Friday, September 27, 2013

Wright Lorimer -- The Shepherd King

Photo:  J. Willis Sayre
After an unsuccessful career as a Baptist pastor in Watervliet, New York, Lorimer (real name Walter M. S. Lowell) began acting at the age of 25 in stock theatre in Chicago in 1899.  Five years later he starred in a play he had written, The Shepherd King, when it opened on April 5, 1904, at the Knickerbocker Theatre in New York City.  It ran for three seasons after which Lorimer performed in Henrik Ibsen's play The Wild Duck and other plays.  In March 1911, the 37-year-old actor filed a $48,400 lawsuit against theatrical manager William A. Brady for cancelling a contract that would have put  The Shepherd King back on the stage.  While waiting for the suit to come to trial, Lorimer worked sporadically as an actor, last appearing in a short-lived vaudeville sketch entitled "The Crucifix."

Lorimer had been unemployed for four months when depression caused him to take his life in his room at a boarding house on 124 West Sixty-fifth Street in New York City sometime between 10:00 P.M. on December 7 and the early morning of December 8, 1911.  The lifeless actor was found on the kitchen floor next to the open baking oven in a seeping gas stove.  Three letters were found near his body.  In one addressed "To My Friends," Lorimer complained that Brady had driven him to suicide.  Reacting to the actor's death, the theatrical manager surrendered all interests in The Shepherd King to Lorimer's ex-wife and her three children by the actor.

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