Chorus girl Florida Bellaire
(1885-) was born in France, daughter of Beatrice Glandon
Bellaire Cornell. When performing at the
Florida was age eighteen. It was not her
first role (see accompanying photo from Prince of
Pisen) but it not known when her stage career
began. The only evidence of her appearance in Mr. Bluebeard is that her name appeared
with twelve others in a newspaper blurb about cast
members who successfully petitioned
Chicago police chief O'Neill to return their street
clothes after the fire.* They had fled the theater
with only their costumes. By 1908 the
importance of her role in productions had advanced
sufficiently that she was commonly listed amongst
the cast in newspaper advertisements, though rarely
important enough to for the name of her role to be
included and I found no instance of her receiving
individual attention from reviewers. In Henry
Savage's Little Boy Blue in 1913 she was a
dancer in the role of Marcelle.
Florida reportedly immigrated to America as an infant, around
1888, but I failed to find immigration records
supporting that. Her younger sister and brother, Loretta and
Ernest, were born in the United States. The name of their father is
unknown. Their mother remarried in 1901 to
Franklin E. Cornell and I found no indication of the
family living anywhere except Manhattan.
Florida returned to NYC with
the cast after the fire, arriving Jan 5, 1904.
A newspaper report of their arrival stated: "Florida
Bellaire, the Elsie Romaine of the play, was met by
Mrs. Franklin Cornell of 246 West 129th St." I
found nothing else to suggest that Florida Bellaire
Elsie Romaine were one and the same. The
inaccurate statement suggests that Elsie Romaine was
a role in the production rather than a performer.
In the years after the fire
sister, Loretta, nicknamed Rita and Retta, joined
Florida in the theater around 1909 and the pair
performed until 1920 in traveling light opera and
musical comedy troupes, nearly always in the same play,
for several years members of Henry Savage companies,
the longest run being in Merry
Loretta achieved the
individual notice that Florida did not, though it
was a single instance and said little of her acting skills.
While playing the role of Olga in Merry Widow she was
described as having been poured into her dress,
and for having dialogue consisting of two one-word lines,
"yes" and "no." In 1919
and 1920 the
girls were performing in John Cort's Listen
Lester. For a short time, they seemed to
use one name, Florita Bellaire, but the last
newspaper advertisement including either girl was in
April 1920 when Florida was promotional notices
listed as a cast member
in Listen Lester.
By 1920 both girls reported their last
name as Coriveau but the only place the name was
published seems to have been the U.S. Census. I found no evidence of
either marrying and a decade later Loretta
returned to using the Bellaire name.
In 1920 both reported their
occupation as actress, Florida in the theater and
Loretta in movies.
I could not track Florida
after 1920 but women by that name are found in
Canada and Massachusetts in the 1930s. Loretta became a beautician
and Beatrice divorced after her
husband accused her of having engaged in "long and leisurely
kisses" with another man. The date of death
is not yet known for any of the three women.
Discrepancies and addendum*
Her name was misspelled as Bellaires.
I am cautious about
all names & dates for this family. In the 1900 U.S.
Census, the enumerator recorded Beatrice's birth
year as 1874 and Florida's as 1885. Since an
eleven-year-old did not give birth, something is
amiss that may have resulted from language
difficulties when a French-speaking woman spoke to
an English-speaking census enumerator. Add the
possibility of stage names and all bets are off on
accuracy. I suspect, though, that they may have
viewed such specifics as situational. In the 1920
U.S. Census, both women became younger by a decade
or more and Beatrice's native land became New York
rather than France. It reported her age at the time
of her first marriage as fourteen.