Controversial Actor Richard Mansfield Cabinet Card

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Sarony image of Richard Mansfield; with Mansfield in top hat and tails. Sarony's logo mount recto.

Mansfield, Richard (1854–1907), actor. The famous but controversial American leading man was born in Berlin, the son of an English merchant and a well‐known prima donna, Erminia Rudersdorff. He was educated in England and on the Continent, then brought to America in 1872 by his mother, where he appeared in amateur theatricals before returning to London. Mansfield returned to make his professional New York debut in 1882 singing the part of Dromez in the comic opera Les Manteaux Noirs. He first won recognition a year later as the sensual, brutal roué Baron Chevrial in A Parisian Romance. After several seasons without another hit, he found success as the impecunious nobleman Prince Karl (1886), followed by his widely popular version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1887), Richard III (1889), and Beau Brummel (1890). After a string of failures, Mansfield realized the changing nature of his theatre and turned to G. B. Shaw, who had never been professionally produced in America, and offered himself as Bluntschli in Arms and the Man (1894). It failed to run but he had better luck when he mounted The Devil's Disciple (1897), playing Dick Dudgeon, and then appeared as Cyrano de Bergerac (1898) and as Prince Karl Heinrich in Old Heidelberg (1903). The remainder of his career interspersed revivals of his more popular roles with failed attempts in new vehicles. Shortly before his death, however, he defied the wrath of conservative reviewers by appearing in the title role of Peer Gynt. Mansfield was an extremely short man with a pale, square‐cut face and thinning brown hair, who was sensitive about his appearance. Many critics and playgoers admired his work as an exemplar of a passing romantic school, but others strongly dissented. Because of his arrogance, short temper, and treachery, his fellow actors generally detested him. With the appearance of the Theatrical Syndicate or Trust he professed to join the other stars of his era in fighting the monopoly, only to quickly sign on with it. He also promised Edward Harrigan, when he leased Harrigan's Theatre, to retain the name, then immediately renamed it the Garrick. His vanity was such that shortly before his death, he commissioned William Winter to write a monumental biography of him. The work was issued in two volumes in 1910 as The Life and Art of Richard Mansfield.

$75  No. 2922
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