With a film career spanning over four decades—from a vaudeville dancer in an early Edison actuality and a silent comic film actress to an independent producer in the 1920s and a character actor in talkies in the 1930s— Cissy Fitzgerald experienced the vicissitudes of early film history. Born on February 1, 1873, christened Marie Kathleen Cecilia Fitzgerald, and educated in a British convent, Fitzgerald was already famous for her stage dancing and coquettish wink when she made her first screen appearance in 1896. Best known as “The Girl With the Wink,” Fitzgerald primarily worked in theater until her transition to comedic film acting in 1914. She appeared in multiple, trans-Atlantic runs of “The Gaiety Girl,” “The Foundling,” and “The Family.” Although she only appeared in one film role prior to 1914, an Edison Vitascope recording of her dance act in a Boston Keith-Albee show, her stage personality radiated cinematic qualities. From her saucy lingerie dancing to her gleefully incessant winking, Fitzgerald integrated bodily displays with the act of looking while most films were still shot in static, long-framed, proscenium views.
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