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Margaret Illington

Biography: 

(1879-1934)

Married to one of the most powerful men in the American theater, Daniel Frohman, actress Margaret Illington [Maud Light] suffered from a division in her heart. One part of her yearned to surrender the labors of the stage and enjoy the domestic luxury that marriage to a theatrical mogul could afford; yet that ambitious part of her soul wished to exploit her advantageous position to secure the sort of parts that would cement her place in the annals of drama.

Trained at the Chicago School for Dramatic, she was hired as a juvenile by Bertha Galland's touring company. Edward Sothern saw a performance in which Illington substituted for Galland, and hired her as a supporting actress to Celia Loftus. Her first leading role was in "The Lion and the Mouse" a modest success. Fame came when she acted the part of the wife in Henry Bernstein's powerful problem play, "Thief."

An emotive actress with a depth of passion, a magnificently modulated voice, and a handsome carriage, she became a favorite partner with some very particular leading men - John Drew thought her brilliant. When her relation with Frohman produced no domestic paradise, no children, and no respite from labor, she divorced him in 1909, and vacated the stage in exhaustion and in the hope of marrying a man with whom she had fallenĀ in love, Major Edward Bowes.

After a multi-year hiatus from 1909-1912, Illington returned to stage in "Kindling," a major success. She found the third great play of her career, "Within the Law," in 1913. A brief experiment with motion pictures faltered after two releases in 1917. She retired in 1919 and enjoyed life supported by the enterprising Major Bowes. David S. Shields/ALS