Friday, February 11, 2022

"Booth, Jefferson, Mansfield" and the decline of the American theater in John Dos Passos's "Manhattan Transfer"

In John Dos Passos's "Manhattan Transfer" (1925), a character complains about the decline of the American theater: "There's no great acting any more: Booth, Jefferson, Mansfield ... all gone." Edwin Booth (1833-1893) was the leading American actor of the nineteenth century (and the older brother of Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth). Joseph Jefferson (1829-1905), his contemporary, was famous for his performance as  Rip Van Winkle, whom he even played in silent films. Richard Mansfield (1857-1907), an English actor who worked in the United States, was also known for his performance in "Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", which was so convincing that he became a suspect in the Jack the Ripper investigations. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 11 February 2022)

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