Beulah Poynter

  ... the Lyric Theatre            

               and the famous sign at Main and Madison



Anyone who enjoys digging through old postcards or vintage photos of Memphis will surely have come across a photo of a huge electric sign from the early 1900s located on the Pantaze Building on the SE corner of Main and Madison.   On five rows Its electric lights spell out "Lyric ... Beulah ... Poynter ... Pantaze ... Chocolates".  If you know that "Lyric" refers to an old Memphis Theatre, that "Beulah Poynter" is an actress, and that "Pantaze" was a chain of drugstores , which of course also sold "Chocolates" give yourself a score of 100.  This writer assumed that Beulah Poynter was an actress but he knew nothing about her career.  After some time with "Google" for research, he found out that she's not only a Broadway and Hollywood actress, but a playwright, a novelist, and more .  It's surprising that she's not better known.  This page  was developed on the Historic-Memphis website as a step to changing that.


Chick on Small Photos for an enlargement





The Lyric Sign


The famous Lyric Theatre sign dates from about 1912-1913.  It was placed at the Main-Madison location because the theatre was actually a bit "out of the Main loop" several blocks east of Main Street, down Madison.    Since electricity was still in its infancy, this large sign must have been an impressive sight.

The sign was included in so many photographs ,that it literally became a monument to actress Beulah Poynter.

Main Street Lyric Sign



1895 . No Sign Vintage 1914-1919 Vintage 1913 Vintage 1918

Above are several of the many vintage postcards which show the sign, as well as an 1895 photo which does not. 

It's surprising to find that the old Pantaze Drugstore building is still standing on the SE corner of  Main and Madison.  It's not known when the old Lyric sign was removed - probably in the early 1920's when the Lyric began showing movies.

    Main-Madison today Aerial View - today


Beulah Poynter

Beulah Poynter was an American author, playwright, business woman, and star of stage and silent movies.  Her career stretched from Broadway to Hollywood, but she was better known for her roles in stock and touring companies, as well as a prolific author of mystery and romance novels.





The Lyric Theatre

The Lyric Theatre was located at 293-295 Madison.  It opened in 1906 as the Jefferson Theatre, named after Joseph Jefferson of the theatre world.  The Jefferson booked primarily drama, opera, and music.   In 1911 the theatre was renamed the Lyric Theatre and continued with that name until 1931 when a fraternal organization took over and renamed the theatre the Mazda Theatre.


The Lyric competed with the Orpheum and the Lyceum theatres but it was never as elegant as the Main Street theatres.  In addition to the bookings of drama, opera, and music, there was a period of vaudeville in the teens.  Sarah Bernhardt did appear there in the teens and in the 1920's there was a period of showing movies.  But it's location out on Madison ultimately worked against it and it closed.   An additional claim to fame:  WMC Radio aired the first opera broadcasts in Memphis from the Lyric.

The Jefferson is listed in the Memphis Directories from 1909-1911.  The Lyric is listed from 1911-1930.  In 1931 the name changed to Mazda and it's listed for two years.  1933 is the last listing and a 4th name is added to the list:  Order United American Mechanics Theatre. 


Lyric 1916


One source says the Lyric could seat 800, but the 1913-14 Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide lists the Lyric with 1530 seats.   

The Lyric was located where the Madison overpass crosses Danny Thomas Blvd.   The building was destroyed by fire in 1941. 

Lyric 1935 Theatre Ticket 1914  
 *  The Lyric Theatre has its own comprehensive coverage on another page of this website >  Click here






... and more about Beulah

Beulah Marguerite Poynter was born July 1883, in Eagleville, Missouri.  Her father was a hotel manager.  At 16 years of age, Beulah joined the chorus of a local opera company and by 1904 she was a leading actress with various tour companies in the Eastern part of the country.  In 1906 Poynter adapted the novel "Lena Rivers" into a stage drama.  The play was a hit with theatergoers and provided many future tours for her  in the leading role.  She later starred in a movie version of "Lena Rivers" ... and this is the role that made her famous.

  Postcard Who's Who - 1914

In 1910 Beulah formed her own company and began a tour of "The Little Girl He Forgot", an original drama that she wrote.  After a year she followed that with "The Hoosier Schoolmaster", a play she had adapted, and then continued touring her own play "Mother's Girl".

Poynter wrote two plays that appeared on Broadway - "The Unborn" in 1915 and "One Way Street" in 1928.  "One Way Street " achieved a modest success. 


One Way Street


Beulah continued to write screenplays and star in silent films from 1907 to 1930.  Three films were adapted from her own works -  "The Miracle of Money  (1920)", "The Splendid Folly (1933)", and "Love is Dangerous (1933)".    The biography on the left from 1908 shows how much she worked - even during her early years.

1897 Biography   

Movie Actress 1914

"Lena Rivers"

"Little Girl He Forgot" St. Louis Theatre "Love is Dangerous"



After leaving films in 1933, Beulah tuned to writing mystery and romance novels, short stories, and magazine serials.  She was a very prolific writer.  There are so many novels and short stories, it's almost like she wrote one a month.  Even in retirement from acting, Beulah remained the constant "workaholic."


"Joan of the River"


Novelist Novelist


Novelist Novelist Magazine Serials



In 1904 Beulah married actor Burton S. Nixon and he became her stage and business manager.  They divorced in 1910 and she married John Bowers, a well-known silent film star.  They formed their own theatrical group and toured together, wrote plays, and starred in silent films.   Their touring company was Poynter & Bowers, with her name always first. They divorced in 1918.  In 1928 Beulah married George Leffler, an actor turned producer and agent.   

  Burton Nixon John Bowers Geo Leffler
Beulah Poynter died in August 1960 and her ashes rest in Queens County, New York..





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