After serving a long apprenticeship on the stage, Laura Hope Crews flared into stardom as Louise Marshall in 1914's "The Phantom Revival." Born in California, she toured the western theatrical circuits as a child actress in stock companies from age four to nine, when her turn in "Spray" gave the vehicle enough notice to tour nationwide. Her parents pulled her from touring to give her a secondary school education in San Jose, but as soon as she graduated, she signed with the Alcazar Stock Company in San Francisco.
Only after she moved east and joined the Murray Hill Stock Company did Crews perfect her stage craft. She rose through the ranks securing leads as a comedienne, and becoming a Broadway attraction in "The Great Divide" and "Her Husband's Wife." What distinguished her from the multitude of good natured women on the stage was a depth of sincerity that could produce tears as well as laughter. Producer Charles Frohman recognized this special quality, wrested her away from the management of Henry Miller and cast her in "The Phantom Revival."
Throughout a distinguished career on stage (often in Theater Guild Productions) and screen she often played distracted flibberty-gibbets, for instance as one of the benignly homicidal aunts in "Arsenic & Old Lace" or Aunt Pitty-Pat in "Gone With the Wind," yet she would periodically break out of type and appear as a tragic matron or a selfish mother, as she did in "The Silver-Cord." Her sole experiment in directing was helming the 1925 New York premier of Noel Coward's "Hay Fever."
She played classic repertory as well as premiering modern plays such as Milne’s "Mr. Pim Passes By." When a script called for a fluttery older maiden lady, Crews was the first call. She died on November 14, 1942. David S. Shields/ALS