May Whitty

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May Whitty

DBE
Dame May Whitty.jpg
Born
Mary Louise Whitty

(1865-06-19)19 June 1865
Liverpool, Lancashire, England, UK
Died29 May 1948(1948-05-29) (aged 82)
OccupationActress
Years active18811948
Spouse(s)
Ben Webster
(m. 1892;his death 1947)
Children2
Relatives Margaret Webster (daughter)

Dame Mary Louise Webster, DBE (19 June 1865 – 29 May 1948), known professionally as May Whitty and later, for her charity work, Dame May Whitty, was an English stage and film actress. She was one of the first two women entertainers to become a Dame. The British actors union Equity was established in her home. After a successful career she moved over to Hollywood films at the age of 72. She went to live in America, where she won awards for her film roles.

Equity (British trade union)

Equity, formerly officially titled the British Actors' Equity Association, is the trade union for theatre directors, fight directors, choreographers, set designers, costume designers, lighting designers, actors, stage managers, models and performers in the United Kingdom. It was formed in 1929 by a group of West End performers and, in 1967, it incorporated the Variety Artistes' Federation.

Contents

Background

Born in Liverpool, England, to William Alfred Whitty (ca. 1837–1876) and Mary Louisa (née Ashton, ca. 1837–1894). Her grandfather was, Michael James Whitty, Chief Constable in Liverpool and founder of the Liverpool Daily Post. [1] She made her first stage appearance in Liverpool in 1881, later moving to London to appear in the West End.

Liverpool City and Metropolitan borough in England

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in North West England, with an estimated population of 491,500. Its metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the UK, with a population of 2.24 million in 2011. The local authority is Liverpool City Council, the most populous local government district in the metropolitan county of Merseyside and the largest in the Liverpool City Region.

Michael James Whitty was an English newspaper editor and proprietor.

The Liverpool Post was a newspaper published by Trinity Mirror in Liverpool, Merseyside, England. The newspaper and its website ceased publication on 19 December 2013.

She married actor-manager Ben Webster in 1892 in St Giles's Parish Church, London, and in 1895 they visited the United States, where Whitty appeared on Broadway. Their first child, a son, died at birth. Their only surviving child, a daughter born in New York in 1905, Margaret Webster, was a producer and held dual US/UK citizenship. She was chair of the Actresses' Franchise League. [1] Whitty's stage career continued for the rest of her life. In March 1910, she made her transition to middle-aged and elderly character roles, playing Amelia Madras in Harley Granville-Barker's four-act comedy The Madras House. [2] In March 1922, she played the role of Mrs. Bennet before the Queen in a benefit performance of Pride and Prejudice. She acted opposite her husband, who performed its Mr. Darcy. [3]

Ben Webster was an English-born actor, and the husband of actress Dame May Whitty, and father of the British-American stage actress Margaret Webster.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

Margaret Webster American actress

Margaret Webster was an American-British theater actress, producer and director. Critic George Jean Nathan described her as "the best director of the plays of Shakespeare that we have".

Honours

In the 1918 New Year Honours, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE, gazetted under her legal married name Mary Louise Webster) in recognition of her charitable work during the First World War for the Three Arts Women's Employment Fund and the British Women's Hospitals Committee. [1] She was the first film and stage actress to receive a damehood, along with the opera singer Nellie Melba, who was also thus honoured in 1918.

The 1918 New Year Honours were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of the British Empire. The appointments were published in The London Gazette and The Times in January, February and March 1918.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Nellie Melba Australian opera singer

Dame Nellie Melba GBE was an Australian operatic soprano. She became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era and the early 20th century, and was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician. She took the pseudonym "Melba" from Melbourne, her home town.

Film career and death

I've got everything Betty Grable has—I've just had it longer. [2]

Whitty made her Hollywood film debut at the age of 72, recreating her 1935 stage role in the Hollywood film Night Must Fall (1937), which also starred Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell. She received an Oscar nomination. This led to several supporting roles in films, including that of the vanishing lady, Miss Froy, in Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938). [1]

<i>Night Must Fall</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by Richard Thorpe

Night Must Fall is a 1937 American film adaptation of the play by Emlyn Williams, adapted by John Van Druten and directed by Richard Thorpe. It stars Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell and Dame May Whitty in her Hollywood film debut at age 72. She reprised her role in the stage drama in London and New York City. A critical success, Night Must Fall was named the best film of the year by the National Board of Review.

Robert Montgomery (actor) American film and television actor

Robert Montgomery was an American film and television actor, director, and producer. He was also the father of actress Elizabeth Montgomery. He began his acting career on the stage, but was soon hired by MGM. Initially assigned roles in comedies, he soon proved he was able to handle dramatic ones as well. During World War II, he drove ambulances in France until the Dunkirk evacuation. When the United States entered the war on December 8, 1941, he enlisted in the Navy, and was present at the invasion at Normandy. After the war, he returned to Hollywood, where he worked in both films and, later, in television.

Rosalind Russell American actress

Catherine Rosalind Russell was an American actress, comedian, screenwriter and singer, known for her role as fast-talking newspaper reporter Hildy Johnson in the Howard Hawks screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940), as well as for her portrayals of Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame (1958) and Rose in Gypsy (1962). A noted comedian, she won all five Golden Globes for which she was nominated. Russell won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1953 for her portrayal of Ruth in the Broadway show Wonderful Town. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress four times throughout her career.

She moved permanently to the USA (although she never became a US citizen) in 1939 and appeared both on stage and in Hollywood films, usually playing wealthy dowagers. It was one such part, as Lady Beldon in Mrs. Miniver (1942), that brought her a second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. [1]

<i>Mrs. Miniver</i> 1942 film by William Wyler

Mrs. Miniver is a 1942 American romantic war drama film directed by William Wyler, and starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Inspired by the 1940 novel Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther, the film shows how the life of an unassuming British housewife in rural England is touched by World War II.

She continued to act for the remainder of her life and died on 29 May 1948 in Beverly Hills, California, from cancer at the age of 82; [1] her husband had died the previous year during surgery.

Filmography

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Webster, Benjamin (1864–1947), actor | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-36806#odnb-9780198614128-e-36806-headword-2.
  2. 1 2 Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: forty familiar Hollywood faces from the thirties to the fifties. Jefferson, N.C.: Mcfarland & Co. p. 209. ISBN   0786427469.
  3. Looser, Devoney (2017). The Making of Jane Austen. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 106. ISBN   1421422824.