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Crawfordsville District Public Library
Library medallion 205 S. Washington Street
Crawfordsville, IN 47933
765-362-2242, 765-362-7986 (fax)
Mon-Thur: 9-9 | Fri-Sat: 9-5 | Sun 1-5

Stars of Stage and Screen

Many stars of the stage and screen of the 19th and 20th centuries were natives of Crawfordsville. Read the brief biographies below to learn about the contributions of these former residents.

Frank Richard Allen- Actor

Frank Richard Allen (also known professionally as Frank Barnes) was a stage and film actor. Before leaving Crawfordsville, Allen worked as a clerk in the Joel clothing store downtown. Allen performed in stage productions such as "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch" and silent film productions, the most well known being The General with Buster Keaton in 1927. He performed for the troops with the YMCA during World War I. He returned to Crawfordsville several times to visit family and even testified in his sister's divorce case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in 1917. Allen died in New York in 1940, but was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Crawfordsville.

E.M. Bonnell- Actor/Radio Personality

Edwin M. Bonnell gained fame with his Uncle Remus character on KHJ radio in the 1920s. The son of pioneer Crawfordsville residents, Mrs. and Mrs. John K. Bonnell, E.M. Bonnell was born in Crawfordsville in the 1860s and died at the age of 87 in 1954. Just two weeks before his death, Bonnell was still performing, doing a comedy routine for the March of Dimes. In addition to his radio career, Bonnell performed with the Pantages and Keith-Orpheum circuits.

Isabelle Coutant-Actress/Singer/Spiritualist

Before she became a media star as patroness Rose Dawn of the Mayan Order, Isabelle Coutant won a national reputation as an actress and singer. Known as the Star Girl, Rose Dawn educated listeners about self-improvement through the Mayan Order on the radio and sold literature. In an ad in Popular Science magazine, the Mayan Order was described as a "secret brotherhood which bases its teachings on the traditional wisdom of that mysterious race of astrologers and temple builders, the ancient Mayans of Mexico and Central America." Born in Crawfordsville on Valentine's Day 1897, Isabelle Coutant appeared as a child in photographs by local award-winning photographer, Nellie Coutant.

Stephen Crane-Actor/Restaurateur

Stephen Crane is notorious for his failed marriage to actress Lana Turner, but he was also an entertainer in his own right. Crane starred in three films produced by Columbia Pictures in 1944 and 1945. Realizing his talents were better suited in another field, Crane worked his way to the top and became a legend in the restaurant industry.

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Sidney De Paris-Musician

Sidney De Paris was born in Crawfordsville in 1905. His parents were Sidney, an auctioneer, and Fannie Paris, and the family lived at 601 Illinois Street. Sidney became a famous jazz trumpeteer and worked with many jazz bands, including his own Blue Note Jazzmen and his brother Wilbur De Paris' New New Orleans Jazz Band, throughout the years. He died in New York City in 1967.

Wilbur De Paris-Musician

Born in Crawfordsville in 1900, Wilbur De Paris was the older brother of Sidney De Paris. Wilbur played trombone and led jazz bands. Like Sidney, Wilbur played in many famed jazz groups, most notably his own touring band New New Orleans Jazz. Outliving his younger brother by 6 years, Wilbur died in 1973.

Fern Doubleday-Actress/Singer

Fern Doubleday was a 1904 graduate of Crawfordsville High School. She studied drama and music before moving to California to pursue her career. Doubleday would gain fame as a soprano singer and stage actress. She was a member of The Comedy Players, Victoria Players, Boyd-Nolan Players, and Western Repertory Stock Company of Denver. Doubleday died in Los Angeles in 1949, and still had relatives in Crawfordsville at that time.

Lew Graham-Circus Announcer

Nathan "Lew" Graham was a prominent entertainer in the circus world. Born in Crawfordsville to Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Graham, Lew joined the Barnum and Bailey circus band at the age of 14. He would continue as an announcer and sideshow manager for the Barnum & Bailey, Wallace & Hagenback, and Ringling Brothers shows for the rest of his life.

Ferris Hartman- Actor/Comedian/Director/Producer

Brother of actress Alethea Luce, Ferris Hartman was born in Crawfordsville in 1862. Hartman was adopted by his aunt and uncle after his mother's death in 1871. Hartman returned to Crawfordsville to visit family and friends several times in the 1880s and 1890s. Although he was a national performer, Hartman found his greatest success in San Francisco, California. Before his death in 1931, Hartman produced, directed, and acted in plays, musicals, and silent films.

For a more detailed biography of Ferris Hartman, read the full chapter on him in Hidden History of Montgomery County, Indiana!

Lucille Hutton- Actress

Lucille Hutton was born Martha Lucille Hutton in Crawfordsville in 1898 to George W. and Mary Hutton. By 1910, the family had moved to Los Angeles. She starred in silent films such as After the Balled Up Ball (1917), Wine of Youth (1924), and Dick Turpin (1925). In 1917, local citizens were excited to view their local girl in the film A Limburger Cyclone at the Joy Theater in Crawfordsville.

Joe Kelly- Singer/Announcer/Television and Radio Host

Born May 31, 1901, Joe Kelly was known as the Irish Nightingale when he left Crawfordsville as a boy to pursue a singing career. He would gain greater fame in the 1930s as a WLS radio personality and in the 1940s, as host of the Quiz Kids. In 1914, Kelly sang with the Doyle Stock Company at the Princess Theater in Crawfordsville and the Crawfordsville Daily Journal reported that "Joe smiled down at the home folks and sang two encores, making a big hit with the crowd. Joe is thirteen years old and is a Crawfordsville boy. He left here two years ago, joining the Doyle company."

Kelly died of heart disease in Chicago in 1959.

Alethea Luce- Actress/Playwright

Born Alethea Hartman in Crawfordsville in 1869 to painter David W. Hartman and Julia Wade Hartman, Alethea was adopted by A.P. and Sarah Wade Luse after her mother's death in 1871. Alethea returned to Crawfordsville in 1895 to star in the play, "Sowing the Wind" at the Music Hall. During her stay, she granted the Argus News an interview and told of her Crawfordsville ties:

How did I come to go on the stage? I don't know. It just came to me naturally. I laugh and tell papa I get my histrionic talent from him. You see papa used to take part in home talent entertainments here in Crawfordsville years ago, long before I was born and so it's in the family I suppose to want to act...When I was one year old mama died and according to a promise made papa give me and my brother, Fred, to Mr. and Mrs. A.P. Luse. When Fred got to be a big boy, he ran off and went west. Now he is manager of an opera house in San Francisco. He is not only manager but leading opera singer and gets $250 a week. Pretty good, isn't it?...I made my home with Mr. Luse and know we left here a few years ago and went to Chicago...I began studying for the stage in Chicago and then spent a year in California with my brother, and say, it's a secret but I was on the state out there many nights...I would love to stay here a few days and visit old friends but can't just now.

Details about Luce's final years and death date are unknown.

Margaret "Margie" Murphy Peacock-Dancer/Chorus Girl

Margie Murphy was not born in Montgomery County, but she did spend the majority of her life in Crawfordsville. Murphy moved to our town after marrying her husband, Darlington native and Crawfordsville dentist, Fred Peacock. Before she retired as Dr. Peacock's housewife, Margie Murphy was a talented dancer and chorus girl who performed with Ziegfeld Follies and George White's Scandals. Murphy was also one of the original Coca Cola models, appearing in ads, calendars, trays, and other pieces of memorabilia. Margie Murphy lived in Crawfordsville until her death in 1989.

A large collection of Margie Murphy Peacock photographs, generously donated for digitization by the Peacock family, is available in our image database.

Tiny Ruffner- Singer/Television and Radio Host

Edmund "Tiny" Ruffner was born in Crawfordsville in November 1899. At the age of nine months, Ruffner won third prize in Crawfordsville's Beautiful Baby Contest. The family moved to Seattle a few years later and by the 1920s, Ruffner gained fame as a singer and radio announcer. He hosted radio programs, the most popular being the variety program Show Boat, through the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1950s, Ruffner hosted popular television programs and game shows. He died in Michigan in 1983.

The library has an original photograph of Tiny Ruffner in our image database.

Maude Snyder-Actor

Born on December 17, 1893, Maude Snyder performed in Crawfordsville High School drama productions before embarking on an acting career. In 1915, Snyder joined Walter Whiteside's troupe and enjoyed theatrical success-even costaring with actor William Powell (of The Thin Man fame) in one production! Snyder retired from acting after marrige and the birth of her daughter, but gained fame in the literary world in the 1940s. Of course, Maude Snyder is better known as Janet Lambert, the celebrated author of young adult novels.

For more details about Maude Snyder's life and career, check out the full chapter on her in Hidden History of Montgomery County, Indiana!

Dick Van Dyke-Actor

The star of the Dick Van Dyke Show and Diagnosis: Murder, Dick Van Dyke briefly lived in Crawfordsville. He spent his freshman year at Crawfordsville High School and lived for a year in an apartment across from Wabash College. According to his autobiography, Van Dyke came into his own and developed his personality, after gaining confidence and finding success on the CHS track team, in Crawfordsville.