Skinner, Otis


American stage actor, “trod the boards”  for over 60 years



Type: Signature
Description:  (1858-1942) Late 19th-early 20th century American stage actor. He was educated in Hartford with an eye towards a career in commerce but a visit to the theater left him stage-struck. His father obtained from P. T. Barnum an introduction to English comedian Wm. Pleater Davidge who employed him at $8/week, and his career was launched. In the latter half of the 1870s, he played bit roles in stock companies, and built up his repertoire for several years in New York and Boston, incl. 3 years with Lawrence Barrett. By the mid-1880s, he was touring with Agustin Daly then, in 1889, with Edwin Booth and Helena Modjeska. After Booth died, he returned to Modjeska, starring opposite her in her most famous roles. By the mid-1890s, he was a star in his own right and in 1895 in Chicago, he succeeded as Hamlet. From 1895, he was associated with Joseph Jefferson’s troupe.

He excelled in Shakespearean roles like Shylock, Hamlet, Richard III, and Romeo and his Col. Phillipe Brideau in “The Honor of the Family” was considered one of the greatest comedic performances of the early 20th century. Skinner’s signature role was as Hajj the beggar in “Kismet” (1911) on Broadway, playing it on stage for 20 years, recreating his performance in 1920 & 1930 film versions of the play. His later roles included Falstaff in both “Henry IV, Part 1” (1926) and “The Merry Wives Windsor” (1928), and Shylock.

Skinner was a successful author incl. “Mad Folk of the Theatre” and “Footlights and Spotlights”. In 1902, he turned Mary Hartwell Catherwood’s novel “Lazarre” (1901) into a successful stage play. His daughter, Cornelia Otis Skinner, became an actress and writer. He was portrayed on screen by Charles Ruggles in the film version of her book “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”. He last appeared on stage in 1935, reciting the Forward in a revival of George M. Cohan’s “Seven Keys to Baldpate”.

Signed 6 x 5 trimmed green-lettered “Hotel Jefferson/St. Louis/Lyman RT. Hay, Mgr.”  paper with green crest at center, signed “From/Otis Skinner/American Theatre/St. Louis”

Condition: Good, mount remnants verso at corners with slight see-thru, slight spot at lower right center, center fold, pinhole top left





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