From theater to the big screen

Margarita Fischer’s acting career spanned decades


Note: This is the first of a three-part series highlighting notable women of Harrison County in honor of Women's History Month.

Margarita Fischer was born on Feb. 12, 1886, in Missouri Valley. Putting together a career as an actress that spanned more than three decades, Fischer first hit the stage when she was 8 years of age.

According to an article published in The Daily Chronicle of DeKalb, Ill., in 1915, Fischer got her start in the business after a “dramatic acting company” came to town. The manager of the traveling theater needed a child to fill a specific role in his production, and the young Fischer fit the bill.

After the manager persuaded her father, Johan (later changed to John), Fischer appeared on stage, where “her talent was so unmistakable” that Johan decided to form his own theater company right then and there.

Starring as “Babe” Fischer while traveling in her father’s company, Fischer eventually resumed the use of her birth name at the age of 14. Making the jump from supporting roles to lead parts, Fischer’s popularity grew exponentially in the following productions.

An article published in the Statesman Journal of Salem, Ore., in 1901 provided the following quote: “Critics who have seen her work say she has a wonderful future before her and will someday be a theatrical wonder.”

This wave of admiration eventually grew to the point where her father changed the name of the “Fischer-Van Cleve Company” to the “Margarita Fischer Stock Company.” Shortly thereafter, Johan Fischer died.

This created the first true period of uncertainty in the life of “The Wonder Child.” Touring with several different managers in the following years, Fischer eventually found a new outlet for her talent on the vaudeville circuit. It was through this endeavor that she met Harry Pollard, a fellow actor who would soon become her husband.

Eventually the vaudeville interest ran its course, and Fischer became attracted to the prospect of starring in motion pictures. Pollard had moved on from performing and was into the business of directing films himself, with Fischer going on to star in many of his productions. Occasionally, Pollard would come out of his unofficial retirement from acting to star alongside his wife.

After the U.S. declared war on Germany and became part of the Allied powers in World War I, Fischer temporarily changed her last name from its more Germanic spelling to an Americanized “Fisher.”

The newly-named Fisher took somewhat of a surprising turn when contrasted with her earlier work on stage.

Performing for several years in what were described as “heavy dramatic roles,” the Missouri Valley native’s jump to the big screen also brought on a change in her typical roles. An article published in The Salt Lake Tribune in 1925 describes this interesting fact:

“Here fate interposed an ironic twist, for the diminutive tragedienne, now almost grown up, was at once cast for little girl and ingenue roles, most of them in light comedy.”

Continuing to star in silent films until 1927 as a leading woman for Universal, not much is known about Fischer in the years following her final role in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Pollard passed away after a brief illness in 1934, and Fischer lived in their home in Vista, Calif., until the early 1950s. That same home is considered a historical site today, and is open to the public three days a week.

Fischer passed away in Encinitas, Calif., in 1975 due to heart disease. She was 89 years old.