On this beautiful cigar box label are the subjects of five blog posts — this one and the next four. Originally I intended to put all five in one post, but soon I realized it would be way too long and take too much time. So I've decided to add them one post at a time.
This proof print of the Bachelor Cigars label honors five famous actresses of the late 19th century: America's Julia Marlowe (center), surrounded by, clockwise from top left — Germany's Agnes Sorma, Italy's Eleonora Duse, England's Ellen Terry, and France's Gabrielle Rejane
AGNES SORMA (1862 - 1927)
In her long career, Agnes Sorma played all the roles that make dramatic actresses popular. In Europe, she was often called "the German Bernhardt." She is even credited with having originated the role of Nora in Henrik Ibsen's The Doll's House. Suffice it to say she was recognized as one of the great dramatic actresses of the 19th century.
In 1890, Agnes married an Italian, Count Dimitrio Minotto, and they lived most of the time in Berlin, although the count owned many properties in Italy and throughout Europe. Their son and only child, James, was born in 1891. Before WWI, young Count James Minotto traveled to America, which he loved, became a citizen, and got married. But then he was arrested and interned in a camp of enemy aliens suspected of "pro-German activities."
James's father-in-law, meat packer Louis F. Swift, and many other prominent citizens, testified on his behalf, as did his mother, who called him "Jimmy," and his father who, in describing his son's pro-Americanism, called him "an all-American." Ultimately it became clear that his family was highly regarded in Italy, and his mother, though unknown in the U.S., was renowned as an actress in Europe, and the young count was looked upon more favorably.
Eventually, James was cleared of espionage and released. He and his wife, Idamay, settled in Crown King, Arizona, where he became an innovative and highly respected rancher, and reared a family.
Agnes and Dimitrio returned to their country house on the shores of Wannsee in Berlin. The count died in May 1920, after which the countess asked her agent to arrange for her to tour the U.S. with a repertoire suited to American theatrical tastes.
The tour was designed specifically with occasional breaks so she could visit her son and daughter-in-law and her first grandchild. On those occasions, she worked with a contractor to build the beautiful stone-and-wood house to which she would retire after the tour ended in 1925.
Agnes fit in very well with the people of Crown King. She was an avid horsewoman, a trait she had in common with most of them. She was a good neighbor and well-liked. She died in Crown King, of heart failure at the age of 63, and was buried there, on a knoll near her house — until her Jimmy felt it was time to send her on to Italy, to be buried beside his father.
Next up: Italy's Eleonora Duse.
Stage Whispers is published by Carla Cushman at carlacushman.blogspot.com/