Spring 2021

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86 SAG-AFTRA | Spring 2021 | "N othing in this world can come between us, now can it dear. As you said, 'nothing but death' — but even death couldn't separate us — for I know wherever your soul might be in this universe, my soul would go and find it. Nothing could stop it." It was Sunday, Aug. 7, 1910. The writer was 27-year-old stage actor Ralph Morgan, madly in love, engaged, lonely and heading east on the Pennsylvania Limited, Pullman Vestibuled train from Chicago to New York to join a road company of the hit Broadway play Madame X. Pouring his heart out on paper to his fiancée, actress Grace Arnold of the James Neill Stock Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, he explained his shaky handwriting: "Darn this train — it's rocking like a seagoing hack and I simply can't make this pen behave." The besotted young thespian would become a movie actor, an Actors' Equity council member and the first president of Screen Actors Guild. SAG-AFTRA's Special Collections has 15 of the letters Morgan wrote to Arnold in August 1910, and other family memorabilia donated by the late actress Frances Tannehill Clark. "I love you so, so dearly. I never realized so absolutely until we were separated, how very necessary your presence near me had become. I feel almost as if I had actually left some part of me behind. In my dreams I find myself stretching out my hand as though looking for something I had lost. It is my heart, of course, that has gone from me — and as that has always been a very big part of me, I naturally feel the loss of it very much." He devoured every communication from her, replying, "My Love, your kind telegram came last night and your wonderful letter this morning, and they were both like beautiful drops of water from Heaven to the parched lips of the man on the desert." He also shared his Madame X rehearsal frustrations, one with a drunk director: "Yesterday's rehearsal was the most trying one we have had yet — all afternoon and evening — and a new man rehearsed us. Well, he was just a little bit to the bad with booze and he insisted upon stopping us on every line and giving us different intonations and business. I know the piece so well now that I knew half the things he told me were absolutely wrong ... I couldn't say one line to please him ... at last he got me so nervous and tired out that I became hysterical and when he would correct me I could only laugh at him like a silly idiot ... just at present we are all absolutely in the air and have no idea what we are really to do." Ralph and Grace married on Sept. 15, 1910, at New York's Little Church Around the Corner and their only child, Claudia, was born June 12, 1911. A true chip off the old block, Claudia Morgan became a stage actress, a radio star, a longtime Actors' Equity Council member and an AFTRA National Board member. In our era of cellphones, texting, email, Facetime and the like, the Ralph Morgan letters are a precious window to a time when the only truly instant long-distance communication was via telephone landline — and intense romantic idealism still thrived. SAG-AFTRA SPECIAL COLLECTIONS 'Even Death Couldn't Separate Us': Ralph Morgan in Love The 1910 love letters of Ralph Morgan, the future first president of Screen Actors Guild, to his fiancée Grace Arnold are a glimpse at the life of traveling actors. At right, a 1908 portrait of Morgan taken in Chicago his first year as a professional actor and actress Arnold, photographed in New York by Broadway's famous White Studio, before they met. Below, the family in 1915, from daughter Claudia Morgan's scrapbook.

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