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Otis Skinner as Shylock
Otis Skinner (June 28, 1858, Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker – January 4, 1942, New York Citymarker) was an Americanmarker actor.

He was the son of a Universalist minister; his brother, Charles Montgomery Skinner, was a noted journalist and critic in New York. Skinner was educated in Hartfordmarker, Connecticutmarker, with an eye towards a career in commerce. A visit to the theater left him stage-struck. He secured his father's blessing for a theatrical career, and his father not only approved but also obtained from P. T. Barnum an introduction to William Pleater Davidge. Davidge employed him at eight dollars a week, and Skinner's career was launched. In the latter half of the 1870s, he played various bit roles in stock companies, and alongside stars such as John Edward McCullough. He built up his repertoire for several years in New York and Boston, including three years with Lawrence Barrett.

By the mid-1880s, he was touring first with Augustin Daly, then, in 1889, with the troupe of Edwin Booth and Helena Modjeska. After that season, he played Romeo in London opposite Margaret Mather. His association with Mather lasted two years; after, with Booth dead, he returned to Modjeska, starring opposite her in her most famous roles. He also originated the role of Schwartz in Hermann Sudermann's Magda, and played Armand in Dumas's Camille.

By the middle of the 1890s, he was a star in his own right. In 1894, he produced and starred in Clyde Fitch's His Grace de Grammont; the same year, he performed in his brother's translation of Victor Hugo's Le roi s'amuse. In 1895 in Chicago, he succeeded as Hamlet; his performance was praised as natural and unaffected, without elocutionary tricks. From 1895, he was associated with the troupe of Joseph Jefferson.

He excelled in Shakespearean roles like Shylock, Hamlet, Richard III and Romeo, and his Colonel Phillipe Brideau in The Honor of the Family was considered one of the greatest comedic performances of the first quarter of the twentieth century. Skinner's signature role was as Hajj the beggar in Kismet (1911) on Broadwaymarker, and he continued playing it on stage for twenty years, recreating his performance both in the 1920 and 1930 film versions of the play.

Later roles included Albert Mott in Humpty Dumpty (1918), Sir John Falstaff in both Henry IV, part 1 (1926) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (1928), and Shylock opposite the Portia of Maude Adams (1931-32) in The Merchant of Venice. Like that of Charles Irving, his Shylock was naturalistic and at least partly sympathetic; he avoided the melodramatic excess characteristic of earlier interpretations of the character.

Skinner was also a successful writer whose books included Footlights and Spotlights and Mad Folk of the Theatre. His daughter, actress and author Cornelia Otis Skinner, was born in 1901.

He was portrayed onscreen by a somewhat miscast Charlie Ruggles, in the film version of Cornelia Otis Skinner's autobiography, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay.

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