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.
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.
“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
12 thoughts on “Cornelia Otis Skinner”
The title of Cornelia Otis Skinner’s travelogue is “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”. Copywright: 1942, Dodd, Mead and Co., Inc. Please make the appropriate correction, I am sure she would insist.
Yes it is- and I actually read it. Which is why I depend on sharper eyes than mine to catch errors. 🙂
Cornelia had an estate near-by St. James, Long Island, New York. She sent her son, Dick, to public school for one YEAR and he was in my grade. She became my mentor. Go to http://www.MyDearJen.com to read her connection to my life. It is amazing. Have lost traCK OF DICK. LAST KNOWN ADDRESS IN LoNDON, ENGLAND. aNYONE KNOWING HIS WHERE A BOUTS PLEASE CONTACT ME AT http://WWW.ROSAMONDMARIE@YAHOO.COM
I am looking for Dick also. I have a copy of Cornelia Otis Skinner’s First Book, “Tiny Garments” signed to her parents. (Dick’s grandparents). The book came from the Skinner home in Woodstock, Vermont. I thought there may be some interest in the Skinner family to keep this book in their possession.
I FIRST MET CORNELIA AND ALDEN IN 1956 NEAR PORT JEFFERSON
OR ST.JAMES N.Y.SHORTLY AFTER THE ANDREA DORIA LINER SANK
OFF THE COAST OF NANTUCKET. MY GIRL FRIEND/WIFE TO BE WAS
ACTRESS,RUTH ROMAN. CORNELIA AND ALDEN OPENED THEIR HOME TO
US FOR THE MONTH WE LIVED ACROSS THE STREET FROM THEM.
I AM TRYING TO FIND MORE ABOUT ALDEN BLODGET BUT AM HAVING A
DIFFICULT TIME. I AM WRITING A BOOK AND I WANT TO WRITE ABOUT THEM. burton.Moss@gmail.com. Hollywood,california
I really appreciate this. I just found out that they were a part of my family. Obviously I knew; however, never knew that they were so well known. My daughter is interested in acting and is quite the little actor. I remember my dad talking about my family being in movies and on broadway, so I started to look into it and shared it with our daughter and now she’s even more passionate about it. Obviously only if it is in God’s plan and he would make a way, but what a great way to make a child believe that they can accomplish anything. If they can – she can too! 🙂 Loved reading this, thank you. Cornelia’s dad Otis was my Grandfathers brothers son. So confusing. 🙂 I was wondering about her son as well. I would love to find some of our family out there.
Victoria … Otis’s father was Charles Augustus Skinner. The father of Charles was the Rev. Warren Skinner. Warren’s other sons were Eugene, William and George. Which one of these men was your grandfather? They all had died before about 1908. I think that this would make you Cornelia’s second cousin (might be less confusing to say it this way!). David
In high school I played Otis Skinner in a production of “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”. I played him…poorly. Some years after that, through mutual friends I had the pleasure of meeting Dick Blodgett and, perhaps unfortunately, remembered that I’d played his grandfather. Mme Skinner was a joy to know and I still have the majority of her books including my two favorites, one a biography of Sarah Berhnhardt and the other a wonderful reminisence of Paris in the ’90’s a period on which she based one of her great one woman shows.
I recently found an acetate record in my families possession. It apparently has my grandmothers voice on it, Katharine S. Pratt but the label says “Introduced by Cornelia Otis Skinner” It appears it might have been sent to Rudy Vallee. The small envelope tucked into the record jacket embossed return address on the flap: “CORNELIA-OTIS-SKINNER 522 Fifth Avenue New York and the envelope is addressed/typed to: “Mr. Rudy Vallee, 9 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City. In pencil at the bottom is an address that must have been my grandmothers “Introducing Mrs. Alfred S. Pratt,Jr 322 Franklin Ave-Ridgewood , N.J,
I attended school in Berkeley, California during the 1950’s. The name Cornelia Otis Skinner has been lurking in the catacombs of my mind for lo, these sixty years now. Was she ever in the classrooms or schools of Berkeley doing presentations? I recall it being a treat to have her visit. I don’t know if it’s an accurate recollection or not; being an only child, I had more than one fantasy life going. …Still do.
In several places that I’ve looked for info, Cornelia’s birthdate is May 30, 1901. In one place it’s Dec. 13,1901! Why the discrepancies? She said that she was 19 when she went to Europe in “Our Hearts Were Young & Gay” so 1901 would be right since she said it was the early 1920’s. I came on this site to get more info on her son. I find it strange that every other place I’ve looked it says she had a son but never mentioned his name. I’d love to get more info.
For those who were searching for the son of Cornelia Otis Skinner: I am sorry to report that it appears that he died in 2007 in London. I have not been able to find reference to any children, but an estate notice at https://www.thegazette.co.uk/notice/L-58502-383914 lists his solicitor. Perhaps you might found out from them whether he had any relatives who might like to have the books and mementoes you mention.