A versatile leading lady capable of playing a royal, a small town heroine, or a comic adventuress, Nanette Comstock embodied an easy professionalism that endeared her to managers and playwrights at the dawn of the 20th century. A native of Albany, she trained at Dion Boucicault's acting school and took to the stage at age sixteen playing in Charles Hoyt's comedy, "A Hole in the Ground." She toured while in her teens with Nat C. Goodwin in "A Gold Mine," and enjoyed a marked success replacing Effie Shannon as Jennie Buckthorn in "Shenandoah" (1889).
After the Shenandoah company collapsed and enduring a brief stint with the perpetually touring Joseph Jefferson, Comstock affiliated with manager Charles Frohman, who used her in a series of drawing room comedies four six Broadway seasons. Afterwards she teamed with Otis Skinner in "Liars." By 1900 she had earned a reputation as one of the most articulate of the important American actresses and always good for pungently expressed opinions by newspaper interviewers. (See for instance her comments on the way actresses regard their wardrobes in the article "Stage Beauties" New Orleans Times-Picayune, [Oct 29, 1899]).
Comstock captivated audiences as the school mistress in Clyde Fitch's "Lover's Lane" (1901). She served as an excellent foil to zany Raymond Hitchcock in Richard Harding Davis's 1904 farce, "The Galloper." In Louise Lovell's "Jet" (1908), she played a young Texan forced to support her family, winning the admiration of her small town community. In 1910 she suffered as the wronged wife to Nazimova's vamp in "A Fool There Was."
Eventually, she crossed the Atlantic and made a name for herself on the English stage. Among the most lustrous of her many successes were "Bootle's Baby" and "Charley's Aunt." She retired from the stage in 1922. David S. Shields/ALS