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Francis Carlyle


A native of Birkenhead, England, Carlyle's parents brought him to Hartford, Connecticut, as a child where he was spotted by one of Daniel Frohman's New England stringers. Frohman hired the lad for child roles in the late 1880s, and his naturalness on stage attracted the attention of Lotta Crabtree, who had similarly begun her career as a child performer. Carlyle worked in her company for a season. A beautiful boy, he matured into a startlingly handsome man, a person whose looks were so good they at time disrupted the dramatic propriety of a performance. Augustin Daly, the playwright and theatrical manager with the greatest eye for talent during the last half of the 19th century, hired Carlyle to be the male juvenile lead in his stock company in 1895.

A competent but not gifted actor, his employment was insured for two decades by the theater-loving women of the United States who fixed their affections upon him. He lacked the edge, wit, and emotional volatility to become a figure admired by male audiences. He crossed the United States multiple times in various touring ensembles. In 1887-88 Carlyle appeared in the short-lived "Allan Dare" and then in "Baron Rudolph." The two subsequent seasons, he played respectively Robert Uray in "The Wife" and Col. Kerchival West in "Shenandoah." Afterwards he joined the California Theatre in San Francisco, creating the role of Robert Travers in "In Mizzoura" with Nat C. Goodwill. The season of 1893-94 he was leading man with Katherine Clemmons in "A Lady of Venice" and was in "The Rival Candidates" at the Madison Square. Mr. Carlyle spent the next season with Daly's company, appearing in "A Night Off," "7-20-8," and "Twelfth Night." For the three years following this, he appeared at the Academy of Music in the melodramas, "The Sporting Duchess," "Under the Polar Star," and "The White Heather."

He was with the Frawley company on the Pacific coast for a time, and was in the star cast of "The Three Musketeers" at the Broadway. Carlyle then spent one season in "Because She Loved Him So," and divided the one following between "Hearts Are Trumps" and "Under Two Flags" with Blanche Bates. He was then in "Colorado," played Capt. Absolute alongside Joseph Jefferson in "The Rivals," appeared with Grace George in "Pretty Peggy," and Mary Mannering in "Nancy Stair." Carlyle then created Dr. Denbeigh in "Clarice," with William Gillette, perhaps his finest role. David S. Shields/ALS