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Chrystal Herne

Biography: 

(1883-1950)

The daughter of playwright and actor James A. Herne, Chrystal Herne contravened her father's wishes in becoming an actress. Yet she initially appeared in his plays, making a substantial hit in his final work, "Sag Harbor." His death inhibited her career, but after a hiatus she began her halting ascent into the front ranks of dramatic artists. It wasn't until her critical success playing Raina Petkoff in Shaw's "Arms and the Man" that manager Charles Dillingham in 1906 signed her to a five-year contract to perform in his dramatic enterprises, giving her the security that marked success.

Herne did not stay with Dillingham, however, choosing to follow roles she wished to play, particularly works by Shaw. She played with Arnold Daly in Shaw's "Candida"  and "Mrs. Warren's Profession." Though drawn to plays with wit and intelligence, she could put over comedy, and would tour in some very light pieces when in her summer vaudeville tours, such as "Miss Philura." She remained a popular performer into the 1920s, working in dramas such as George M. Cohan's "The Acquital" (1920), comedies such as "Expressing Willie" (1924), and relationship pieces such as "Craig's Wife" (1925).

In the years before World War I she became known as the best dressed woman on the stage. Consequently she was among the first Broadway actresses paid to supply beauty advice in newspapers. Yet she was never regarded as sufficiently alluring by motion picture producers to be tried out as a cinema star. David S. Shields/ALS