Morris, Clara

Morris, Clara
   Born Clara LaMontagne in Toronto, Canada, she was raised by her mother in Ohio. Their poverty meant that she received little formal schooling, but she was an avid reader. As a teen, she danced or acted small parts in Cleveland theatres. An invitation to join Augustin Daly's Fifth Avenue Theatre took her to New York, where she triumphed in her debut performance in Man and Wife (1870). During her three seasons with Daly, she established herself as the leading emotional actress of her day. Matinee girls and women in the 1880s flocked to weep with her as they watched the travails of her heroines. A New York Times review (6 January 1882) analyzed her art: "It is sometimes hard to believe that Miss Morris's presentments of sorrow and distress are, after all, mere artistic effects; there is about them a poignancy of truth which commands more than fictitious sympathy—an agony as black as that of life."
   Morris toured extensively until the 1890s, continuing to perform the old melodramas in which she used exaggerated gestures and vocal intonations. Audiences were spellbound at the intensity of her mad scene in Article 47, the pathos of her "Camille" in The Lady of the Camelias, and the whispered suffering of her Mercy Merrick in The New Magdalen. Following her retirement from the stage, she wrote plays, novels, and memoirs.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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