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Cissy Fitzgerald



The paragon of English stage dancing during the Gilded Age, Cissy Fitzgerald created a terpsicorian sensation when imported from London to Broadway in George Edwardes' 1894 production of "The Gaiety Girl." Having honed her skills on music hall stages, Fitzgerald's follow-up, Daniel Frohman's "The Foundling," featured her as music-hall artist Little Tricky Maybud, and reproduced her routines within the context of a plotted entertainment. Reacting to the high-kicking hijinks of female dancers doing the can-can, Fitzgerald crafted dance to character, and created steps, twirls, bends, and skirt flips to communicate the emotion of the character in the plotted stage moment. The character she tended to convey was saucy and suggestive, and her mischievous wink became a signature of daring girlishness in the 1890s.

Thomas Edison recorded her during a visit to his New York studio and released a short that was shown throughout the United States--it has a claim to be the first star subject film in silent motion pictures, dating from early 1895. Upon her return to London in 1898, her success evaporated. In 1900 she was reported as being impoverished and in need of aid. Her eclipse however did not last long. Her countryman, film producer J. Stuart Blackton, brought her back as a featured performer in Vitagraph Films in 1914, including making her a persona in various "Cissy" or "Cutey" shorts. She proved a refreshing screen presence and enjoyed a career lasting until 1937. David S. Shields/ALS

NOTES: Cissy Fitzgerald, "Tells of Her Dances," Kalamazoo Gazette (March 27, 1895), 7. David S. Shields/ALS