Fay Bainter


Quick Reference

(1891–1968), actress. After performing as a child actress in stock in her hometown of Los Angeles, she made her New York debut in a musical, The Rose of Panama (1912), appeared in The Bridal Path (1913), and then toured with Mrs. Fiske in Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh (1914). Bainter first called attention to herself in New York as the patriotic Ruth Sherwood in Arms and the Girl (1916) and as Mary Temple, the name given a statue come to life, in The Willow Tree (1917). In 1918 she returned to musicals to play Aline in The Kiss Burglar, then essayed her most famous role, Ming Toy, the spunky young girl who would escape her strict Oriental past, in East Is West (1918). As one of the most sought-after and busiest actresses of the 1920s, her notable appearances included Elspeth in Victor Herbert's The Dream Girl (1924), Pauli Arndt in the anti-war play The Enemy (1925), Louise in a revival of The Two Orphans (1926), Julia Sterrol in Noel Coward's Fallen Angels (1927), Kate Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer (1928), and Mrs. Sullen in The Beaux' Stratagem (1928). In the early 1930s she played important roles in more revivals, among them Kalonika in Lysistrata (1930) and Lady Mary Lasenby in The Admirable Crichton (1931), then essayed Mimi in a road company of The Gay Divorce (1933). Bainter's last important Broadway assignment was Fran Dodsworth in Dodsworth (1934). After ten years in Hollywood, she returned to New York as Margaret Brennan in The Next Half Hour (1945), followed by summer stock and touring as Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night. She has been characterized as a “charming, demure” actress whose performances displayed “technical perfection.”

From The Oxford Companion to American Theatre in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Theatre.

Reference entries