L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, April 4, 2021

What they call the role of a lifetime - Doris Keane in "Romance"

A promotional post card featuring a portrait by Charles Buchel.
Five character portraits by Herman Mishkin, 1913.
Autochrome by Arnold Genthe, 1913.

Doris Keane (12 December 1881, St. Joseph, Michigan – 25 November 1945, New York City), American theatrical actress. Educated largely in Europe, she first began appearing in supporting roles in 1903, and within five years had risen to leading status. But it was in 1913 that she was given the role with which she would forever after be associated, the capricious and tender opera singer Margherita Cavallini in Edward Sheldon's Romance. A great success on Broadway, the play opened in London two years later and ran for an astonishing 1,049 performances. She was lauded by the London critics, and the public seemed never to tire of the play or the actress; she was even portrayed a number of times as Cavallini in figurines by Royal Doulton. Keane was successful in other roles, but returned regularly in revivals of the play throughout the next decade: 1921, 1926, and 1927. 
Apparently, a monkey was among the cast members.
Front and back of another promotional post card. I haven't been able to discover the portrait's author.

Sheldon, the playwright, fell in love with his star, though his feelings, which are said to have lasted the rest of his life, were unrequited. Keane had one child, a daughter Ronda, born in Cannes in 1915; financier Howard Gould acknowledged paternity but the couple never married. Three years later she married actor Basil Sydney, thirteen years her junior. He starred with her in a silent film of Romance - her only film appearance - in 1920, as well as the revival of the play the following year. They divorced in 1925. 

Keane was painted by Philip de László in 1916. The present location of the portrait is unknown and is, so far, not included in the artist's catalogue raisonné.
Three Royal Doulton figurines of Keane as Cavallini.
With her co-star and husband, Basil Sydney, on the cover of Picture Show magazine, promoting the film version of Romance, 1921.

I haven't been able to find any information about the final two decades of her life. But she died at the age of sixty-three while being treated for cancer. She was cremated and buried on Martha's Vineyard. Her daughter's ashes were joined with hers when Ronda died sixty-three years later.

Another promotional postcard featuring a detail of the Buchel portrait.


In 1930, in only her second "Talkie", Garbo starred as the opera singer in the second film version of Romance. Her performance was appreciated well enough to warrant an Academy Award nomination, but it's one of her least remembered films now. It's generally felt that the character of the dramatic prima donna didn't really suit the sober Swede.

"Gowns by Adrian", not surprisingly. But rather than Clarence Sinclair Bull, the portraits were taken by George Hurrell, the only time they worked together.

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