- (1862-1932)Born William Lackaye in Loudon Country, Virginia, the actor made his New York debut in 1883 in Francesca da Rimini with Lawrence Barrett. He played many roles until 1925, but was most identified with that of Svengali in Trilby, which he originated in 1895 and continued performing until 1897, reviving it in New York in 1907, in 1915, and in 1921. His makeup for that role remarkably transformed his appearance. Kansas City Star critic Austin Latchaw recalled Lackaye's Svengali (16 May 1935): "Lackaye had wonderful eyes. They were huge and brilliant. Their penetrating effect was enhanced in the part of Svengali by the heavy black beard. The bearing, action and motionless expression of the character were almost creepy in their sinister import. . . . No one who saw the performance can forget Lackaye's death scene. The stricken Svengali swayed, tottered backward toward the audience, fell on a narrow table, his arms outflung, his head hanging down from the top of the table, facing us upside down, while the glare of the footlights added to the weirdness of the spectacle. Melodramatic, of course, but sensationally effective." Lackaye was an active member of the Lambs, a quick wit, and a popular after-dinner speaker.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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