Friday, April 8, 2011

Spotlight on Julian Eltinge

Most people don't know the name Julian Eltinge, even though there's a Broadway theater named after him. He's not, after all, Helen Hays. He was, however, a huge star in his day, and he became a star by impersonating women.
His career reportedly started with a cadet show in 1900. His break came when E.E. Rice took him under his wing and bought the rights to a British play (Mr. Wix of Wickham) for him. His reviews were particularly good and led to a vaudeville career. By 1910 he had become a top tier headliner and took to the boards in legitimate Broadway shows. His popularity brought about a Hollywood career as well. 1917 found him working with producer Jesse Lasky on such titles as The Countess Charming and Clever Mrs. Carfax. His success allowed him to build a palatial home in Hollywood called Villa Capistrano for himself and his mother. His success lasted through the end of the silent era and though he tried to make his way in a changing Hollywood, he never really found footing in the sound era. There are two known sound films that feature his talents - Maid to Order (1931) and he has a small part playing himself in If I Had My Way - a Bing Crosby vehicle. He died in 1941 at the age of 59. 
You can find lots of pictures of Julian Eltinge online. He was an extremely prolific model in service to the promotion of his career, but I've only been able to find one film of his. Above is The Isle of Love, uploaded to YouTube by The Huntly Film Archives. It's a 1922 feature starring Eltinge and Rudolph Valentino (with whom Julian Eltinge was rumored to have had an affair - though frankly, who wasn't?). It was originally filmed in 1918 and was conceived as a WWI spy picture, however before they could release it the armistice occurred, so it was shelved, re-cut and released as a Valentino vehicle after his success in The Sheik.

I first became fascinated by Julian Eltinge when I stumbled across The Julian Eltinge Project. Mark Berger has assembled a delightful trove of information on Eltinge. I highly recommend you take a look at the site. It's where most of my information for the profile has come from. My second encounter with Julian Eltinge came shortly after I discovered who he was. I ran across a postcard with a picture of his home. I was charmed by the coincidence and still have the postcard.


  1. Terrific story, so glad it is being told. Mainstream female impersonators did not just come into vogue in the 1990's as some thought (even though we know better.) The entrance to the Eltinge Theatre is still being used in New as part of the entrance to the AMC Theatres on 42nd Street.

  2. sorry for the typo. should be "being used here in New York as part"

  3. I wasn't aware that the entrance was part of AMC up there. I'll have to go up and look. Thanks!

  4. You have to walk through the front doors, up to the ticket booth, turn around and look up to see the portion of the Eltinge that is still used in the AMC. It's not outside. And I think that house is still in Los Feliz (LA). I posted the small portion of Bing Crosby's movie that Eltinge appears in on youtube.

    That's all I got. Oh wait.

    I'm done...for now. ; >

  5. Thank you for sharing that! I've been wanting to see him in that film...