Cissy Fitzgerald

Cissy Fitzgerald (1 February 1873 ā€“ 10 May 1941) as Mary Kate Kipping[1] was an English-American vaudeville actress, dancer, and singer who appeared in numerous silent and sound films. Fitzgerald acted in a popular Gaiety Girl show beginning in 1894 and was filmed in the role for an Edison short during the early film era in 1896 in a self-titled short film shot by Thomas Edison's film company. She did not appear in films again until 1914 where she signed with the Vitagraph[2] company and was quite popular in feature films and her own series of Cissy short films. Very little of Fitzgerald's silent material survives today but she can be seen in a comic backup role in the 1928 Lon Chaney vehicle Laugh, Clown, Laugh.

Cissy Fitzgerald
Mary Kate Kipping

(1873-02-01)1 February 1873
England, UK
Died10 May 1941(1941-05-10) (aged 68)
Ovingdean, Sussex, England, UK
Other names"The Girl with the Wink"
Years active1890sā€“1937
Spouse(s)Oliver Mark Tucker
ChildrenOliver Mark Fitzgerald(son)

Fitzgerald later claimed to having been the first woman ever filmed in motion pictures when she went to the Edison labs at New Jersey in 1896 to shoot 50 feet of film.[3] This claim is certainly disputed as Annabelle Whitford had been filmed in 1894 by Edison engineer W. K. L. Dickson and the Lumiere's in France were shooting motion pictures, including men and women coming and going from a factory, by 1896.

Fitzgerald married Oliver Mark Tucker and had two children, a son and a daughter.[4][5]

Fitzgerald's Wink

Fitzgerald was known for her left-eye "wink". This winking became uncontrollable due to an extra amount of tension in her orbicular muscles.[6] While this wink was her trademark in the industry, it was quite controversial, and was also uncomfortable and had effects on her health. She did not have control over the wink, which was more so a twitch, and the wink outside of the studio was sometimes taken as a promiscuity. Today, Fitzgerald's wink serves a greater purpose to the feminist film industry. This somehow caused the media reproducibility to provide an eased nature to Cissy's disorder. Her wink provides an example for feminist historians, filmmakers, and producers today that are investigating and identifying the gender contradictions of early film entertainment. The constant repetitive image of Cissy's wink in her performance caused the stage comedian involuntarily to imbrute her own gestures.[7]


After her actuality short for Edison in 1896,Fitzgerald did not return to motion pictures until 1914. This was at the very end of the often raunchy nickelodeon years of film. Fitzgerald appeared in about twenty films between 1914 and 1916. In most of these films she portrayed a comedic character, but occasionally displayed a different facet of her talents, for example, her performance in The Esterbrook Case, a melodrama with a subtle hint of a mystery theme.[7]

Fitzgerald took a hiatus acting to get married to Oliver Mark Tucker in Great Britain and travel the world to celebrate their marriage. Cissy and her new husband visited India, Africa, Australia, China before the start of World War I when Fitzgerald came back to the United States to relaunch her career in film. Fitzgerald took a break from acting in films from 1916 until the beginning of 1921. Later in 1921, Cissy was featured in five comedies she produced in her own production company called "Cissy Fitzgerald Productions". Her small company was on the West Coast of America.

Fitzgerald is credited as being the first female producer of films. The films she starred in under "Cissy Fitzgerald Productions" were merchandised as "refined comedies", and included Cissy's Saucy Stockings, Seeing America Thirst, Cissy Invades Bohemia, Cissy's Economy, and Comes Back Cissy. Cissy.

Fitzgerald reinvented herself yet again after her short time of producing films as a feature film actress in the 1920s and the 1930s. She was filmed in many silent and sound films of a plethora of genres, many of which are still existing. The most commonly known of these feature film parts is Cissy as Giancinta in Laugh, Clown, Laugh of 1928, a Lon Chaney film about a circus clown who cannot seem to cheer up, that befriends an Italian count who experienced bouts of uncontrollable laughter. Because Fitzgerald as Giancinta is a minor character, it is speculated that the histories of Fitzgerald's uncontrollable winking from her eye condition limited the importance of her role in Laugh, Clown, Laugh. Cissy Fitzgerald was signed with several film companies during her time as an actress. These companies include Kleine Studios, Vitagraph, Casino Studios, and Broadway Star Studios.

Selected filmography


  1. The Green Book Magazine Volume 9; page 521
  2. Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel Blum c. 1953
  3. Best of Plays of 1894ā€“1899, p. 3 c.1955 by John Chapman and Garrison Sherwood
  4. Silent Film Necrology 2nd Edition by Eugene Michael Vazzana c. 2001
  5. Who Was Who on Screen by Evelyn Mack Truitt c. 1983
  7. Hennefeld, Maggie. "Cissy Fitzgerald." In Jane Gaines, Radha Vatsal, and Monica Dall'Asta, eds. Women Film Pioneers Project. Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2013. Web. 2 July 2015.
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