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Miriam Battista

Biography: 

(1912-1980)

As with most child actresses on the early 20th-century stage, there is a high degree of suspicion about the stated date of birth. Miriam Battista by age eight was the most talented dramatic girl actress on Broadway, famous for her ability to cry on command. She possessed a striking voice, commanded a vast range of facial expressions none of which struck viewers as fake or cutesy, and moved with the grace of a schooled dancer in vehicles such as "Daddy Long Legs" and "A Kiss for Cinderella." Her professional demeanor won her booking after booking, even when appearing in notorious bombs such as Thomas Dixon’s 1919 "The Red Dawn," the tale of the subversion of a West Coast utopian community by Soviet agents with a view to a general rising of prisoners and blacks in the United States.

In 1920, she broke into motion pictures playing bit parts until Norma Talmadge in 1922 cast her in the supporting role of Little Mary in the tearjerker, "Smilin’ Through." For two years she enjoyed meaty roles in second tier pictures, while earning headliner wages in vaudeville, often in the Balcony Scene of "Romeo and Juliet" with Charles Eaton (aged 12-14) playing opposite her.

Her later teen years saw her career wither. Occasional radio broadcasts kept her name before the public. Eventually, professional training and talent prevailed. At age 19. she revitalized her life on Broadway, playing an ingenue in "Honor Code." She would be a regular on the stage for the next decade, enjoying a major success in 1934's "No More Ladies." Yet her career was plagued by a singular penchant for signing onto bad projects, plays that sounded good on paper but couldn't hold an audience for a month. She and Humphrey Bogart managed to wrestle twenty performances out of the 1933 dog, "Our Wife." The Theater Guild's "Prelude to Exile," a dramatization of the life and loves of Wagner, typified these problematic ventures. It managed forty-six performances.

Eventually, Battista married Russell Malone and with him composed the music and book for "Sleepy Hollow," a 1948 musical that ran for twelve performances. He died shortly thereafter. She lived out the remainder of her life as wife of TV producer Lloyd Rosamond. David S. Shields/ALS