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John McCullough

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John McCullough

"His Othello was an imposing and martial figure, with authority in voice and mein and all the external indications of the 'frank and noble nature' with which Iago credited him. And his 'waked wrath' was terrible... Bit is was only in storm and stress that it was remarkable. In detail it was crude, unimaginative , unfinished, a bold freehand sketch rather than a complete study." J. Rankin Towse

McCullough, John [Edward] (1832-1885) American actor born in Ireland. After his mother died when he was 15 years old, he was sent to live with relatives in Philadelphia. He soon began taking an active interest in amateur theatricals and became involved with the Boothean Dramatic Association. He made his professional debut at the Arch Street Theatre, Philadelphia in 1857 in The Belle’s Stratagem. During the 1860-1861 season he toured with E.L. Davenport. He then came to the attention of Edwin Forrest, who adopted him as his protégé and principal supporting actor. He toured with Forrest from 1861-1865. The result of this apprenticeship was that McCullough’s repertory and acting style very much resembled that of the older actor. A tall, classically handsome man in the heroic mold, he had a volatile, robust acting style like his mentor. After Forrest's death in 1872, McCullough assumed several of the roles upon which his predecessor had based his career such as Sparatus in The Gladiator, Virginius and Jack Cade. He also excelled at Othello, King Lear, Coriolanus and Mark Anthony. He left Forrest's company in 1866 to take over management of San Francisco’s California Theatre in conjunction with Lawrence Barrett, and continued to run the theatre after Barrett’s departure in 1870. But financial difficulties forced him to give up the California Theatre in 1877 and he spent the rest of his career touring in his best known roles. In 1881, he made a brief starring engagement at London’s Drury Lane Theatre as Virginius and Othello. His mental health began showing signs of declining in 1883 and he made his last appearance in Chicago in 1884. His growing metal instability forced his commitment to a metal institution in the summer of 1885, but he was released shortly before his death at the age of 53. He was highly admired for his fairness, in an otherwise selfish profession, although his acting style was seen as belonging to a passing tradition.

(click on photo to enlarge)

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John McCullough as a young man at the Boston Theatre-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (60498 bytes)

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as a young man at the Boston Theatre as Coriolanus
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as Iago Portrait as Spartacus
John McCullough (1832-1885) as Virginius (1874)-Photo-cepia-Resized.jpg (134883 bytes) John McCullough as King Lear-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (76888 bytes) John McCullough (1832-1885) as Virginius (1874)-Photo-B&W-Resized.jpg (103883 bytes)
as Virginius as King Lear as Virginius

Joseph Haworth and John McCullough

Joseph Haworth was leading man to John McCullough in the years 1882-1884. In later years he said of McCullough:

"He was a grand man in many ways. His education was in the theater and in a wise use of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He gained in knowledge by absorbing the thoughts of the great minds with whom he came in contact---his acquaintances numbering some of the most noted statesmen, Presidents, lawyers, doctors, etc., that this country has produced. His parents were north of Ireland people---modest farmers who little dreamed when their unlettered boy sailed for our own beautiful shores that he was bringing his ship to the haven of success of fame and fortune.

I had the honor of supporting him in his last engagement in Chicago. Miss Viola Allen was then the leading juvenile and I the leading man of the organization. The world knows of McCullough’s sad end, and will be silent while we draw the curtain on his notable career."

Joe wrote movingly of McCullough's death in his article "The Last Days of John McCullough" for Harper's Magazine in

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