Maggie Mitchell and Mary Pickford in Bloomingdale
By now, blog readers may know that the great Civil War era actor Maggie Mitchell (1836-1918) built 855 West End Avenue in 1895, at the southwest corner of W. 102nd Street, with the considerable fortune she earned on the American stage.
Her signature role was the waif in the eponymous play "Fanchon, the Cricket" which debuted in 1861. It was based on George Sand's novel "La Petite Fadette." Maggie played in this role 1500 times from Boston to New Orleans, performing a showstopping shadow dance in the second act that beguiled her audiences, fueling her fame and making her a household name. She played for Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre and was subsequently invited to the White House. Men who fought on both sides of the Civil War wrote love letters to her, some of which are in a small collection at the New York Public Library. Her likeness was affixed to soap, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, a race horse, and a schooner. A waltz was written for her. And promising up-and-comers were referred to as the new Maggie Mitchell, such was her fame in America.
She acknowledged where her bread was buttered by naming her apartment house at 855 after the scene in the play that made her famous, The St. Andoche. She also placed an effigy of her character Fanchon above the entry. See more about the building's name here and for a photo of the effigy, see here.
According to neighbor Gil Tauber, the Pickford film has been showing recently on Turner Classic Movies. It had been lost until a print was discovered in Paris and has since been restored by the Mary Pickford Foundation and the Cinémathèque Française. From the Pickford Foundation website: "Collaborating over the course of six years with the Cinémathèque, the British Film Institute (which held an incomplete nitrate print) and the Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy, the Mary Pickford Foundation has brought the 1915 film back to the public."
For a taste of the restoration, click the Maypole image or video below.
Thanks to Jim Mackin's new book on notable Upper West Siders which you can read about in my piece in the West Side Rag, we know that Mary Pickford lived at 270 Riverside Drive (at 99th Street) just a few streets south of the building Maggie put up. And a tantalizing tidbit from Anthony Bellov (who I recently interviewed here about his research on architect Rosario Candela) is that Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford supposedly had assignations at 858 West End Avenue (then owned by Fairbanks' friend Frederick Bertuch) as their affair took flight before they eventually married in 1920.
That would put the two Fanchons of stage and screen directly across the street from each other if only for a moment and if before Maggie's death at 855 West End in 1918.
For a wonderful write up about 858 West End Ave, see the Daytonian in Manhattan blog.