PRETTY ACTRESS TRYING TO GET LUCKY IN PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

A beautiful young actress poses for her portrait at The Sparks studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is wearing a horseshoe broach which probably was supposed to bring her good luck. This actress’s name was Marion Elmore. She was born in 1860 in a tent in Sandhurst, Australia. Her parent were English and they were in Australia because they were hoping to hit it big in the Gold Rush. Elmore began her acting career at age three. She played in Rip Van Winkle with touring American actor, Joseph Jefferson. In the 1870’s she was a member of Lydia Thompson’s famous burlesque troupe. “The Blondes” performed a risque mix of songs, dance and comedy. They also were very well known for showing a great deal of leg in their revealing costumes. She came to the United States in 1878 with the troupe but soon went off on her own as an actress and vaudeville performer. Her first starring role was in Chispa (1883). This play was poorly reviewed. The “Virtual Dime Museum” quotes the journal “Music and Drama” which wrote that the play “was dramatic rubbish, and that it does not fit Marion Elmore any better than her straw hat, which was continually falling off”. The New York Times (1882)  also lambasted the play. The critic had mixed feelings about Miss Elmore, but stressed her negatives. He blamed actress Maggie Miller for perpetuating a type of actress that he found abhorrent. These actresses were seen as stock actresses who rose to “money making dignity” by performing in troupes like Lydia Thompson’s Blondes. He described Elmore as a “vivacious exponent of the high art of leg burlesque”. The critic asserts that the craze surrounding Lydia Thompson, and other similar troupes, was one of the worst stupidities of the stage” and that he was pleased that the popularity of this type of entertainment had become “extinct”. On the positive side, the critic enjoyed Elmore’s sense of humor and her “brightness”.  One fortuitous outcome of her acting in Chispa was that she fell in love with, and in 1884, married her co star, Frank Losee. Another actress in Chispa was Lina Merville. Her portrait can be found in the Cabinet Card Gallery via the search box. As Elmore’s career continued, she acted in many plays in the New York area. She was active through the 1890’s and the early twentieth century. She died at age ninety in 1950. To view other photographs of actresses by Sparks, click on the category “Photographer: Sparks Photo Publishing Co.”.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I appreciate seeing this close-up portrait of Miss Elmore. I have a striking Cabinet Card of her by Scholl of Philadelphia in which she is wearing a burlesque costume … lots of leg and especially well posed … standing, and with the same detached expression. Perhaps a few years older, but not much. Nice to learn more of her.

    • Marion Elmore was the sister of Lina (or Lena) Merville, also a well-known stage star of that time. In 1884, Marion and fellow actor Frank Losee were married. The couple shared their well-noted 50th wedding anniversary in 1934, three years before Frank’s death at age 81. Having no children, and having outlived her many original family members, co-workers and friends, she still had a long 13 years alone until her own death in 1950. It is said that when she passed away at age 91, few if any of her neighbors knew she had once been a celebrity. The horseshoe jewelry reminds me of a short Sept 12, 1889, New York Times piece, ”Lena Merville’s Loss”, reporting that her purse was either lost or stolen and contained, among other costly items, a valuable double horseshoe of gold.


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