Welcome to a new season! The first rehearsal of the season started yesterday, I got a chance to look in on the process and let me tell you this is going to be a fantastic show! You are all in for a real treat.
So here is some fun information about William Gillette –
- William Gillette was an actor, playwright, inventor, and stage manager.
- Best known for portrayal of Sherlock Holmes
- The first play he wrote and produced was The Professor
- In 1882 Gillette married Helen Nichols of Detroit. She died in 1888 from peritonitis, caused by a ruptured appendix. He never remarried.
- Born in 1853, his father was U.S. Sen. Francis Gillette. His mother, Elizabeth Daggett Hooker Gillette, is a descendant of Thomas Hooker, the founder of Hartford.
- Gillette was friends with Mark Twain.
- Gillette was a “personality” actor, always playing himself onstage, earning him the sobriquet “the aristocrat of the stage.”
- He played starring parts in most of his own plays, including “The Professor,” which ran for 151 performances, earning Gillette a salary of $50 a week.
- Gillette wrote two Civil War pieces, “Held by the Enemy” (1866) and “Secret Service” (1895). The London cast of “Secret Service” included a young Ethel Barrymore.
- He created a number of starring roles in plays by “Peter Pan” author James M. Barrie, including “The Admirable Crichton” (1903) and “Dear Brutus” (1918) with a young Helen Hayes.
- Gillette delivered a famous address called “The Illusion of the First Time in Acting” in 1913 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. As a playwright and director, he pioneered “realism of action,” avoiding unnecessary dialogue for telling physical action, an important precursor of film.
- In 1899, Gillette adapted “Sherlock Holmes” for Broadway. Many characteristics of the great detective, which we still associate with him, were created by Gillette, not Conan Doyle.
- Gillette played Holmes more than 1,000 times on stages across the country and worldwide. He added a deerstalker cap and calabash pipe, which became an iconic look for Holmes.
- From his major successes, Gillette became a wealthy man. While sailing on the Connecticut River in 1913, Gillette spotted land in East Haddam where he wanted to build his home. The Norman-style castle on a hill above the river is the setting for Ludwig’s comedic whodunit, “The Game’s Afoot.”
- Gillette designed the grounds and the castle himself, with 24 rooms and walls that taper from five feet at the base to three feet at the top.
- After five years of construction, the castle was completed in 1919, at a cost of $1 million. It includes built-in sofas, wood carvings, tables on trackways and many doors with puzzle locks Gillette designed. A grand wooden staircase leads to the upper floors, and the entire castle is filled with unique architecture. As a character in “The Game’s Afoot” states, “A perfect place for a murder.”
- Gillette died in 1937, and his will gave specific directions to see that the property did not fall into the hands “of some blithering saphead who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.”
- In 1943, Gillette’s executors sold the estate to the state of Connecticut, which made Gillette’s home a state park in 1944. Gillette Castle State Park has 148 acres, a picnic area, garden, gift shop and museum. The state added a train that goes through a nearby forest and around the lake on the property.
Some fun facts for the day! The box office is now open for ticket sales! Don’t forget to call and get your tickets. 248.377.3300 or you can purchase your tickets at ticketmaster.com.
Casey S. Hibbert©