Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dolly (Woolwine) Noble

The last history blog told the story of Laura Woolwine who became Laura Bellini, a famous opera singer.

Laura was not the only star in the Woolwine family. Her younger sister, Dolly, became a stage star in the "Gay 90's".

Dolly was born in 1861 after the family moved from Lebanon to Cincinnati. Her early stage training was in the Cincinnati Shakespeare Club. Madame Helena Modjeska, a famous tragedian, appeared on stage in Cincinnati and was entertained by the Club. Modjeska encouraged Dolly to take up a theatrical career.

The Woolwine family moved to Washington D.C. to allow Laura to go to Italy to pursue her music career. It also permitted Dolly to become a student of Modjeska.

Before leaving Cincinnati, Dolly had become acquainted with Milton Nobles, a successful actor and playwright.

After training with Modjeska, Woolwine joined an acting company led by Nobles.

Milton Nobles and Dolly Woolwine were married in 1880. Nobles gave his bride, as a wedding gift, a fully furnished home at 138 First Street, Brooklyn, New York. The house remained their residence until their deaths.

Nobles, immediately after their marriage, wrote a stage play, "Love and Law" to present his wife to the public. She was an instant success. Milton & Dolly gained considerable fame both in Broadway plays and on tour. As melodramas waned in popularity, the couple made a transition to vaudeville.

A vaudeville program was made up of a series of separate unrelated acts. Milton composed short sketches which allowed the pair to appear in such varied entertainment.

Benjamin Franklin Keith, a theatre owner, is credited with bringing vaudeville to the U.S. Following a successful performance at Keith's in New York, the Nobles received top billing when they toured the circuit.

A New York Times article in May 30, 1903 said of them: "…the pair once again demonstrate their ability in the line of farce. Both Nobles and his wife have the rare faculty of so blending the serious and the comic that the right note of burlesque is obtained.."

Later in life Milton and Dolly again starred in a full length play titled "Lightning". It had an excellent record on both Broadway and the road.

The Nobles had two children: Milton Jr. and "Dolly Junior". Milton Jr. was an actor and "Dolly Junior" a pianist.

When performing in Cincinnati, the Nobles always visited Lebanon, thus the entire family was well known locally. They were also generous in sharing their talents to help local charities raise funds.

Milton died in 1924 and Dolly in 1930. Both children had preceded her in death.

The Warren County History Center at 105 South Broadway in Lebanon has a permanent exhibit in the Empire Gallery featuring the Woolwine sisters.

The Center also has numerous photos of the Nobles and Bellini and a copy of the book "Shop Talk" authored by Milton Nobles.

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