Date of Award

1994

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Theatre

First Advisor

Gresdna Doty

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine the career of Lola Montez (Marie Dolores Eliza Gilbert) (c. 1818-1861) in the American theatre between 1851 and 1857 in order to provide her with an appropriate position in American theatre history. The primary sources of information for the study were contemporary newspapers from the various cities she toured in the United States as well as newspapers from London and Paris. Prior to her American tour, Lola Montez established a European reputation as an eccentric femme fatale and performer. Due to her European publicity, Montez arrived in America with audiences clamoring to see her perform. Her beauty, notoriety, exotic biography, and performances established phenomenal popularity from coast-to-coast. Despite such popularity, theatrical histories contain cursory, scattered and conflicting reports of her career. Consequently, her place in American theatre history has not been established. The findings of the study reveal that throughout her remarkable tour of the United States, Lola Montez established an unqualified popular success. Although curiosity attracted crowds initially, Montez habitually sustained popular engagements in major theatres that typically lasted from one week to one month. Her exotic appeal managed to satisfy the appetite for novelty among the politicians in Washington, the B'hoys in New York, the literary elite in Boston, the gold-miners in California, and the French and Spanish aristocrats as well as the rough and ready of New Orleans. Packing houses wherever she performed as a dancer and/or actress, she filled major theatres with audiences from all walks of life, eager to see the lover of artists and kings, and the cause of a democratic revolution in Bavaria. The Montez phenomenon, the mania that attended her performances, the critical success and the logic behind such have been overlooked. In the long view of American theatre history, Lola Montez, the Countess of Landsfeldt is an original: her American career stands alone.

Pages

338

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