Laurette Taylor

Treading the boards

Though she earned stardom playing the title role in “Peg o’ My Heart” (1912), Taylor earned immortality much later as Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” (1945). To hear those who saw her tell it, and there are still many who can, Taylor was a supreme conjurer, a mistress of the art that concealed art. Her unaffected portrayal of a struggling matron deludedly soldiering on has been described with awe as something so seemingly ordinary as to defy belief. “It could have been your mother” or “It was as if some woman off the street had stumbled into the theater.” Alas, no film or recording of her performance exists. Only the legend survives — of an old trouper giving what many consider the greatest dramatic performance of the 20th century, just before vanishing.

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