Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Little Lena from Millican, Texas
New York, east coast and London theatre goers knew her as “Adelaide Prince,” the statuesque actress and wife of leading man Creston Clarke, a member of the legendary Booth family, the first acting dynasty in the United States. She was a world travelled entertainer, claiming to have been born in England, trained in the finest drama schools, and married into one of the most famous and controversial names in American history. Not only had the Booth family dominated the theatre for decades, but one of them had killed President Lincoln. But Adelaide was born after all of that, and found in Creston Clarke the keys to fame, fortune, and legitimacy as she travelled with him and his company, always guaranteed the leading female role in his plays. Later in the 1920’s she acted in the first motion pictures, becoming a “silent film” star. And no one knew…
In fact she was known in these parts as Lena Rubinstein, daughter of Solomon Rubinstein. Millican born, she was enjoyed in Navasota as an aspiring entertainer, who dazzled the town in local Drama Club events, only to leave as soon as she could, around 1887. Only 19, “Len” left her modest upbringing and private education, where her chosen lifestyle was unimaginable, if not downright improper, to marry Harry Prince, a wealthy Galvestonian, and become an Island City phenomenon. After bearing him two children, she gave up on her prospects in Texas and went on to the northeast, where she was given acting roles immediately. Her debut was in Portland, Maine, but by 1891 she was in London, acting in Irving’s “As You Like It,” and an understudy to Ada Rehan. Navasota historian Maurine Chinski postulated that Harry Prince waited patiently for her return to Galveston, hard work and her children, which was never to be.
She lived the rest of her life under her assumed name and identity, even after marrying Clarke around 1910, long after they had toured the east coast with impressive shows. She and Clarke did a one night stand in Navasota in the 1890’s, no doubt during a trip to visit her children. It was entitled “The Last of His Race,” and was held over for a matinee the next day. One wonders if her children ever saw her perform, or if they and their father were lost with 5000 others during the 1900 Storm, which nearly wiped Galveston off of the map. Yet Lena, aka “Adelaide,” became an important player on the stage and screen, dying in Pennsylvania of natural causes in 1941. A rolling stone gathers no moss.