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Fannie Ward, also known as Fanny Ward[1] (born Fannie Buchanan; February 22, 1872 – January 27, 1952) was an American actress of stage and screen, known for comedic roles as well as The Cheat, a sexually-charged 1915 silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

Fannie Ward
Fannie Ward 1917.jpg
Fannie Ward, 1917
Fanny Ward

(1872-02-22)February 22, 1872
DiedJanuary 27, 1952(1952-01-27) (aged 79)
Years active1890-1898, 1905–1952

Ward's ageless appearance helped her become a celebrity. An obituary described her as "an actress who never quite reached the top in her profession ... [and who] tirelessly devoted herself to appearing perpetually youthful, an act that made her famous".[2]


Born Fannie Buchanan in St. Louis, Missouri, the only daughter of John Buchanan, a dry goods merchant, and his wife, Eliza. She had one sibling, a brother, Benton.[3]


In 1890, Ward made her stage debut as Cupid in Pippino with Eddie Foy. She went on to become a successful stage star in New York City. In 1894 she sailed for London and appeared in The Shop Girl, which led critics to compare Ward favorably to actress Maude Adams. In 1898, however, she married a wealthy diamond merchant and retired from the stage. Ward returned to her career in 1905, after her husband suffered business reversals that left him, a news account reported, "practically penniless".[4]

She returned to the American stage in 1909 and toured with "The New Lady Bantock."[5]

In 1915, around the time Ward's stage career was on the wane, American movie producer and director Cecil B. DeMille convinced her to appear in The Cheat, a silent film melodrama which co-starred Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa. The film was a sensation, thanks to its mingling of racial and sexual themes. Ward portrayed a society woman who embezzles money and turns to an Asian ivory dealer (Hayakawa) for help, with brutal consequences.[6] The movie launched the careers of both DeMille and Hayakawa. He went on to become Hollywood's first Asian star.[7]

In addition to starring in The Hardest Way (1921), Ward appeared in a Phonofilm short film singing Father Time (1924), a second Phonofilm as The Perennial Flapper (1924), and in a Vitaphone short Fannie Ward in "The Miracle Woman" (1929).

In 1926, trading on her ever-youthful public image, Ward opened a Paris beauty shop, "The Fountain of Youth".

Marriages and DaughterEdit

Fannie Ward was married twice.

Her first husband was Joseph Lewis, a British money lender and diamond dealer. They married in 1898 and divorced 14 January 1913. He died in 1928.

"My husband hates my work," Ward told newspaper reporter Marguerite Martyn in 1909, adding:

He wouldn't speak to me for six months after I returned to the stage. But as for my duty, there are men of leisure who have indulgences, who give up half their time to sport or travel or study or research in some favorite art or science, so why shouldn't a woman? I only ask to spend six months out of the year upon the stage.

Her second husband was John Wooster Dean (born John H. Donovan, 1874–1950), an actor who frequently co-starred with Ward on stage and in films. They married in 1914.

Ward's only child, Dorothé Mabel Lewis (1900–1938), was the result of a liaison between Ward and the then Viscount Castlereagh, who later became, in 1915, The Most Hon. The 7th Marquess of Londonderry (1878-1949), an Anglo-Irish aristocrat from Ulster.


On January 25, 1952, Ward was found unconscious in her Park Avenue apartment after a stroke. She never regained consciousness and died two days later. She was 79 years old.



  1. ^ New York Star (February 6, 1909) Vol.1 No.19 p.5
  2. ^ "Fannie Ward Dies; Perennial Flapper", The New York Times, 28 January 1952
  3. ^ Her New York Times obituary says her father's name was John Buchman. As seen on, the 1880 U. S. Federal Census lists her as Fannie Buchanan, age 7, in the household of Eliza and John Buchanan. Her brother, Benton Buchanan, is also listed.
  4. ^ "Joseph Lewis Left $20,000", The New York Times (9 December 1928)
  5. ^ Marguerite Martyn, "Fannie Ward, Who Left St. Louis Poor, Returns Rich, to Buy Her Girlhood Home in Dayton Street."
  6. ^ Kathryn Shattuck, "What's On Today", The New York Times (14 November 2008)
  7. ^ "Sessue Hayakawa Is Dead at 83", The New York Times (25 November 1973)

External linksEdit