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The Actors

Julia Marlowe and E. H. Sothern in Romeo and Juliet
David Warfield in The Music Master

The rise of the star in part caused the fall of the stock companies because these outside big names would bring in a play that often was performed the following day. Other actors had to quickly memorize parts so that they could stand in the shadow of these stars who made substantially larger amounts of money than they did. The combination companies, however, fully supported the star, for the star was what the managers were often selling, not the play itself. Therefore, with the higher amounts that producers had to pay to The Syndicate or the Shubert brothers, the stars were usually not the ones who felt the pinch, instead it was the supporting actors.

In 1894, as calculated by F. F. Mackay, the average actor was paid roughly $35 a week with an anticipated 25 week run, but most experienced high rates of unemployment, and many had to pay for costumes and transportation out of their own pay. In comparison, stars during the same time period could make more like $250, and stars like Maude Adams, Ethel Barrymore, and Mrs. Fiske are estimated to have earned $50,000 during their heyday. David Warfield's performance in The Music Master estimated to have earned him $300,000 in one season. Even with such discrepancies in pay, however, it was the booking agents and the producers that the actors battled. For as you will see, when you read about the Actors' Equity Assocation, businessmen like those in the Syndicate and the Shubert Organization used their monopolistic powers to take away from the actors while they were raking it in at the front office.

Lillian Russell

Charlotte Crabtree Ethel Barrymore

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by Abby Manzella, American Studies at the University of Virginia, December 2000