Friday, January 28, 2011


The only two pictures I could find for Mr. Nobles were a portrait in an un-affordable domain, and this one, which I hope you’ll take a peek.
Though it would be too late in the receiving to use in this piece, I was tempted to order this one myself, just to have it and hold it in my hand. I try to imagine what it would be like, to hold that solid little bit of cardboard, to regard that solid, life-lived face, proof that these ghosts of the past were real, living beings, with joys and sorrows, and whole lives lived out of my ken, but now so much a part of my heart. The time I’ve spent with these people makes them Family, somehow, and I’d certainly have a place for him in our little home gallery of black-and-white portraits of those dear to us.

What a kind face he has!! It’s an intelligent face, as well, attested by his prowess with the pen, and his abilities upon the stage. And in a funny little aside, I find him in the other picture to have a teensy resemblance to Sesame Street’s Mr. Nuno---played by dear Michael Jeter, another marvelously-talented thespian, with a kindness and generosity of spirit which matched Mr. Nobles’ own.

Milton Nobles was a talented Playwright, most noted for his play THE PHOENIX, which is still being performed in reps and other smaller theaters around the country. It was made into a movie in the twenties, as well. He opened as the star of the play, continuing the run for quite some time, and had already performed in countless other vehicles of his own and other writers.

When he and Madame Methua Scheller met is a mystery still, for I cannot find a play or theater in which they’re both listed at the same time. But I do know that their stars must have intersected at some time, for he became a staunch admirer of her work, and a lifelong friend.

Nobles and his wife Dollie were co-stars in many plays and farces and musicals, enjoying a long run as a stage-pair, as famous in their own circles and in their day, as Hepburn and Tracy in their own. I have no idea of the affluence of their lives, whether they were wealthy from their own careers, or what their lives were outside the theater doors.

In June, 1875 the celebrated American actor Milton Nobles was starring in his own play Bohemians and Detectives (later name of THE PHOENIX) at Ford’s Theater, and Sousa impressed him favorably. Upon learning that Nobles was planning to tour with the show, Sousa applied for the position of conductor and composed The Bludso March (The Phoenix March) for Mr. Nobles.

Sousa met the troupe in Chicago, and they enjoyed a lengthy tour through Illinois, Nebraska, and Memphis, thence back to Washington. The Memphis portion of the tour had a note in the program: After the first act of the program, the orchestra, under the direction of Prof. J. P. Sousa, will perform The Bludso March, composed and arranged by Prof. Sousa, and dedicated to Mr. Milton Nobles. (Memphis Music---Before the Blues).

So Mr. Nobles was quite the stage dignitary in his own right, with authorship and ownership of quite a few plays, as well as a great repertoire of shows in which he’d starred over the years.

Milton and Dolly Nobles owned their own share of tragedy, as well, in the loss of a son to suicide in his twenties, long after the unfolding of the little Scheller-Nobles story of friendship and regard.

Another small chapter tomorrow, of the setting of the stone.


Beverly said...

Amazing, Rachel. When I clicked on the link to the photo, the first thing that popped in my mind was Michael Jeter. Maybe they have an as yet unknown familial connection.


Kim Shook said...

Wonderful story. I can't wait to hear more! And I love old photos. I have lots of them and display all I have room for. Sometimes I'll even mess with my new pictures on the computer to see them in B&W or sepia, just to see how much more interesting they become.

Kat said...