Pauline Chase (1885-1962) was born Ellen Pauline Matthew Bliss in Washington, DC, the daughter of Dr Ellis Bliss. She was educated at the Convent of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in New York.
She made her Broadway debut, aged 15, in the chorus of The Cadet Girl (1900) at the Herald Square Theatre. Blonde, pretty, petite and gregarious, she instantly attracted attention and fashion photos of her appeared in New York newspapers. She was also noticed by the trans-Atlantic theatrical impresario, Charles Frohman (1869-1915), who decided she had the potentional to become one of his ever growing roster of stage stars. Still only 15, she made her first London appearance as Sybilla in The Girl from Up There that starred Edna May and opened at te Duke of York’s Theatre on April 23, 1901. Although it was written by the same team that was responsible for The Belle of New York, the new musical did not achieve the same success. In September, she was back on Broadway, appearing in The Liberty Belles.
She spent the next few years in Britain gaining acting experience in a variety of plays. She was given a small part in the first prodution of Peter Pan that opened on December 27, 1904, at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London. The play was a triumphant success and subsequently went on tur, staring Cissie Loftus as Peter Pan. At Liverpool, the star was taken ill and Pauline Chase, the understudy, was told that she would play the lead part. She received a telegram from Frohman, saying: ‘Barrie and I are coming down to see you act. If we like you well enough to play Peter Pan I will send you back a sheet with a cross mark on it after te play.’ At the end of the performance, she received the crossed piece of paper.
From then on, she was Peter Pan, playing the part in the annual production and on tour from 1906 to 1913. It is estimated that she gave over 1,400 performances in the role and it brought her considerable fame and fortune. It established her not only as a stage legend but also as a social beauty surrounded by influential friends and admirers, including J. M. Barrie, Frohman, Haddon Chambers and Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) – the famed Scott of the Antarctic – with whom she is said to have had an affair before his marriage, in 1908, to the sculptor, Kathleen Bruce.
Pauline Chase retired from the stage before the beginning of the First World War and, on October 24, 1914, she married the affluent and well-connected Captain Alexander Victor Drummond (1888-1937). They had three children.