Harriette Underhill

Abel, Richard

Born in Troy, New York, Harriette Underhill came to New York City, fleeing a brief marriage, at age sixteen, and became interested in the theater. After touring with several companies (including as part of the chorus in the original “Floradora” company), she returned to New York in 1908 after the death of her father, Lorenzo Underhill, a “horse breeder and turf man” (“Harriette Underhill Dies”), and took over his sports column at the New York Tribune. “A rare beauty” with “flaming orange” hair often framed by “a large black picture hat,” in the words of Ishbel Ross, “she was cynical to the core, scorned sentiment, had a sophisticated wit, [and] was generous and courageous” (412-413). In 1916, for a weekly column in the Tribune, Underhill began interviewing stage actors who had turned to performing in the movies at the New York studios. A fluid, articulate writer, she let her interviewees speak as they wished, rarely calling attention to herself. Her profile of Olga Petrova, for example, concentrated on the star’s face, her “alabaster skin,” “red hair,” “sad, almost tragic eyes,” and “the wonderful piquancy” of her voice (“Petrova of the Pictures”). In late 1919, Underhill was hit by a car and severely crippled, but she continued to write, taking over the Tribune’s film review column from Virginia Tracy.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
January 5, 2021