By Jim Harmon
Missoula’s “Great Tragedian,” Herr Daniel Edward Bandmann, was a much-acclaimed, world-traveling Shakespearean actor. But he was also a bit of an ass.
He had a home in Missoula, hundreds of acres of farm and ranch land, performed regularly at the local opera houses, and drew much positive press. Yet he could also be cranky and confrontational.
Much of this was rooted in his ownership of ranch land, bridges and toll-roads just east of Missoula in what is now known as Bandmann Flats.
For example, there was the time Bandmann got in an argument with a ranch employee over wages. “The great tragedian,” reported the Missoulian, “evidently emulating the practices and actions of Herr James Corbett, did strike, knock down and hit with his fists one James Guthans. At least so says a complaint sworn to in Judge Donnelly’s court, charging Daniel E. with assault and battery.”
Bandmann denied the charge and characterized Guthans as “a tramp, an anarchist, dynamiter and numerous other unpleasant things, and accused him, together with his attorney, Mr. Prince, of having entered into a conspiracy to extort money from him and the taxpayers of Missoula County.”
In another case, Danny B. had a falling out with the keeper of his toll bridge and charged him with embezzlement, only to be arrested himself “on a charge of obstructing a public highway.”
A few days later, Bandmann sent a letter to the editor of the Western Democrat, claiming his “spiteful neighbors” were out to get him by circulating a “petition that my bridges were rotten, that if they were not rotten the toll was too high.”
In yet another argument over the toll bridge, a neighboring farmer named Cook, “ferociously” beat Bandmann with a scoop shovel. The actor claimed it was attempted murder. Cook claimed it was self-defense. The trial featured “ludicrous and contradictory” evidence.
One particular press account summed up the Cook trial in a single, hundred-proof sentence: “The prosecuting witness and his supporters claim that the wounds inflicted upon the person of Mr. Bandmann are entirely due to the assault alleged to have been made by Mr. Cook, while the testimony for the defense is to the effect that the complainant tore and bruised himself by falling over ditches and jumping through barbed wire fences in his attempts to escape from the defendant, who was exceedingly angry at the treatment he had received at the hands of Mr. Bandmann’s toll-gate keeper.” (That sentence gives me flashbacks to diagramming assignments in high school English class).
In the end, the best the jury could do was to half-way convict Mr. Cook by fining him $5 and costs.
Yet Bandmann’s real downfall was his weakness for the ladies. In the mid-1860s, he married Anne Hershel of Davenport, Iowa. The marriage lasted only a short time; they had no children. A few years later, at age 28, he traveled to London where he married 23-year-old Millicent Palmer; they had two children.
In 1879, while on an Asia-Pacific tour with his actress-wife, Millicent, Bandmann had an open affair with the beautiful ingenue, Louise Beaudet, whom he had elevated to stardom after being smitten with “the girl’s wonderful intelligence and personal attractions… (graceful) figure… (and) eyes sparkling with fire.”
Now things start to unravel.
Millicent returned to London, and the actor started parading Louise Beaudet about, introducing her as “Mrs. Bandmann,” only to abruptly dump Beaudet (who then sues him for breach of contract, forcing him to pay her off to avoid a messy court trial) so he could marry Mary Therese Kelly in 1892.
Did I mention Mary was with child?
Of course, all this time Daniel is still married to Millicent, so he engages a couple of lawyers to file divorce papers, inexplicably in Park County, where he is not a resident (perhaps to try to avoid publicity).
The lawyers, one of whom happens to be Iullus Greenleaf Denny, better known as “I. G.,” (who will soon become Missoula County Attorney) claim Millicent has simply disappeared, abandoning poor Bandmann. Despite their best efforts, they said, her location “cannot with due diligence be ascertained.”
So the court granted the divorce.
The trouble is, the lawyers really didn’t try very hard to find Millicent. She was sitting in the Bandmann family home in London, a home purchased years earlier by the two of them; a location Daniel obviously knew about but perhaps forgot to mention to his attorneys?
Upon learning of the goings-on in Montana, Millicent fired back, saying (in effect) if there was any abandoning going on, it was on the part of her two-timing husband. She directed her London barrister to sue Bandmann for divorce. She demanded alimony, child support and property, citing years of cruel and violent treatment at the hands of Herr Bandmann.
Millicent also claimed that her husband had been having numerous affairs for years with “various women other than Mary Kelly.”
Oh, by the way, Millicent pointed out that Bandmann certainly knew where she was since he’d been sending support money ($2,000 a year) for nearly a decade before cutting her off.
Her lawyer asserted Bandmann was worth over $20,000 and his client wanted her fair share. He told the court the real “Mrs. Bandmann” had worked side-by-side with the famous actor, helping to earn that money; something to which Louise Beaudet could attest. Further, they asked the court to freeze his assets.
Bandmann counter-sued, re-asserting his claim that Millie was the deserter; abandoning him “without cause” and “against his will.”
To make a long story short, Bandmann finally agreed to pay his “ex” support, and the two were divorced. But he was disingenuous. He repeatedly failed to pay on time, or at all, forcing Millicent to repeatedly return to court.
A decade later, on November 23, 1905 (only months after the birth of his final child, Daniel Jr.) Daniel Edward Bandmann, one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of the period, complained of severe indigestion and dropped dead of a heart attack at his ranch. He was 66.
Jim Harmon is a retired journalist whose 50-year career included nearly three decades at KECI-TV, Missoula in roles ranging from news anchor to weather forecaster. In retirement, Jim is a landscape gardener and history buff who’s spent years reading historical micro-film newspapers. You can read his weekly history column at the Missoula Current.