What Can an Actor Do When He Retires?

The famed (at the time) actor E.H. Sothern had recently retired from the stage in 1916, which was of course the only real form of acting for anybody who spoke words, since the first film with sound The Jazz Singer wouldn’t come out until 1927. Sothern penned an essay in which he answered the title question of “What Can an Actor Do When He Retires?” through a fictional conversation he has with the ghost of Gamaliel Ratsey, a famous thief and criminal of the Shakespearean era who was hanged in 1605 but not before he famously once robbed a troupe of Shakespearean actors.

The article’s subtitle calling the piece “humorous” is definitely subject to interpretation. You can see that the photograph of the author certainly doesn’t make him look like the life of the party, although to be fair people smiling in photos was a rare if not nonexistent phenomenon back then. Perhaps the funniest line in the article describes Ratsey’s introduction:

The visitor produced out of the void two huge horse-pistols and leveled them at my head.

“Get up!” said he, “and play me a scene or I’ll blow your brains out.”

This kind of invitation is vastly persuasive.

What Can an Actor Do When He Retires?: E.H. Sothern Answers in Humorous Vein the Question So Often Asked, Using as Interlocutor the Ghost of Gamaliel Ratsey

From October 29, 1916

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