So much can be learned about individuals by studying the wills, birth, marriage and death documents. Wills are particularly revealing in listing specific bequests to certain beneficiaries- and in some cases in what is not left to others. Below are thumbnails of some of the Borden case personalities’ documents. Click on thumbnail to enlarge and use ZOOM detail.
Bridget Sullivan Emma Borden Lizzie Borden
Sarah Morse Borden Nance O’Neil Edwin Porter
Last Will & Testament of Bridget Sullivan
A new page has been added on the site today featuring excerpts from The Critic- a theatrical publication which printed reviews by authors on various productions and performers. This excerpt is from 1904, the year in which Lizzie and Nance crossed paths and underlines the celebrity Nance is enjoying in Boston at the time.
During the short interval in which Lizzie and Nance were friends, Nance was often on the road and much in demand. The opportunities in which the two ladies could have enjoyed leisure time together must have been few and far between. Lizzie made a visit to Nance’s estate in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts and no doubt enjoyed the menagerie to be found there, both house pets and farm animals. Nance, at least on one occasion enjoyed hospitality at Maplecroft, along with some of her troupe. Whether or not this friendship was the cause of Emma’s unhappy departure from Maplecroft and her sister’s company has been the source of speculation since the rift occured.
From the January 1911 American Primary Teacher Actresses and Their Pets by Grace Agnes Thompson (excerpt).
“Miss Nance O’Neil is another actress who has made friends with animals under unusual circumstances, and she has, perhaps, more pets at any one time, and of a greater variety, than any other actress.
On one occasion when Miss O’Neil was playing in Denver, where Magdalena, a very favorite cat, had just died, and thereby deeply grieved her mistress, she returned from the theatre late in the evening and found a very pretty, woe-begone stray Angora kitten cuddling for refuge from the icy cold and falling snow against her door. The sight of the draggled gray fur and the sound of the pitiful mewing went straight to Miss O’Neil’s heart, and from that moment pussy had a good home. Miss O’Neil tried in vain to find out whose lost pet the little creature was, and decided to keep it herself.
Among the more interesting of her other pets have been the Turquoise donkey, which used to carry her about so cheerfully in Egypt; Teazle, the white Angora cat, which now lives in Bedford street, London; Jim, the orang-outang, which,, though delightful company at any time, was so big and bothersome to journey about with one on a tour, that he had to be given away; and the Manling (named from one of the Jungle Tales), one of the only two black cockatoos ever brought north across the equator, and now to be seen in the London zoo, to which he was sold about four years ago. The other of these two black cockatoos is kept at the Berlin zoo. Miss O’Neil has also a specimen of the white cockatoo, the more common variety, in Binkie, now kept at her beautiful country home in Tyngsboro, Mass. Binkie is rather a traveled bird, for he has crossed the equator twenty times, and journeyed all the way around the earth in the company of his mistress.
On the Tyngsboro estate also live Kintaro, a big yellow coon cat, found once upon a time in Lawrence; and Tom and Jerry, the famous driving span of horses; and a small multitude of chickens, sheep, pigs, cats, canaries, dogs, and fine cows. Miss O’Neil’s farm contains two hundred and sixty splendidly cultivated acres, with a large and very charming country house, which she is able to visit for scarcely more than two weeks out of each year, but leaves in charge of capable caretakers during her absence.
Togo and Nogi, two handsome dogs, named for the distinguished Japanese admiral and general, are Miss O’Neil’s latest favorites, and they have been her companions during the last few months of her tour. Their Japanese names are accounted for by the fact that Miss O’Neil, through her liking for Oriental philosophy and peoples, is attended always by a dear little Japanese maid, called Toto, who says she has “a awful fond to animals,” and who is constantly in charge of all the pets.—Our Dumb Animals.”
Perhaps the great friendship between Lizzie Borden and Nance O’Neil was prompted by a mutual love of animals.
Lizzie never lived long enough to see Nance’s winsome smile and 1932 endorsement for a bar of Lux soap and its magical properties for maintaining youthful complexions!
With Nance O’Neil off-Broadway until October 9th, playgoers may like to know that the famous Players Club has a full-length portrait of Nance as Lady Macbeth in the diningroom. See link below to the Player’s Club and a link to a mixed review of Nance as Lady Macbeth here below as a pdf file:
(photo by Beau Allulli) “Nance O’Neil”: Rachel Brown (standing) and Jonna McElrath in this play at Access Theater
Reviews still coming in for the new production by the Blue Coyote Group. Much praise has been lavished on the costume designer, and word has leaked that a “theory” about the crime is suggested in the production. The interaction between Lizzie and her sister Emma is praised by critics as a strong element in the play, and the play in general is receiving positive reviews. Get down to the Access theatre soon , for the play closes October 9th!
David Rooney’s review: http://theater.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/theater/reviews/21nance.html
(photo by Beau Allulli)
What a great poster for the upcoming Blue Coyote production at the Access Theatre, Broadway!
Not quite done with Lizzie and the Borden case yet? Here is the link to an article about what is yet to see, and news of a production opening soon about- Nance O’Neil!
1931 Transgression starring Nance O’Neil as Honora Maury with
Kay Francis … Elsie Maury
Paul Cavanagh … Robert Maury
Ricardo Cortez … Don Arturo de Borgus
For more about the film, plot and stars, visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0022501/
‘Who, in the “Lily” under Belasco’s management has demonstrated her right to be considered the great actress the admirers of her earlier work prophesied. (from American Magazine August, 1911)’
Nance is shown with a come-hither look all decked out in Titanic-era cartwheel hat with feathers. At this point Lizzie Borden was a long-gone memory as Nance advanced with her stage and film career. Nance, always somewhat of a spendthrift, sold her large estate in Tyngsboro, MA (where Lizzie once visited) with 250 acres of it purchased by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1907. It is now the site for Notre Dame Academy, a co-ed Catholic school.
One interview most Lizziephiles would loved to have had is with Lizzie’s close friend, actress Nance O’Neil. Their intense friendship from 1904-1906 has aroused much speculation over the years.
Born Gertrude Lamson on October 8, 1874 in Oakland, California, Miss O’Neil would enjoy great success on the stage. She played at the Academy Theatre in Fall River and was a guest at Maplecroft. Her estate in Tynsboro, Massachusetts is now a convent and school. The two parted company in 1906, with Miss O’Neil always giving favorable comment about her old friend. Nance died in Englewood, NJ in a home for aged actors in 1965. Her ashes are deposed with those of her husband, actor Alfred Hickman (who died in 1931) in California. These are her film credits, courtesy of International Movie Database.
- False Faces (1932) …. Mrs. Finn
… aka What Price Beauty? (UK)
- Okay, America! (1932) …. Mrs. Drake (replaced by Virginia Howell)
… aka The Penalty of Fame (UK)
- Westward Passage (1932) (uncredited) …. Mrs. von Stael
- Secret Service (1931/I) …. Mrs. Varney
- Their Mad Moment (1931) …. Grand Mere
- A Woman of Experience (1931) …. Countess Runyi
… aka Registered Woman
- Transgression (1931) …. Honora ‘Nora’ Maury
- The Good Bad Girl (1931) …. Mrs. Henderson
- Resurrection (1931) …. Princess Marya
- Cimarron (1931) …. Felice Venable
- The Royal Bed (1931) …. Queen Martha
… aka The Queen’s Husband (UK)
- The Eyes of the World (1930) …. Myra
- Call of the Flesh (1930) …. Mother Superior
- The Florodora Girl (1930) …. Mrs. Vibart
… aka The Gay Nineties (UK)
- The Lady of Scandal (1930) …. Lady ‘Ducky’ Trench
… aka The High Road (UK)
- The Rogue Song (1930) …. Princess Alexandra
- Ladies of Leisure (1930) …. Mrs. Strong
- His Glorious Night (1929) …. Eugenie
… aka Breath of Scandal
- The Mad Woman (1919)
- The Fall of the Romanoffs (1917) …. Czarina Alexandra
- The Final Payment (1917) …. Nina
- Hedda Gabler (1917) …. Hedda Gabler
- Mrs. Balfame (1917) …. Mrs. Balfame
- The Seventh Sin (1917) …. Alma
- Greed (1917) …. Alma
- The Seven Deadly Sins (1917) …. Alma (Greed) & (Seventh Sin)
- The Iron Woman (1916) …. Sarah Maitland
- The Toilers (1916) …. Jane Brett
… aka Those Who Toil (USA)
- The Flames of Johannis (1916) …. Zirah/Marika
… aka The Fires of Johannis
… aka The Fires of St. John
- The Witch (1916) …. Zora Fernandez
- Souls in Bondage (1916) …. Rosa Brenner
- A Woman’s Past (1915) …. Jane Hawley
- Princess Romanoff (1915) …. Princess Fedora Romanoff
- Kreutzer Sonata (1915) …. Miriam Friedlander
… aka Sonata (UK)
- The Count of Monte Cristo (1913) …. Mercedes
- False Faces (1932) …. Mrs. Finn