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Fay Templeton

Biography: 

(1865-1939)

Raised by a trouping family who itinerated through the provincial circuits, the teenaged Fay Templeton strove mightily to find a place in a metropolitan company to escape playing Juliet to her father's aged Romeo on stage. By an extraordinary stroke of good fortune she caught the eye of burlesque producer Edward Rice, then in the midst of casting "Evangeline." Fay Templeton possessed the fire and skill Rice was seeking for the lead role, hired her, and when "Evangeline" blew up into the biggest extravaganza hit of the decade, Templeton became the toast of the town. Stockbrokers's sons proposed marriage, and she accepted one (the first of multiple romances that would periodically bring her fortune and sometime take her intermittently from the stage).

One of the things that Templeton did with the money, when it came, was to organize a comic opera company devoted to presenting the works of Offenbach and Gilbert & Sullivan. Her voice even in the 1880s was considered somewhat old fashioned in its wide vibrato, but she was an ferociously daring actress, willing to out-pout, out-kick, out-frisk, and out-run any other songstress on the stage. The more farcical the show, the better suited to her talents.

Inevitably she gravitated to the most antic song-and-dance troupe on Broadway, "Weber & Fields," and appeared in a string of their frantic musical experiments: "Hurly Burly," "Cyranose de bric-a-brac," "Helter Skelter," "Fiddle-dee-dee," "Hoity Toity," and "Twirly Whirly." When not singing and mugging with Fields and Lillian Russell, she graced more conventional comic operas by Reginald DeKoven and George M. Cohan. Her performance in Cohan's "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway" may have been the artistic pinnacle of her career.

After marrying a Pittsburgh millionaire in 1906 she engaged in one of her retirements. After six years of domestic bliss, she got bored, and returned to the stage in "H.M.S. Pinafore." In 1933 she managed a grand finale to a splendid career playing Aunt Minnie in the 1933 Jerome Kern musical hit, "Roberta." David S. Shields/ALS