Photo courtesy of Dionysus Theatre
Complex, New York, New York
Apparently, Julia and the press were disturbed by the shape of her nose!
A Tragedienne with a Tip-Tilted Nasal Organ
And the Comment it has Caused
Colonel Miles's Prediction--And Harry Dixey's Doubt That She Could Show Off in Tragedy
"Physical limitations!" Is there a more cruel coupling of words in the English language?
A good many will overcome mental barriers to some extent, but physical limitations are almost insurmountable. Many a woman has the will and qualifications to be a great woman whose physical limitations hold her hopelessly down. The real nature of many a woman is never known to any save her nearest and dearest for the same reason.
The very features of the face in certain "callings" may prove the most serious limitations. It is true that the face is more or less certain to take on the imprint of the mind, but the mind cannot change the shape of the nose, for instance, and the nose is such an unreticent feature.
I thought of this matter of "physical limitations" the other day when I was looking at some photographs of Julia Marlowe. There were those of her in the fourth act of "Cymbeline" and the new one of her as Charles Hart which was taken by Falk during hold week and both of which being views of the upturned face show the exquisitely short upper lip and her wide nostrils.
Few who look at these pictures would dream that that tip-tilted nose barely escaped condeming Julia Marlowe to comedy, or rather barring her out of tragedy. A hair-breadth more and a nose would have been the autocrat of her fate.
In the winter of 1885, in company with Miss Dow, which whom she was studying, Miss Julia Marlowe was entering one of the New York theatres one afternoon, when they passed at the door of Colonel Miles, under whose management she had first played in the Juvenile Opera Company. He was talking with Harry Dixey. As the young girl passed him, Colonel Miles said to Dixey:
"Do you see that young woman?" "Who is she?" replied the comedian. "Well," answered Miles, "that young woman is going to make her mark in the world." "So?" responded Dixey, looking again: "what's she going to do?" "Act" was the reply. "What in?" said Dixey. "Oh, the Mary Anderson repertroire and . . . He got no further. Dixey was laughing "What!" he ejaculated, "a tragedienne! With that nose!"
Colonel Miles repeated that story to Miss Marlowe, and the young girl, never quite satisfied with her appearance, was made miserable. After that she used to make a practice of soaking her nose in hot water for an hour at a time she would sit and smooth it, attempting to make it a little longer. She often says, laughingly now, "And do you know, I fancy I did improve it a little!"
But the incident of which I was especially reminded, as I looked at the Charles Hart photograph which easily could be believed to be from a painting instead of from a person, took place in the summer of '86. She was staying at Jersey Highlands, and enjoying the water dearly, and pulls an oar with the enthusiasm of a freshman, and swims like a duck. Justly she is very proud of her agility in the water. One feat in which she took especial pleasure was diving and swimming under water. Now Miss Dow was afraid that some accident night happen to the daring creature, and had forbidden any displays of that sort. One day Miss Julia went down for her bath alone, and though, as a rule, a very obedient girl, the temptation was more that she could bear. "Just one dive," she thought. "It can do no harm." So off she went, taking a header in great shape.
Unfortunately, there was another girl at the beach who was fond of swimming under water, and at that unlucky moment, Miss Marlowe dove right into her hitting her nose on the back of the submarine swimmer's head in a manner that opened all sorts of stellar phenomena at once. She rose, she turned on her back and she floated ashore as best she could.
There all alone, she sat down to nurse her sufferings. The stinging pain in the nose was almost unedurable, but she felt that she deserved it. Strange to say, the shame of having to confess to Miss Dow was almost as bad as the pain.
As soon as she was able she went up to the house and looked at herself. To her horror, her nose was was all one-sided.
This was too much punishment for a little fault. She had ruined her career for one little act of disobedience! Then she hoped that the pain might have made her see crooked; so with that forlorn faith she went to the landlady, and sobbing asked, "Is my nose straight?"
"For the Lord's sake, Miss Julia," was the reply, "what has happened to you?"
That settled it. So she went to Miss Dow, and with many tears confessed. Miss Dow was a woman of great reserve force. Whatever she felt at that moment she knew that it was no time to reproach the girl. "Go up stairs, Julia." she said sternly; "bathe your nose in boiling water; then take hold of the end of it and pull with all your might. It will hurt, but that cannot be helped."
Julia obeyed. At that moment it Miss Dow had told her to talk on burning coals she would have unhesitatingly stepped off. The nose was pulled violently. A snap! and it was in place.
"I think," she often says in these days, as she looks down at the troublesome feature, "I really do think that I improved it."
It would seem that fate still retains a spite against Miss Marlow's nose, and had resolved it should remain a "limitation." All Miss Marlowe's Easter vacation was devoted to tending that same nose: Dr. Clarence Rice, of New York having taken advantage of her illness to perform an operation on it, not a serious one, and one to which very many actors and singers have submitted, but it was quite sufficient to make the vacation not exactly quite a pasttime.
In the old days artists went everywhere for their models. Beauty figured as Madonnas on that claim alone. It seems that the artistic temperament has not changed for a few weeks ago an artist went into the shop of a dealer in photographs in Boston and purchased a picture of Miss Marlowe as Imogen, confiding to the dealer that he proposed to use it in a stained window as one of the martyrs. This is certainly a very close meeting for church and stage. M.A.
Julia discussed her nose with a newspaper reporter who published the story in the Sandusky Daily Star on April 8, 1901:
Marlowe's Retrousse Nose
"When I was a little girl," said Julia Marlowe, "my greatest regret and anxiety was an retrousse nose. I was in the habit of stating to my family that I should some day become a great tragedienne. This amused them not a little, for neither they nor I knew anything of the stage or of actresses. The idea was plainly my own, but the family laughed at me and assured me that such a thing as a tragedienne with a pug nose had never been heard of. I was impressed with the statement, and it occured to me that the nose might be remedied. So I sought our family physician and confided my troubles to him and begged him to operate on the offending member. He was vastly amused, but reassured me on the subject of noses. For years I was troubled with the idea, but I have lived to discover that even a nose is not a barrier to success."