- (1884-1946)Laurette Cooney was born in New York and made her stage debut in Gloucester, Massachusetts, as a child in vaudeville billed as "La Belle Laurette." Her adult career began when she appeared at the Boston Athenaeum prior to her Broadway debut in From Rags to Riches (1903). She worked continually in various stock companies with her first husband, Charles A. Taylor, whose surname she took as her stage name. Taylor toured in a series of cheap melodramas written by Taylor and did not have a major success until 1910 in Alias Jimmy Valentine, which she followed by playing a Hawaiian princess in The Bird of Paradise (1912). She divorced Taylor in 1910 and achieved stage immortality in her signature role, the title character in Peg O'My Heart (1912), written by her second husband, J. Hartley Manners. Taylor frequently returned to this role on tour, in stock, on radio, and in a silent motion picture in 1922. The role of a sweet-natured young woman from the lower class forced to live with snobbish relatives suited the charm and wit typical of Taylor's acting. She then performed in revivals of Sweet Nell of Old Drury (as Nell Gwyn) and Trelawny of the "Wells." When Manners died in 1928, the griefstricken Taylor retired from the stage and descended into alcoholism. After a dark period, she returned to the stage in two legendary performances: Mrs. Midget in a revival of Sutton Vane's Outward Bound* (1938) and Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams's* The Glass Menagerie* (1945). A highly fictionalized musical biography of Taylor called Jennie (1963) starred Mary Martin* and had a short Broadway run.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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