Mary Louise Whitty
19 June 1865
Liverpool, Lancashire, England, UK
|Died||29 May 1948 82) (aged|
|Occupation||stage and screen Actress|
(m. 1892;died 1947)
|Relatives||Margaret Webster (daughter)|
Dame Mary Louise Webster,(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.
Born in Liverpool, England, to William Alfred Whitty (ca. 1837–1876), a newspaper proprietorand Mary Louisa (née Ashton, ca. 1837–1894). Her grandfather was, Michael James Whitty, Chief Constable in Liverpool and founder of the Liverpool Daily Post. She made her first stage appearance in Liverpool in 1881, later moving to London to appear in the West End.
She married actor-manager Ben Webster on August 3, 1892 in St Giles's Parish Church, London.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. 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. 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.
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.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.
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).
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.
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;her husband had died the previous year during surgery.
Dates are of the first performance.
|Date (year, month, day)||Title||Author(s)||City||Theater||Role|
|1890-02-14||The Home Feud||Walter Frith||London||Comedy Theatre||Helen Joliffe|
|1890-07-04||Vanity of Vanities||Justin Huntly McCarthy||London||Shaftesbury Theatre||Princess Nicholas|
|1891-01-07||Private Enquiry||F. C. Burnand (based on Albert Valabrègue’s La Sécurité des Familles)||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Mrs. Buckleigh|
|1891-02-14||Turned Up||Mark Melford||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Sabina Medway|
|1891-04-01||Linda Grey||Sir Charles L. Young||London||Princes||Lady Broughton|
|1891-04-15||Our Daughters||T.G. Warren & Willie Edouin||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Nellie Mayhew|
|1891-07-01||Mrs. Annesley||J. F. Cooke||London||Criterion Theatre||Estelle Brandreth|
|1891-07-27||Fate and Fortune, or, The Junior Partner||James J. Blood||London||Princess’s||Grace Hasluck|
|1892-01-06||The Showman’s Daughter""||Frances Hodgson Burnett||London||Royalty Theatre||Linda Hurst|
|1892-02-16||The Silver Shield||Sydney Grundy||London||Vaudeville Theatre||Lucy Preston|
|1892-05-10||A Caprice||Justin Huntly McCarthy, adapted from Alfred de Musset’s Un Caprice||London||Vaudeville Theatre||Mathilde|
|1892-05-25||The Noble Art||Eille Norwood||London||Terry's Theatre||Gertie Fullalove|
|1892-05-26||In the Season||Langdon Elwyn Mitchell||London||Vaudeville Theatre||Sybil March|
|1892-09-14||Our Boys||Henry James Byron||London||Vaudeville Theatre||Mary Melrose|
|1893-01-28||The Guv’Nor||Robert Reece (writing under the pseudonym “E.G. Lankester”||London||Vaudeville Theatre||Aurelia|
|1893-02-16||Flight||Walter Frith||London||Terry's Theatre||Mrs. Amherst|
|1893-06-09||The Younger Son||R.S. Sievier||London||Gaiety Theatre||Evelyn Brookfield|
|1893-06-19||The Adventures of a Night||Meyrick Milton, adaptated from Los Empenos de Seis Horas by Pedro Calderón de la Barca||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Donna Bianca|
|1893-12-21||Beauty’s Toils||Charles S. Fawcett, founded on Her Fatal Beauty by W.B. Maxell||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Ethel Cumming|
|1894-07-02||Our Flot||Mrs. H. Musgrave||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Margery Sylvester|
|1895-03-12||A Loving Legacy||Fred W. Sidney||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Kitty O’Rourke|
|1895-04-15||Fanny||George Robert Sims and Cecil Raleigh||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Grace Dormer|
|1895-04-15||The Backslider||Osmond Shillingford||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Mrs. Agatha Dolomite|
|1895-06-27||Louis XI||Dion Boucicault, adaptated by Saimir Delavigne||London||Lyceum Theatre||Marie|
|1895-07-12||The Lyons Mail||Charles Reader, adaptation of Le Courrier de Lyon, by Émile Moreau, Giraudin & Delacour||London||Lyceum Theatre||Julie Lesurques|
|1895-07-15||The Corsican Brothers||Dion Boucicault, adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s The Corsican Brothers||London||Lyceum Theatre||Emelie de l’Esparre|
|1895-07-24||Macbeth||William Shakespeare||London||Lyceum Theatre||A gentlewoman|
|1896-12-03||A Princess of Orange||Fred James||London||Lyceum Theatre||Louise, Princess of Orange|
|1896-12-10||An Old Song||Rev. Freeman Wills and A. Fitzmaurice King||London||Criterion Theatre||Signora Sara Rosetti|
|1897-12-23||Secret Service: A Romance of the Southern Confederacy||William Gillette||London||Adelphi Theatre||Edith Varney|
|1898-12-03||Cupboard Love||Henry V. Esmond||London||Court||Rosamond Pilliner|
|1899-06-06||The Heather Field||Edward Martyn||London||Terry's Theatre||Grace Tyrrell|
|1899-09-04||The Last Chapter||George H. Broadhurst||London||Royal Strand Theatre||Katherine Blake|
|1901-05-11||Toff Jim||Fred Wright||London||Apollo||Primrose|
|1908-01-20||Irene Wycherley||Anthony P. Wharton||New York||Astor Theatre||Carrie Hardinge|
|1910-03-01||The Sentimentalists||George Meredith||London||Duke of York’s||Dame Dresden|
|1910-03-10||The Madras House||Harley Granville-Barker||London||Duke of York’s||Amelia Madras|
|1910-04-05||Trelawny of the Wells||Arthur Wing Pinero||London||Duke of York’s||Miss Trafalgar Gower|
|1910-11-18||The Home Coming||Cicely Hamilton||London||Aldwych||Mrs. Daly|
|1911-05-08||The First Actress||Christabel Marshall||London||Kingsway||Peg Woffington|
|1911-05-12||The Baron’s Wager||Charles Young||London||Playhouse||Clothislde, Marquise de Marsay|
|1912-02-01||The Bear-Leaders||R. C. Carton||London||Comedy||Dowager Countess of Grimsdal|
|1912-02-09||Edith||Elizabeth Baker||London||Princess||Mrs. Stott|
|1912-08-12||Ready Money||James Montgomery||London||New||Mrs. John Tyler|
|1913-03-31||A Matter of Money(First played in Glasgow under the title The Cutting of the Know)||Cicely Hamilton||London||Little||Mrs. Channing|
|1913-03-11||Open Windows||A.E.W. Mason||London||St. James’s||Lady Cluffe|
|1913-10-04||The Grand Seigneur||Edward Ferris and Bertram P. Matthews||London||Savoy||Comtesse Malise|
|1914-09-08||The Impossible Woman||C. Haddon Chambers||London||Savoy||Mrs. Talcot|
|1915-04-15||The Green Flag||Keble Howard||London||Vaudeville Theatre||Mrs. Kesteven|
|1915-10-16||Iris Intervenes||John Hastings Turner||London||Kingsway||Mary Cumbers|
|1916-02-28||The Arm of the Law||Arthur Bourchier, adapted from La Robe Rouge by Eugène Brieux||London||His Majesty’s||Mme. Vagret|
|1916-05-28||The Eternal Snows||Michael Orme [pseudonym for Alix Augusta Grein]||London||Criterion Theatre||Mary Chartwell|
|1917-04-09||The Passing of the Third Floor Back||Jerome K. Jerome||London||Playhouse||Cheat, Mrs. Sharpe, Lady of the House|
|1917-07-27||Trelawny of the Wells||Arthur W. Pinero||London||New||Miss Trafalgar Gower|
|1917-09-07||Trelawny of the Wells||Arthur W. Pinero||London||New||Miss Trafalgar Gower|
|1922-03-01||The Enchanted Cottage||Arthur Pinero||London||Duke of York’s||Mrs. Corsellis|
|1922-03-24||Pride and Prejudice||Eileen H.A. Squire & J.C. Squire, adatped from Jane Austen’s novel||London||Palace||Mrs. Bennett|
|1922-05-18||Life’s a Game||Michael Orme [pseud. Alix Augusta Grein]||London||Kingway||Lady Raunds|
|1922-12-04||Destruction||Agnese de Llana||London||Royalty Theatre||Ella Singleton|
|1924-09-18||The Fool||Channing Pollock||London||Apollo||Mrs. Henry Gilliam|
|1925-05-11||My Lady’s Dress||Edward Knblock||London||Adelphi||La Grisa|
|1925-06-22||March Hares (The Temperamentalists)||Harry Wagstaff Gribble||London||Little||Mrs. Janet Rodney|
|1925-09-22||The Last of Mrs. Cheyney||Frederick Lonsdale||London||St. James’s||Mrs. Ebley|
|1927-12-27||Sylvia||James Dyrenforth||London||Vaudeville Theatre||Mrs. Considine|
|1928-04-19||Come With Me||Basil Dean and Margaret Kennedy||London||New||Lady Alethea Zaidner|
|1929-06-01||Sybarites||H. Dennis Bradley||London||Arts||Lady Byfleet|
|1929-07-24||Gentlemen of the Jury||Francis A. Campton||London||Arts||Lady Blakeney|
|1929-09-05||Dear Brutus||J. M. Barrie||London||Playhouse||Mrs. Coade|
|1929-12-03||The Major Explains||W.R. Walkes||London||Prince of Wales’s||[unnamed role]|
|1929-12-03||The Amorists||H. Dennis Bradley||London||Royalty Theatre||Lady Byfleet|
|1930-12-26||A Busness Marriage||Anonymous||London||Court||Mrs. Mabley Jones|
|1931-10-12||There's Always Juliet||John Van Druten||London||Apollo||Florence|
|1931-10-12||There’s Always Juliet||John Van Druten||New York||Empire||Florence|
|1932-08-16||Behold, We Live||John van Druten||London||St. James’s||Dame Frances Evers|
|1932-10-02||Please Don’t Be Nervous||Ann Stephenson||London||Shaftesbury||Mother|
|1933-08-08||In Vino Veritas||Walter Hudd||London||Arts||Oakley|
|1933-08-08||The Long Christmas Dinner||Thornton Wilder||London||Arts||Mother Bayard|
|1933-08-01||The Lake||Dorothy Massingham (with Murray Macdonald)||London||Arts||Mildred Surrege|
|1933-08-01||The Lake||Dorothy Massingham (with Murray Macdonald)||London||Westminster||Mildred Surrege|
|1933-11-29||Man Proposes||Warren Chetham-Strode||London||Wyndham’s||Mary Railton|
|1934-05-03||The Voysey Inheritance||Harley Granville-Barker||London||Sadler’s Wells||Mrs. Voysey|
|1934-06-14||Meeting At Night||Marjorie Sharp||London||Globe||Mrs. Crowborough|
|1934-07-04||The Maitlands||Ronald Mackenzie||London||Wyndham’s||May Maitland|
|1934-11-08||It Happened To Adam||David Boehm||London||Duke of York’s||Mrs. Sloane|
|1935-03-11||Ringmaster||Keith Winter||London||Shaftesbury||Mrs. West|
|1935-04-07||One Must Go On||George Porter||London||Comedy||Mrs. John Brown|
|1935-05-31||Night Must Fall||Emlyn Williams||London||Duchess||Mrs. Bramson|
|1935-12-01||Farm of Three Echoes||Noel Langley||London||Wyndham’s||Ouma Gerart|
|1936-09-28||Night Must Fall||Emlyn Williams||New York||Ethel Barrymore Theatre||Mrs. Bramson|
|1938-01-10||Your Obedient Husband||Horace Jackson||New York||Broadhurst Theatre||Mrs. Scurlock|
|1938-05-23||Here’s To Our Enterprise||Edward Knoblock||London||Lyceum Theatre||[herself]|
|1940-05-09||Romeo and Juliet||William Shakespeare||New York||51st Street Theatre||Nurse to Juliet|
|1941-04-08||The Trojan Women||Euripides||New York||Cort Theatre||Hecuba|
|1945-10-09||Therese||Thomas Job, based on Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola||New York||Biltmore Theatre||Madame Raquin|
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