Minnie Tittell Brune (1875–1974) was born Minnie Tittle in San Francisco where she made her first stage appearance as a child of four and a half when she played Little Jim in Lights of London at the Californian Theatre of her home town.
She had two sisters: Esther, also an actress who became a "crack shot and expert stage swordswoman" who died in 1934 and Charlotte, who married a theatrical manager. She also had family who were nuns.
After her childhood appearances on stage, Minnie was put in a convent for about a year, perhaps a parental attempt to discourage her from a career in theatre. As it happened, Minnie and her two sisters all pursued careers in the industry. Working as a child actor, she went on tour for producer Charles Frohman, appearing in New York in The Girl I left Behind and touring the United States with actors such as Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. It is recorded that she appeared with her husband Clarence (whose name she took) in a revival of Sardou'sTheodora at the Grand Opera House, New York in 1901. But it was in the Antipodes that she made a huge name for herself.
She was brought to Australia by J. C. Williamson, who is said to have met her while she was on her honeymoon in Europe. It was not until 1904 that he persuaded Minnie to voyage from California to Australia. The ship on which she and her husband travelled, The Australia, ran aground in Port Phillip Bay in June 1904. Minnie was unhurt, but she took a philosophical view of such incidents. She later told an interviewer "I was not alarmed about the wreck, though I fully realised the danger of it. If it was to have been that I should be drowned-well, that’s all about it. It would have happened so. As it was ordained otherwise, here I am!"
She made her first appearance in Sydney on Saturday September 21, 1904, in the play Sunday, a Story of Western Life at Her Majesty's Theatre. Minnie played Sunday, "the whole-hearted lovable girl at a miners camp." She was supported by Roy Redgrave and Gaston Mervale. The performance was a huge success, and led to her becoming one of the most popular actresses on the Australian and New Zealand stage until she left in 1909.
"I’m an actress…but I’m also religious; I can’t help it. I can justify my actress self to my religious self: but I can’t justify the things that you can’t separate from the actress, the publicity, the feeling of being considered public property even off the stage. I hate that. I don’t like when I walk down the street, to have men looking at me and speculating about me. I hate to hear them say, "That’s Tittell Brune" and I feel their eyes boring into my back when I’m past. It makes me feel common and I loathe it. If I can’t disguise myself I’ve got to put up with it. But that kind of publicity revolts me. It really does, because I am religious - I’m half a nun."
Minnie Tittell Brune’s five year sojourn in Australia ended and she decided to try her luck in London, but met with limited success. She received only mediocre reviews in her first piece, The Eternal Question at the Garrick Theatre. Her work in 1910 included Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the Queen's Theatre opposite H.B. Irving, Sir Henry Irving's surviving son, and as chorus in Henry V.
Minnie had few London appearances in 1911, her major role being in a play called The Woman on the Case at the Coronet theatre. The New York Times reported in August, in addition to a report that ostrich feathers were making a comeback, that she had returned on the Oceanic after an absence of nine years to appear in New York, billed as Minnie Tittell-Brune at the Manhattan Opera House in An Aztec Romance. By 1913 she was back in London where, during her stay, she made three movies under the name Fanny Tittell-Brune: Esther Redeemed (1915), Iron Justice (1916), and Temptation's Hour (1916). In 1916, Minnie was also credited as being in 6 other films directed by Hal Roach, starring Harold Lloyd. In 1917 she was singing at London's Coliseum, before she returned to her home country.
Minnie's husband, Clarence Marion Brune (né Clarence Marion Browne), was an attorney and a theatre producer who earned several degrees from such univerties as Harvard, Wesleyan, Université Laval (Quebec), University of Chicago Law School, Catholic University of America, and Columbia College (New York City). Clarence, was the author of works on topics such as Modern Theatre, Greek Tragedy, Shakespearean Legal Terminology, the Romantic Movement, and English Poetry. Clarence left Minnie a widow in 1935.
Minnie died in her 100th year in Los Angeles in September 1974. She was living in obscurity as a member of the Order of St Francis and was interred with a Catholic service.
Little noticed in her own country, lacking even a press obituary, she was a major figure in the history of the Australian stage, and is remembered for the fact that she is the only link between two centuries and two notable families, for she worked with Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. in America (see the Booth family) and with Roy Redgrave in Australia (see the Redgrave family).
- Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Harvard University, 1915
- The Harvard University Directory, 1910
- The NY Times subscriber search for Esther Tittell, 7 July 1934
- The NY Times subscriber search for Minnie Tittel- Brune, 1 September 1901
- The NY Times subscriber search for Minnie Tittel- Brune, 8 August 1912
- The NY Times subscriber search for Minnie Tittell-Brune, 15 September 1912
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Roy Redgrave — Infobox actor name = Roy Redgrave imagesize = 230px caption = Roy Redgrave and Miss Tittell Brune appearing in Leah Kleschna circa 1907. birthname = George Edward Redgrave birthdate = April 26, 1873 birthplace = Kennington, Lambeth, South London … Wikipedia