Charlotte Blair Parker

Charlotte Blair Parker
Born Ca 1858
Oswego, NY
Died January 5, 1937
Great Neck, NY
Occupation Playwright
Nationality USA

Charlotte Blair Parker (1858 - January 5, 1937) was a noted playwright and aspiring actress in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. She began her theatrical career as an actress, eventually playing opposite John Edward McCullough, Mary Anderson, and Dion Boucicault. Writing under the pen name Lottie Blair Parker, she wrote about a dozen produced plays but is remembered most for three popular stage plays produced between 1897 and 1906: Way Down East, Under Southern Skies and The Redemption of David Corson. Of the three, Way Down East, produced in 1898, was the most successful, proving to be one of the most popular American plays of its time, steadily performed for two decades


Early years

Born 1858, in Oswego, New York, Charlotte Blair Parker was the daughter of George and Emily Hitchcock Blair. She married Harry D. Parker. Charlotte Blair Parker died January 5, 1937, in Great Neck, New York.


Charlotte "Lottie" Blair Parker's theatrical career started as an actress, studying for the stage under the noted Shakespearian actor, Wyzeman Marshall in Boston. She performed with the stock company of the Boston Theatre, and later toured with such major figures as the Czech tragic actress Mme. Janauschek and American actor-producer of poetic drama Lawrence Barrett. Parker married a theatrical manager. She turned to playwriting when White Roses, a one-act play she submitted to a New York Herald contest in 1892, received honorable mention.

Way Down East

In 1897, at the age of 39, Parker penned her most popular full-length play, titled "Way Down East." It was a sentimental melodrama about the travails of a seduced woman, Anna Moore, who is cast out by those who learn her story. After being seduced and losing the child of that liaison, Anna Moore ( Phoebe Davies) wanders despondently until she finds refuge as a servant in the New England farm of Squire Bartlett (played by Odell Williams). Ignorant of her past, the Bartletts embrace her as part of their household. But when Squire Bartlett learns her history he drives her from his home in the midst of a raging snowstorm. Anna loses her way and nearly dies before she is rescued by the Bartletts' son, David (played by Howard Kyle). He has come to love her and finally persuades his parents that she is worthy to be his wife. Way Down East premiered at the Manhattan Theatre in 1898 where it enjoyed 152 performances. It was later revised by Joseph R. Grismer, whose wife, Phoebe Davis, played the leading role of Anna Moore in the original production and in later revivals in 1903 and 1905. Davis would go on to play the role for more than 4,000 performances. [1]

In 1920 D. W. Griffith paid $175,000 for screen rights to the melodrama, which was by then considered dated. His film version was a popular success and an artistic triumph, largely because of the sweetly expressive face of Lillian Gish. [2]

Way Down East (1898), a play by Lottie Blair Parker, revised by Joseph R. Grismer. [Manhattan Theatre, 152 perf.] Although the William A. Brady–Florenz Ziegfeld production was little more than a compilation of settings and motifs popular in melodrama of the period, it was praised for its restraint and honesty. The play became one of the greatest successes of the American stage and held the boards for nearly two decades. Davies, who was Mrs. Grismer in private life, played the role over four thousand times. Lottie Blair PARKER (1868–1937) was born in Oswego, New York, and began her theatrical career as an actress, eventually playing opposite John McCullough, Mary Anderson, and Dion Boucicault. She wrote about a dozen produced plays, including White Roses (1892) and Under Southern Skies (1901), but none was as popular as Way Down East.

[3] [4]

Critics saw a strong resemblance between Way Down East and Steele MacKaye's 1880 melodrama Hazel Kirke, in which Parker had once played the title role. Both plays feature an innocent girl who loves a man above her station in life and is duped by a sham marriage ceremony. Upon her learning of her dishonor, Hazel Kirke throws herself into the mill race. In Way Down East, Anna Moore is sent out into a New England blizzard. In both plays, the heroine is rescued at the last minute and a reconciliation is effected. The originality of Parker's treatment lies in her use of "Down East" atmosphere and such comic characters as Hi Holler, Martha Perkins, and Reuben Whipple.

Under Southern Skies

Under Southern Skies was set in Louisiana in 1875. It opened November 12, 1901, with Grace George in the leading role. True to its reviewer's prediction, the play was a popular success with "that large class of playgoers who like their color on thick without too much delicacy of shading, and with no great subtlety in the handling." This criticism was intended metaphorically, but it might also be noted that several roles were performed in black-face. As in Way Down East, the heroine is caught between a false-hearted cad and an honorable young suitor; again, virtue triumphs.

The Redemption of David Corson

Parker's third full-length play to reach Broadway was The Redemption of David Corson, based upon a novel of the same title by Charles Frederic Goss. It premiered January 8, 1906 but had a short life of only 16 performances. In 1909, Parker focused on the New England village milieu, Yankee characters, and rustic dialect, when she turned the novel Homespun: A Story of Some New England Folk, into a stage play. She used the formula of her stage melodramas—a conflict between a rich scoundrel and a poor-but-honest young man. A review of Homespun in the New York Times (14 Aug. 1909) sums up her characteristic manner: "It is as moral as a Sunday school tale, and at the end pleases if not surprises the reader by the tableau of virtue triumphant and vice in the dust." [5] [6]

Chronology of theatrical productions/compositions

Productions Genre Contribution by Lottie B. Parker Dates of Productions
Way Down East [7] Play, Melodrama, Original, Broadway Written by Lottie Blair Parker; Revised by Joseph R. Grismer February 7, 1898 - June, 1898 (Manhattan Theatre, NYC - 152 Performances)
Under Southern Skies [8] Play, Melodrama, Original, Broadway Written by Lottie Blair Parker; Produced by William A. Brady November 12, 1901 - January, 1902 (Theatre Republic, NYC - 71 Performances)
Lights of Home [9] Play, Melodrama, Original, Broadway Written by Lottie Blair Parker. November 2, 1903 - Closing date unknown (Haverly's 14th Street Theatre, NYC)
Way Down East [10] Play, Melodrama, Revival, Broadway Written by Lottie Blair Parker; Revised by Joseph R. Grismer December 14, 1903 - Closing date unknown (Academy of Music, NYC - 48 Performances)
Way Down East [11] Play, Melodrama, Revival, Broadway Written by Lottie Blair Parker; Revised by Joseph R. Grismer August 21, 1905 - October, 1905 (Academy of Music, NYC - 64 Performances)
The Redemption of David Corson [12] Play, Melodrama, Original, Broadway Written by Lottie Blair Parker; from the novel by Rev. Charles Frederic Goss January 8, 1906 - January 19, 1906 (Majestic Theatre - 16 Performances)
Hearts of Love [13] Hollywood Silent Film Actress: Lottie Blair Parker plays Rose Neville; Director: J. Charles Haydon; Writer: Thomas Bedding. Released: November, 1918



Though none of Charlotte Blair Parker's plays were published, the New York Public Library has Way Down East and Under Southern Skies in typescript.

  • Parker, L. B., "The Writer's Thoughts Concerning Her Play," in Green Book Album (October, 1911).
  • New York Dramatic Mirror (August 27, 1901). New York Times (February 8, 1898; November 13. 1901; January 9, 1906).
  • The Stage (New York) (January, 1937; August, 1937).
  • Drama by Women to 1900: A Bibliography of American and British Writers by Davis and Joyce

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