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Famous Stage Actress Biography of Maude Adams

About the famous American stage actress Maude Adams, history and biography.

Maude Adams (1872-1953). The most popular actress of the American theater during the early 1900s, Maude Adams attracted multitudes of fans who otherwise never entered a playhouse. This devoted following helped Maude become the highest-paid performer of her day. Working mostly in pre-income-tax times, she earned more than $1 million a year in her prime. Although an accomplished actress, it was to her personality that Maude owned her great success. She excelled in whole-some, sentimental roles that capitalized upon her heartwarming charm and joyfulness.

Maude Adams, whose real name was Maude Kiskadden, started out as a child actress, making her 1st stage appearance before she was a year old. She took her stage name from her mother, actress Annie Adams, who performed in many plays with Maude. In 1892, producer-manager Charles Frohman signed John Drew, the "1st gentleman of the stage," and selected Maude, then 20, as Drew's leading lady. She achieved Broadway fame 5 years later in James M. Barrie's The Little Minister, and went on to star in such other Barrie plays as Quality Street (1902); Peter Pan (1905); and What Every Woman Knows (1908).

Maude was a Frohman star, and Frohman demanded that his performers avoid the public eye when not on stage. He once complained when Drew strolled down Broadway saying, "If he must walk, let him walk on 5th Avenue." Frohman particularly objected to his female stars' marrying. Shy Maude, his favorite protegee, never came close to marriage. Nunlike in her personal life, on several occasions she went to live in convents. Ethel Barrymore, another Frohman star, called Maude "the original I-want-to-be-alone woman."

Although Maude appeared in plays by many authors, she scored her greatest successes in Barrie's whimsical fantasies. After Frohman's death in 1915, she produced and starred in Barrie's A Kiss for Cinderella from 1916 to 1918. However, in 1920, Charles Frohman, Inc., insisted that Maude could produce new Barrie plays only if she set aside her rights in the earlier ones. As she hoped to make a movie of Peter Pan, "the Barrie actress" refused these terms.

Maude believed that only a color film could do justice to Peter Pan. But lighting problems made color filming impossible at that time. Undaunted, Maude, already an expert in stage lighting, now helped scientists at General Electric develop lamps strong enough for indoor color photography. She devoted her energies, large amounts of her money, and years of her time to the project, and the lamps were ultimately developed. But while Maude was working on the lamps, she let her rights to Barrie's plays slip away. Ironically, she also lost her right to the lamps.

Maude returned to the stage for a few years during the '30s, then became a professor of dramatic art at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., a post she held from 1937 to 1950. She died in 1953 after a bout with pleurisy.

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