbott Mace (1852-1927). After her second marriage June 13, 1889 {**} she retired from the stage.

What was the true relationship between John Wilkes Booth was a secret she took to her grave. Speculation ranges from lovers to friends however before she died she proudly admitted that Booth’s curly black hair:​

‘"Twas the loveliest hair in the world” {7}

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(Public Domain)



Sources
1. Lust for Fame: The Stage Career of John Wilkes Booth, by Gordon Samples
2.
https://newyorkalmanack.com/2019/12/civil-war-actor-maggie-mitchell-in-nyc
3. https://www.britannica.com/art/acting
4. https://www.tavbooks.com/pages/book...blic-demand-this-thursday-evening-may-26th-64
5. https://cather.unl.edu/writings/journalism/j00033
6. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/63190530/margaret-julia-mitchell
7. https://nypost.com/2018/04/21/lincolns-assassin-was-a-real-ladykiller/
* Best Little Stories: Voices of the Civil War, C. Brian Kelley
**
http://www.starsofyesterday.org/charles-abbott/
 
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A. Roy

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Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
We have seen her pictures yearly ever since we were little, and we have grown unspeakably weary of them and of her. Fifty years ago, when Maggie was young she had nothing but a laugh with mirth in it and a face with a moderate allowance of beauty. But how any actress can be so behind as to imagine that she is beautiful after she is seventy remains unexplained

A great story! I think I had heard of Maggie Mitchell but never knew anything about her. That criticism in the Nebraska State Journal reminds me of Carrie Fisher when she appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens at age 59. Critics complained that she 'hadn't aged well.' She responded:

"I swear when I was shooting those films I never realized I was signing an invisible contract to stay looking the exact same way for the rest of my existence.

"We treat beauty like an accomplishment, and that is insane. Everyone in LA says, 'Oh you look good,' and you listen for them to say you’ve lost weight. It’s never 'How are you?' or 'You seem happy!'"


-- Clarisse Loughrey, "Carrie Fisher's brutally honest take on being an older actress in Hollywood." The Independent, 28 December 2016.

Roy B.
 

JD Mayo

Retired User
Joined
Jun 12, 2020
Location
Greensboro NC
His girl friend was in the scene in Gods and Generals, director's cut not theatrical version. This is her one scene after the hamlet scene. I believe this scene is suppose to take place in Richmond Virginia, he and Aberham Lincoln, had the most photos taken during the Civil War. Actor Chris Connor from New Mexico played him in the movie, he was also not credited in the film. His girl friends name is Pamela Fischer titled "Colonial Woman" meaning made up character. I believe she is based off of Margaret Mitchell.
 
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