You are here

Clara Morris

Biography: 

(1848-1925)

There is a species of actress who explores the extremes of passion and psychology, who ventures into ways of being that shock witnesses with their oddity, their volatility, and their possibility. Clara Morris was this type of performer. She was only reckoned artistic and great during the three years she was forced to perform under the constraints of Augustin Daly's ensemble system. The plays of that period, 1870 to 1873, included "Article 47," "Jezebel," and "Man and Wife" - works that established her as a supremely talented "emotional actress."

Morris's hatred of being limited by a manager's authority had her set up as a touring star. Some of her vehicles extended the success of her work for Daly, "Camille" and "Jane Eyre" particularly, but others became platforms for her experiments in self exposure. The cruelest critics called her the "queen of spasms" and thought her impersonation of Lady Macbeth as "beyond mad." Yet her version of extreme acting always maintained her place in the theatrical firmament as the horizon of practice.

In the 1890s ill health caused her to diminish her touring. She redirected her energy to writing, generating columns, theatrical commentaries, and several dozen volumes of reminiscences. David S. Shields/ALS