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Ann Murdock

Biography: 

(1890-1939)

Elevated to the lead of George Broadhurst's play "The Call of the North" after a mere twenty-one appearances on any stage, Ann Murdock [Irene Coleman] was ballyhooed as the youngest leading woman in America in 1908. She had the advantage of an actress mother, Theresa Deagle, and a father who managed the American Theatrical Exchange.

On the strength of her initial role Murdock signed a five-year management contract with Henry B. Harris in 1909. Her second role, the coquettish Lucy in "The Noble Spaniard," paired her for the second time with leading man Robert Edeson. In Boston she appeared in William Gillette's "Electricity" to enthusiastic applause. For six years she went from one play to another, none of them remarkable works of theatrical art, though 1915's "A Pair of Sixes" proved greatly popular.

She had become a headliner with "A Girl of Today" (1915), and this popularity caught the attention of motion picture producers. The Pictures Corporation signed her to headline the cast of "The Royal Family." The story, which dealt with the transformation of an athletic horseback-riding gun-shooting tomboy into a paragon of aristocratic girlish femininity made use of Murdock's athleticism (she was a competitive swimmer and tennis player) and proved a convincing character portrayal.

In 1916, she signed with Essanay to play the lead in "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines." It would be the highlight of her film career, as she signed on several rather stodgy projects including an allegory, "The Seven Deadly Sins," in which she embodied envy. In late 1917 and early 1918 she performed in numbers of releases drawn from the repertoire of the Charles Frohman Company: "My Wife," "The Richest Girl," and "Please Help Emily."

In August of 1918 Murdock announced her return to the stage with the Frohman Company. No project materialized, but the reason may have been the romantic relationship that developed between Murdock and Alf Hayman, director of the Frohman empire. When Hayman died in 1921 his estate, approximately $1,000,000, went to Murdock, with his wife Rose Hayman and his sister neglected in the will. David S. Shields/ALS