Discovered by Frank Mayo, Alice Fischer appeared in his touring production of "Nordeck." The fact that she could perform without eclipsing the male protagonist and yet make an impression attracted the notice of Joseph Jefferson, who secured her as leading lady with his perpetually mobile troupe. The play that cemented her reputation was another drama in which the leading female role was subordinate to another, "Little Lord Fauntleroy" (1888), in which she played Minna. This success unleashed a flood of opportunity and she performed for the latter part of the 1890s and early 1900s in major hit after major hit: "The Clemenceau Case," "The White Squadron," "His Honor, the Mayor," "Quo Vadis?" "The Sporting Duchess," and "The Sunset, Limited."
Fischer had a distinctive ethos when acting, always seeming wholesome, perhaps a legacy of her upbringing in Terra Haute, Indiana. (Indeed her Episcopal rector accompanied her to New York to enroll her in dramatic school.) Because she was tall and rather heroically built, she initially appeared in melodramas. Henry Harris decided to play her against type in "Mrs. Jack" (1902) and her career as a sometime comedienne was born. It would culminate in her star turn in "School for Husbands." In 1914 she partnered with Lew Fields in another hit, "The High Cost of Loving." David S. Shields/ALS