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December 14, 1883
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||June 22, 1950 (aged 66)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Ashes buried in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Other names||"Crying Jane"|
C. R. Avery
(m. 1906; separated 1930)
Cowl was born Jane Bailey in Boston, Massachusetts, to Charles Bailey and Grace Avery. She attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York City. And she also took some courses at Columbia University.
She made her Broadway debut in New York City in Sweet Kitty Bellairs in 1903. Her first leading role was Fanny Perry in 1909 in Leo Ditrichstein's Is Matrimony a Failure?, produced by David Belasco, and then she played stock. This was followed by The Gamblers (1910), her first great success, and by Within the Law (1912), Common Clay (1915), and other successes (New International Encyclopedia). She was known for her interpretation of Shakespearean roles, playing Juliet, Cleopatra, and Viola on Broadway. She made Broadway history by playing Juliet over 1000 consecutive performances in 1923; critic George Jean Nathan declared her "not ... the best Juliet that I have seen, but she is by all odds the most charming". Cowl's affecting performances led her to be described as having a "voice with a tear." Biographer Charles Higham admired Cowl's "marvelous bovine eyes and exquisite genteel catch in the voice ..."
In 1930, Cowl appeared with a young Katharine Hepburn in the Broadway production of Benn W. Levy's play Art and Mrs. Bottle, and in 1934, she created the role of Lael Wyngate in S.N. Behrman's Rain from Heaven opposite actor John Halliday. Noting the challenges posed by Behrman's heightened dialogue, critic Gilbert Gabriel noted approvingly that their scenes together were "models of aristocratic parlando." She also starred in Noël Coward's Easy Virtue.
Cowl was the lead in two silent films, The Garden of Lies (1915) and The Spreading Dawn (1917). Then, after nearly 30 years away from films, she returned for several supporting roles in the 1940s. Her final film was Payment on Demand (1951) with Bette Davis.
Jane Cowl died of cancer in Santa Monica, California on June 22, 1950, aged 66. Following cremation, her ashes were buried at Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery.
A biography about Cowl, titled Jane Cowl: Her Precious and Momentary Glory, was published in 2004. It was written by Richard Abe King, who had formerly worked with Cowl.
On June 18, 1906, at her father's apartment on Riverside Drive and 95th Street in New York City, Cowl married Adolph Edward Klauber, the drama critic of The New York Times. A former actor and son of a prominent Jewish photographer in Louisville, Kentucky, Klauber left the Times in 1918 to become a theatrical producer and manager. He and Cowl separated in 1930, shortly after his health began to fail. Klauber returned to live "in strict seclusion" in Louisville, where he died in 1933. The couple had no children.
Cowl wrote several plays in collaboration with Jane Murfin. They often used the joint pseudonym Allan Langdon Martin. Their works include:
- Lilac Time - 1917
- At Daybreak - 1917
- Information Please - 1918
- Smilin' Through - 1919
- The Jealous Moon - 1928
- Slide, Anthony (1998). Eccentrics of Comedy. Lanham, Ma.: Scarecrow Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-8108-3534-4.
- Ben Iden Payne, A Life in a Wood O: Memoirs of the Theatre (Yale University Press, 1977), page 130.
- "Jane Russell, A Howard Hughes Find, Is 1941's Best New Star Prospect", Life, 20 January 1941, page 42
- Jane Cowl: Her Precious and Momentary Glory page 36 by Richard Abe King c.2004 Retrieved October 27, 2014
- Notable American Women, 1607–1950; A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 2 by Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S. Boyer c. 1971
- The Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1926, page 176
- "Jane Cowl | American playwright and actress". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved Jan 10, 2020.
- George Jean Nathan and Henry Louis Mencken, "Ethics for Dramatic Critics", The Smart Set, Volume 70, (Ess Ess Publishing Co., 1922), page 134
- "Why Miss Cowl! Delighted!", Bell Telephone News, Volume 8, 1918, page 15
- Charles Higham, Kate: The Life of Katharine Hepburn (W. W. Norton, 2004), page 16
- Encyclopedia-Titanica.org "June 1911: Olympic's Maiden Voyage; correspondence of June 21, 2002
- Gilbert W. Gabriel, "Rain from Heaven—Theatre Guild's Yule Present in S. N. Behrman's Play". New York American: 26 December 1934.
- King, Richard (2004). Jane Cowl: Her Precious and Momentary Glory. Author House. ISBN 978-1-4107-6505-5.
- Klauber—Cowl, The New York Times, 19 June 1906
- "Adolph Klauber, Producer, Dies", The New York Times, 8 December 1933
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