Kenelm Foss

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Caricature of Kenelm Foss by "Astz" in Vanity Fair, 1913 Kenelm Foss Vanity Fair 17 Dec 1913.jpg
Caricature of Kenelm Foss by "Astz" in Vanity Fair, 1913

Kenelm Foss (13 December 1885 – 28 November 1963) was a British actor, theatre director, author, screenwriter and film director. [1]


Early life and education

He was born in Croydon, Surrey and studied art at the Wellesley School of Art and in Paris. [2] He was, however, more interested in theatre and in 1903 made his first appearance on the London stage at the Royal Court Theatre. He then spent four years at the Glasgow Repertory Theatre producing plays and acting before returning to London to manage the Lyric Theatre in the Strand.

Career and publications

He directed the play Magic by G.K.Chesterton, which had been written specially for him in 1913, and which title was the caption to the Vanity Fair caricature of him on 17 December 1913. He then produced the first performance of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in England and in Europe, after which he obliged to leave the theatre for a while when he contracted tuberculosis.

In 1915 he began a new career as a film director utilizing the production techniques and acting skills he had learned in the theatre. Many of his films were made for Astra Films. Following a relapse of his illness, he was able to return to the theatre and in the early 1920s spent some time in New York City where he produced a play on Broadway starring John Barrymore.

He published several novels, works of poetry and biographical studies of Richard Brinsley Sheridan and J. M. W. Turner. With Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and others he published Practical Course in Cinema Acting in Ten Complete Lessons in 1920.

In 1925 he opened a sandwich bar in London which soon became a great success with the theatre fraternity and was followed by more "Sandys" to meet the demand.

Death and family

Foss died in 1963. He had married the actress Elisabeth Gilson and had six children, two of whom died in childhood.

In 2005 his daughter Fanny Burney Woolnough published (under the name Fanny Burney) a biography of her father, Stage, Screen and Sandwiches: the Remarkable Life of Kenelm Foss.


Selected filmography




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  2. "Kenelm Foss Papers | RBSCP". Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  3. 1 2 "Kenelm Foss". Great War Theatre. Retrieved 17 August 2019.