Actors of Cedar Hill

Robert Ames

Robert Ames (1889 – 1931)
Section 21, Lot 105
A graduate of Hartford Public High School, Ames got his start in theater at Parsons in Hartford where he sold tickets at the box office. He later joined stock companies including Hunter-Bradford Players and the Municipal Players of Northampton.

During his New York stage career, Ames performed in various shows such as Come Out of the Kitchen (1916) and Seed of the Brute (1926). It is said Cecile DeMille liked his acting and gave him his first chance in silent motion pictures.

He made his silent screen debut in What Women Want (1920), and later starred in films such as Nice People (1921) and Icebound (1923). When sound was added to movies, he co-starred with Gloria Swanson in The Trespasser (1929), Edward G. Robinson in A Lady to Love (1930) and Mary Astor in Behind Office Doors (1931). In all, Ames was in more than 15 films.

Ames led a turbulent personal life that involved four marriages, four divorces and excessive drinking. In 1927, Helene Lambert, a cabaret entertainer, sued Ames for $200,000 for breach of promise. Lambert claimed that he had promised to marry her after his divorce from his third wife was final. Instead he eloped with New York society girl, Muriel Oakes.

Ames died at the age of 42 in the Delmonico Hotel in New York City. His death was ruled as being from delirium tremens caused by alcohol withdrawal.

 

Fern Andra

Fern Andra (1893 – 1974)
Section 14, Lot 10
Known as the Mary Pickford of Germany, Fern Andra was born in Watseka, Illinois. She began her entertainment career as a tightrope walker. Taught by her stepfather, aerialist Frank St. Clair, she was performing with the famous Millman Trio, a high wire and vaudeville act, by the time she was fifteen.

Fern headed to Europe with the Millman Trio, but eventually went out on her own as a stunt performer and actress. She received critical acclaim starring in a review in London and performed for an Austrian film company.  She eventually moved to Berlin and starred in her first German silent film in 1913.

When World War I broke out, Fern found herself trapped in Germany. She set up her own production company and produced more than 80 films, as well as starring in over 20 films. After the war, Fern remained in Germany and continued to make movies. When her career began to falter, she returned to the U.S. and worked in radio and theater. She made her last two movies in Hollywood in 1930.

In 1937, Fern came to Hartford to meet with playwright Samuel Dockrell who she eventually married in 1938. This was her fourth and final marriage as they remained married until his death in 1973. Fern passed away a few months later at the age of 81.

 

Nick Holt

Nicholas Hudson Holt (1933 – 1979)
Section 4, Lot 71
Born in Hartford, Nicholas Hudson Holt graduated from South Kent School and Middlebury College. He began divinity studies at Virginia Theological Seminary and finished at Berkeley Divinity School in New Haven.

Ordained as an Episcopal Minister in 1959, his first assignment was as a curate at St. Andrews Church in Meriden. He later served in New York City and Kalamazoo, Michigan.  In 1968 he moved to Chicago where he was the assistant at St. Edmund’s Church.

In 1972, he moved to Los Angeles and began acting under the name Nick Holt. He performed on stage, and had several minor television roles. He appeared in the TV movie Invasion from Inner Earth in 1974, and appeared in single episodes of Battlestar Galactica, Barney Miller, Starsky and Hutch and The Next Step Beyond.

He died in LA on October 6, 1979 from injuries sustained in an accident.

 

Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn (1907 – 2003)
Section 10, Lot 132
Katharine Hepburn was the daughter of women’s rights activist Katharine Houghton and prominent Hartford Hospital urologist Thomas Hepburn. Following her graduation from Bryn Mawr College, Katharine pursued an acting career on stage and screen.

Working in Hollywood, her off-screen behavior hindered her success. Always wearing slacks and no makeup and refusing to pose for pictures or give interviews led to criticism from both critics and audiences resulting in several flops.

Labeled “box-office poison,” Katharine headed back to Broadway to star in The Philadelphia Story (1938) for which she received critical acclaim. She purchased the film rights and returned to Hollywood where she chose her director and co-stars for the film version of the play. The movie was a box office hit and revived her career.

Katharine acted in more than 50 movies and 10 Broadway productions. She still holds the record for most Best Actress Oscar wins with four. Katharine died in 2003 at the age of 96.

 

Fannie K. Ray / Lillian Brice
(1894-1963)
Section 19, SI 337
Born in Oklahoma, Fannie Kershaw Ray began her acting career at age 14. As Lillian Brice, she performed on stage throughout the eastern seaboard and Midwest.

She settled in Hartford in the 1930s, performing for several seasons with the Poli Players and other stock companies at the Palace Theater. She was also a dramatic actress on WTIC radio.

After World War II, she joined the Hartford Park Department as a playground supervisor. In 1949, she started a story-telling program in Hartford parks where she became known as the “story lady.”

She was married to J. M. Ray, stage manager and director at Hartford’s Palace Theater.

 

Jay Ray (MacLeod)
(1884-1936)
Section 19, SI 337
Born in Denver, Jay Ray MacLeod was the son of actors. Taking the stage name Jay Ray, he performed on Broadway. He became a stage manager of stock companies, working throughout New England.

As a stage manager of Hartford’s Poli Players, he frequently appeared in various productions, often as a butler. He served as director for Hartford Players, Mark Twain Masquers, and Aetna Players. He also performed in numerous dramatic radio broadcasts.

 

Louise Stubbs in “Black Girl”

Louise Stubbs (Williams)
(1930-2001)
Section 34, SI 85
Louise Stubbs was born in Chicago where she received her early theatrical training. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Goodman Theatre before moving to New York in 1952. During her career, she appeared in over 50 plays, television shows, and commercials.

Stubbs was one of a group of Black actors including Ossie Davies, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier who found it increasingly possible to work in theater in the 1950s.

In the 1960s, she was part of the cast of the American production of Jean Genet’s controversial play The Blacks. This play featured a new generation of Black performers including James Earl Jones, Maya Angelou, Louis Gossett, Jr., and Cicely Tyson.

In 1965 and 1966, Stubbs was one of the few Black actors to be seen regularly on American television, playing the role of Carol on the soap opera Guiding Light.

In 1971, she was cast in the role of Mama Rosie in the off-Broadway stage production of Black Girl. The movie version followed a year later.

In 1988-1991 and 1994, she played Minnie Madden on the soap opera Loving.

 

Herbert Saunders
(1858-1931)
Section 5, Lot 63
Upon graduating from Hartford High (1875), Herbert Saunders entered the family merchant tailoring business. He was admitted into partnership in 1881 and became president and treasurer in 1912. When the business closed in 1918, Saunders, age 60, pursued his interest in theater.

Locally, he studied elocution, sang in a chorus, and performed in a few plays. His friendship with Winchell Smith and Charles B. Dillingham, Hartford natives who were New York theater producers, led to new opportunities.

Saunders spent two months in the publicity department of the Hippodrome, a theater managed by Dillingham. He then worked at Smith & Golden, reading manuscripts. He also worked as an assistant stage manager and an understudy.

In 1919, Saunders took a character part in Three Wise Fools, which he played for two seasons on the road. This led to other parts in Smith productions.

Saunders died in 1931 at age 73.

 

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