Gillette, William

Gillette, William

(jəlĕt`), 1853–1937, American actor and dramatist, b. Hartford, Conn. His New York debut in Mark Twain's Gilded Age (1877) was shortly followed by his own first play, The Professor (1881). In the same year Esmeralda, written with Frances Hodgson Burnett, established his success. Held by the Enemy (1886) was the first of his popular Civil War plays, the second being Secret Service (1896). Both won him high personal praise. With Sherlock Holmes (1899), however, Gillette scored his lasting triumph, creating a play and a character with which he was permanently associated. He was one of the first to profess that an actor should build his characterization on the dominant qualities of his own personality.
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Gillette, William

(1855–1937) actor, playwright; born in Hartford, Conn. Best known for his authoritative, striking presence in plays that he had himself adapted from other works, he made an extremely successful Sherlock Holmes in 1899, later performing the role in England and frequently reviving it throughout his career. His original plays include two successful Civil War dramas, Held by the Enemy (1886) and Secret Service (1896).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.