Cornelia Otis Skinner

 otis.jpg Otis Skinner

Chances are slim today that the name of Otis Skinner or his daughter Cornelia would ring any bells except in the minds of students of the theatre. Otis Skinner, who enjoyed a successful career spanning fifty years, worked with the greats of the Charles Frohman stable of stars, the Immortal Madame Modjeska, and Edwin Booth, brother of the infamous John Wilkes Booth. Begining his work as a clerk, by age 18 he was begging his clergyman father for a theatre career. None other than P.T. Barnum. who knew the Skinners when they lived in Hartford, encouraged and supported Otis’ talent and potential for the stage. He is most remembered as a Shakespearian actor and for his great performance as the beggar in Kismet. He was a genial, gentle, friendly man- and much-loved by adoring fans. Cornelia was born into the business in Chicago in 1899 and debuted in her father’s acting company in 1921. The rest is history.

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Cornelia inherited her father’s acting and writing genes and made her mark not only on the stage but in films, television, Broadway, and literary circles. She wrote for the New Yorker, and wrote, produced and starred in one-woman monologues based on famous and powerful women in history. Her amusing novel travelogue, Our Hearts Were Young And Gay was made into a successful Broadway play. The International Movie Data Base includes Cornelia’s filmography as follows by date:

The Swimmer (1968) [Actress …. Mrs. Hammar]

The Pleasure of His Company (1961) [Writer] (play)

“This Is Your Life: Charlie Ruggles” (1959) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“What’s My Line?: (1959-03-29)” (1959) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself – Mystery Guest]

“What’s It For: (1957-10-12)” (1957) TV Episode [Self]

“The Alcoa Hour: Merry Christmas, Mr. Baxter (#2.5)” (1956) TV Episode [Actress …. Susan Baxter]

Max Liebman Presents: Dearest Enemy (1955) (TV) [Actress …. Mrs. Murray]

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955) [Actress …. Mrs. Thaw]

“Person to Person: (#2.40)” (1955) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“Toast of the Town: (#7.8)” (1953) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“Toast of the Town: (#5.32)” (1952) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“General Electric Guest House: (1951-07-01)” (1951) TV Episode [Actress]

“Toast of the Town: (#4.14)” (1950) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“Toast of the Town: (#4.7)” (1950) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“This Is Show Business: (1950-04-30)” (1950) TV Episode [Actress …. Herself]

“The Girls” (1950) TV Series [Writer] (book “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”)
… aka Young and Gay (original title (first two episodes title))

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944) [Writer] (book)

The Uninvited (1944) [Actress …. Miss Holloway]

Stage Door Canteen (1943) [Actress …. Herself]

Kismet (1920) [Actress …. Miskah]

                      Cornelia married Manhattan stockbroker Alden Sanford Blodget- many thought an unlikely choice, and together they had one son.  Cornelia Otis Skinner died in New York on July 9, 1979 and was buried beside her husband who had predeceased her by fifteen years. The mystery seems to be why Oak Grove- and why Fall River?  R.I.P. – an amazing lady-and amazing career. Her grave is easily located on the hill just over the top of the Gothic-style mausoleum.

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“Women keep a special corner of their hearts for sins they have never committed.”

“Woman’s virtue is man’s greatest invention.”  Cornelia Otis Skinner

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