Gillette was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1853, the son of former U.S. Senator Francis Gillette and his wife Elizabeth Daggett Hooker Gillette, a descendent of Thomas Hooker, the founder of Hartford. As a child, Gillette was captivated with the stage and acting pursuits, an interest that his parents did not encourage. At age thirteen, he reputedly had built a small stage and amused himself by frequently giving puppet shows for his friends. At age twenty, he left home to follow his chosen career; but success was slow in developing. He attended classes at numerous colleges including Trinity, Yale, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and College of the City of New York, but never received a degree. His first recognition as an actor was attained when the lead became ill in "Broken Hearts" at the Boston Museum, and Gillette's stand-in performance was well received. This led to other and better roles for Gillette. He is most famous for his portrayal of "Sherlock Holmes" in his acting abilities and style. Besides his activities as an actor and playwright, Gillette is known to have written two novels, invented many trick stage props and lighting techniques, and often produced and directed the plays in which he appeared. After his semi-retirement in 1910, Gillette was welcomed by theatergoers countless times during his four revival tours. His last performance was at the Bushnell in Hartford in 1936, the year before his death.
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