Mrs. Thomas Whiffen, the Grand Old Lady of Stage, to Silver-Screen With Two Photoplays, Whereabouts Unknown

Mrs. Thomas Whiffen

Blanche Galton was born in March of 1845 (she married actor Thomas Whiffen on July 11, 1868[1]), daughter of Mary Pyne-Galton, her sister was Susan (who married Alfred Kelleher) their aunt was Louisa Pyne .[2]

Mrs. Whiffen and her Sister Susan

Susan Galton by Southwell Brothers

Susan Galton as photographed by Southwell Brothers

 

The whole family emigrated from England, and soon after their arrival, Mr. and Mrs. Whiffen (Mrs. Whiffen was still being billed as Blanch Galton, and this would continue as late as 1880, then taking her married name[3]) appeared in Offenbach’s opera, 56, the production included Susan Galton and the young ladies’ mother Mrs. Pyne-Galton.[4]

Mr. and Mrs. Whiffen 1868

Mr. and Mrs. Whiffen 1868

 

In 1878, Mrs. Whiffen had the distinction of playing the character of Buttercup in the original American (albeit pirated production) premier of Gilbert & Sullivan’s, H. M. S. Pinafore, in the Old Duff Opera Company, in New York City. Original might be too strong of a word, for Mrs. Whiffen recounted that there were six companies staging Pinafore at the same time as the Old Duff.[5]

Thomas Whiffen in H. M. S. Pinafore

Thomas Whiffen as Sir Joseph Porter, in H. M. S. Pinafore

Mrs. Whiffen as Buttercup

Mrs. Whiffen as Buttercup in, H. M. S. Pinafore

 

November of 1881 began the run of Esmeralda, by Francis Hodgson Burnett, adapted by W. H. Gillette, staged at the Madison Square Theater, in New York City; the play would last nigh unto a year and the couple would go with the road production as well.

The Grand Old Lady of the theater (as Mrs. Whiffen was known) was indeed just that, appearing with all the luminaries of that era: Annie Russell, De Wolfe Hopper, Georgia Cayvan and Effie Ellsler; just a small sampling of those of whom Whiffen shared the stage with.[6] In January of 1901, she was in support of Ethel Barrymore, in Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, at the Lyceum Theatre in Scranton, Pennsylvania.[7] 1902, December, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Wiffen appeared in The Wilderness, as the ‘stage mother.’[8] In Washington, D. C., in the month of February, 1911, Mrs. Wiffen was seen at the National Theatre, as Mrs. Bedloe, in U. S. Minister Bedloe.[9] On November 21, 1917, Mrs. Wiffen celebrated (while in Chicago) her Jubilee in acting ; her debut was in 1867, when she appeared in London, in Turco, The Terrible, in the role of a fairy.[10]

Mrs. Blanche Galton-Wiffen had roles in more than forty Broadway productions. Her first was Marriage by Lanterns, 1868, her last, Just Fancy, 1927.

She made just two films, Hearts and Flowers, 1914, and Barbara Frietchie, 1915, and great ado was made for these two ventures into photoplays by her. Both films were released at the end of November, separated by three-hundred-sixty-three days. Each film fits into the category of either lost or survival status unknown.

Hearts and Flowers.phpHearts and Flowers The_Allentown_Leader_Fri__Dec_4__1914_

 

Barbara Frietchie.phpBarbara Frietchie El_Paso_Herald_Sat__Nov_6__1915_

 

For a real pleasure of a ‘one of a kind life,’ before the footlights, read Mrs. Thomas Whiffen’s autobiography, Keeping Off the Shelf, E. P. Dutton & Company, INC., 1928; filled with wonderful anecdotes of her stage career and beautiful portraits of those people in her life. She included a marvelous chapter on Mr. Whiffen, who was acquainted with Charles Dickens, and how the two gentlemen met; quite a man, quite a woman, and most definitely an engrossing story. You will find numerous websites offering this public-domain title, complimentary to the web-surfer. If a PDF or other electronic version is not good enough for you and you must have the hard-copy in your hands, then you will probably pay over $50.00 for this treasure of a life spent ‘treading the boards.’

 

By C. S. Williams

 

 

[1] Keeping Off The Shelf, Mrs. Thomas Whiffen, E. P. Dutton & Company, INC., 1928, page 60

[2] A History of the New York Stage, Volume II, by T. Allston Brown, published by Dodd, Mead and Company,

New York, 1903, 1869, page 524

[3] Keeping Off The Shelf, Mrs. Thomas Whiffen, E. P. Dutton & Company, INC., 1928, page 128

[4] The Daily Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) January 7, 1869

[5] Keeping Off The Shelf, Mrs. Thomas Whiffen, E. P. Dutton & Company, INC., 1928, page 120

[6] Keeping Off The Shelf, Mrs. Thomas Whiffen, E. P. Dutton & Company, INC., 1928

[7] The Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania) January 25, 1901

[8] The Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) January 1, 1903

[9] The Washington Herald (Washington, D. C.) February 21, 1911

[10] Variety (New York, New York) November 23, 1917

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