Friday, May 23, 2014

Charles Jackson -- Memory Strikes Out

Since first attracting attention in 1889 in the role of the "Jockey" in the Neil Burgess comedy The County Fair, Jackson had been a mainstay of New York theatre.  Suddenly unemployed in 1907, the actor languished for eight months before landing the part of  "Lew Ellinger," the chief comedy role in The Witching Hour, in January 1908.  Although the managers of the show advanced Jackson money for living expenses, friends noticed that he was still depressed.  On the evening of January 10, 1908, a dejected looking Jackson was spotted by an acquaintance sitting alone in a corner of the smoking room of the Lamb's Club.  Asked what was wrong, the 45-year-old actor responded, "It's no use.  I can't remember the cues of the lines, and I'm done for.  If I fall down on this it means the end, and I guess the only thing for me to do is to shoot myself."  The next morning, a maid at the Hotel Gerard on West Forty-fourth Street discovered Jackson's body hanging by a trunk strap from a water pipe in the top of a closet in his room.  Pages filled with jumbled handwritten lines from the script Jackson had been unable to memorize were found littering the floor.

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