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Bertha Galland

Biography: 

(1876-1932)

For a period of time in the first decade of the 20th century, Bertha Galland seemed the most artistic young actress on the American scene. With the passing of the generation of Modjeska, Janauschek, and Clara Morris, and the maturation of Mrs. Fiske and Ada Rehan, the young Galland appeared as the most versatile of the younger leading women in America. The daughter of a wealthy women's undergarment manufacturer, and trained in Europe with the esteemed dramatic pedagogue George Edgar, she was launched in 1896 as a touring Shakespearean actress in a series of performances with Edgar.

An intelligent woman with a marked love of history, she chose her vehicles and her sponsors well. Her initial fame came in "The Pride of Jennico" at the Criterion Theatre in 1900. For Charles Frohman she burnished her reputation with "The Forest Lovers" and "The Love Match." She emerged as a first rank star playing Esmerelda in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and Dorothy Vernon in "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall," the great costume drama of the first decade of the 20th century.

Her "beauty of person, intelligence of countenance, alternate sprightliness and dignity of manner, and a voice of wonderful range and fine quality" made her the consummate artist of that moment. Only Mary Mannering and Julia Marlowe rivaled her in eyes of critics. David Belasco shaped the costume comedy "Sweet Kitty Bellairs" for her, creating another touring success; but a decade of dramatic trouping wearied her of the stage. She retired, only to be enticed back by a juicy role in "The Return of Eve" (1909), but its success and tour convinced her that there was no more to be accomplished. The social problem plays by Ibsen, Shaw, and Gorky did not suit her talents and her wealth did not make performing a necessity.

Galland retired in 1910 after a scant fourteen years before the public. She died in an automobile accident when her chauffeur smashed into a car that ran a stop sign. David S. Shields/ALS