Smith, Winchell

Winchell Smith (1872-1933) was a playwright, director and producer. Born in Hartford, CT., he was the nephew of the eminent actor and author, William Gillette. As an usher at the Herald Square Theater, Smith was encouraged by Richard Mansfield to become an actor. After making his debut in 1896 as the telegraph operator Lt. Foray in Secret Service, Smith continued to act for a decade.

W Smith Portrait
Official Club portrait of Winchell Smith, Immortal Lambs and Club benefactor

In 1903 he was Arnold Daly’s silent partner in the first American production of Candida. However, Smith was best known as a playwright, almost always in collaboration with others, and as a director. Credit as an actor in five plays, as an author and director in twenty-six plays and twenty-three films.

Smith was elected to The Lambs in 1899, and died in 1933. His mansion in Farmington, CT, was known as “Lambs Gate” because its gates were purchased from The Lambs (see photo below). In his NY Times obituary it was stated upon his death Smith left a fortune described as “perhaps the largest ever amassed by an American playwright.”

Winchell Smith left a lasting memorial to his name as well as a perpetual source of benevolence to his fellow Lambs known as the Winchell Smith Trust Fund. The Fund itself is not managed by The Lambs, the funds are distributed in accordance to Smith’s will and overseen by a bank in Hartford. Disbursed funds are held by The Lambs in a dedicated account and may only be used in accordance with Smith’s will. Primarily, the funds may be used to help a given member pay dues to The Lambs (for theatrical members only) at a time when they cannot afford to do so. However, note, there are some restrictions. Each year The Lambs must report all disbursement activity of the dedicated account. The Trust maintains the right to audit at any time.

1915
In this 1915 photo of The Lambs, then at 44th Street, one can see the ‘gates’ later purchased by Winchell Smith.