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John LeVay

Toronto, Simon & Pierre Publishing, 1989. 330pp, cloth, $39.95
ISBN 0-88924-206-2. CIP

Reviewed by Gerri Young.

Volume 18 Number 2
1990 March

There is no doubt that Margaret Anglin was indeed the marvellous actress that this biography proclaims. John LeVay, Anglin's grandnephew, re­searched and wrote the book using personal sources and theatre periodicals from the era.

Margaret Anglin was born in Ottawa in 1876 and died in Toronto in 1958, but she lived her life as an Ameri­can actress and became a U.S. citizen by marriage at thirty-five. Although she still thought of herself as a Canadian, she liked being an American, too.

In 1894, less than a year after she began attending acting school in New York, this beautiful, talented girl got her big break in a Civil War romance, Shenendoah. Shortly after that she met James O'Neill and her journey to stardom began for certain. Margaret Anglin excelled in her sensitive portray­als of Shakespearean comedy and Greek tragedies, of which Electra was one of her favourites. She elicited wondrous words of praise from reviewers: other player of my time has ever extracted from spoken lines the very essence of soul-purging misery, or lived a heart-wrung grief, or launched the bitter, stinging curses of deep anger, or risen to the supreme heights of joyous gratitude for one beloved, with such affecting eloquence as Miss Anglin did....

This book is a loving treatment of a memorable woman's career, as the author intended. At least half of the information consists of direct quotes from letters, diaries and reviews. Anglin's personal life is scantily touched upon. The work is scholarly and permits easy access to information, and the thirty-seven drawings and photo­graphs enhance the book and add to the understanding of the actress.

The readership will be limited to students or lovers of theatre history.

Gerri Young, Fort Nelson, B.C.
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