Richard Mansfield

Last updated

Richard Mansfield Richard-Mansfield.jpg
Richard Mansfield

Richard Mansfield (24 May 1857 – 30 August 1907) was an English actor-manager best known for his performances in Shakespeare plays, Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and the play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde .


Life and career

Mansfield was born in Berlin and spent his early childhood on Heligoland, Germany, an island in the North Sea, then under British rule. His parents were Hermine Küchenmeister-Rudersdorf, a Russian-born operatic soprano, and Maurice Mansfield, a British London-based wine merchant (died 1861). His grandfather was the violinist Joseph Rudersdorff. [1] [2] Mansfield was educated at Derby School, in Derby, England, where he studied painting in London. His mother took him to America, where she was performing, but he returned to England at age 20. Finding that he could not make a living as a painter, he gained some success as a drawing-room entertainer, eventually moving into acting. [3]

Early career, D'Oyly Carte and first London successes

Mansfield was well known in the dual roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Jekyll-mansfield.jpg
Mansfield was well known in the dual roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

He first appeared on the stage at St. George's Hall, London, in the German Reed Entertainments and then turned to light opera, joining Richard D'Oyly Carte's Comedy Opera Company in 1879 to appear as Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore on tour. He continued to play the Gilbert and Sullivan comic "patter" roles on tour in Britain until 1881. Mansfield created the role of Major General Stanley in the single copyright performance of The Pirates of Penzance in Paignton, England, in 1879. In addition to Sir Joseph and the Major General, in 1880 he also began to play John Wellington Wells in The Sorcerer . [3]

He left the D'Oyly Carte company in 1881, returned to London, and soon made his London debut in Jacques Offenbach's La boulangère. He played several further roles in London and then travelled to America in 1882, where he made his Broadway debut as Dromez in Bucalossi's Les Manteaux Noirs with a D'Oyly Carte touring company. He then played the roles of Nick Vedder and Jan Vedder in another D'Oyly Carte production, Robert Planquette's Rip Van Winkle (1882). [3]

Mansfield then appeared in Baltimore, Maryland, with another D'Oyly Carte troupe, as the Lord Chancellor in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe in December 1882. He suffered a bad ankle sprain only two days later, however, and left the production, returning to New York. In 1883 he joined A. M. Palmer's Union Square theatre company in New York, and made a hit as Baron Chevrial in A Parisian Romance. Mansfield's portrayal of Chevrial, a "realistic exhibition of depravity in dotage, by a young and comparatively unknown actor, was a surprise to the public, the managers, and the critics, and soon became a town topic." [1] He next played the role of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado , in Boston in early 1886, his last production with a D'Oyly Carte cast. [3]

He appeared successfully in an original play, Prince Karl , and in several plays adapted from well-known stories, and his 1887 rendering of the title-characters in Thomas Russell Sullivan's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Palmer's company at Madison Square Theatre, only a year after publication of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, created a profound impression. [4] It was with this play that he made his London reputation during the 1888 season at the Lyceum Theatre, by invitation of Henry Irving. He also reprised the role in Broadway revivals. [5]


Mansfield as English king Richard III, c. 1889 Richard-Mansfield-01-.JPG
Mansfield as English king Richard III, c. 1889

Mansfield continued his acting career but had also begun a career as a theatrical manager in America in 1886. He produced the play Richard III in 1889 at the Globe Theatre. He was back on Broadway in 1890 in Beau Brummell (he reprised this role several times). [6] He was one of the earliest to produce George Bernard Shaw's plays in America, appearing in 1894 as Bluntschli in Arms and the Man , and as Dick Dudgeon in The Devil's Disciple in 1897. The latter production was the first Shaw production to turn a profit. As a manager and producer of plays, Mansfield was known for his lavish staging. He often produced, starred in (often opposite his wife), and directed plays on Broadway, sometimes also writing under the pseudonym Meridan Phelps. His other Broadway roles in the 1890s included Napoleon Bonaparte (1894), the title role in The Story of Rodion, the Student (1895), Sir John Sombras in Castle Sombras (1896), Eugen Courvoisier in The First Violin (1898 and 1988), the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac (1898 and 1899). [5]

He began the new century on Broadway in the title role in King Henry V (1900), followed by the title character in Monsieur Beaucaire , Brutus in Julius Caesar (1902), Karl Heinrich in Old Heidelberg (1903 and 1904), and roles in Ivan the Terrible (1904), A Parisian Romance (1904 and 1905), The Merchant of Venice (1905), Richard III (1905), Alceste in The Misanthrope (1905), The Scarlet Letter (1906) and Don Carlos (1906), among others. He continued to perform until his final year. One of his last performances, just a few months before his death, was the title role in a Broadway production of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt , the play's U.S. premiere. [5]

Mansfield's popularity as a Shakespearean actor was immense. Upon his death, The New York Times stated: "As an interpreter of Shakespeare, he had no living equal in his later days, as witnessed by the princely grace, the tragic force of his Richard, his thrilling acting in the tent scene of "Caesar", the soldierly dignity and eloquence of his Prince Hal, and the pathos of the prayer in that play. He was the greatest actor of his hour, and one of the greatest of all times." [3]

Mansfield died in New London, Connecticut, in 1907 at age 50, from liver cancer. [5]

Suspected in Jack the Ripper case

Mansfield lecturing in St. Louis in 1906; illustration by Marguerite Martyn Actor Richard Mansfield lectures to women in St. Louis, 1906 (drawn by Marguerite Martyn).jpg
Mansfield lecturing in St. Louis in 1906; illustration by Marguerite Martyn

Mansfield was performing in the London production of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1888 during the time that Jack the Ripper was murdering women in London. One frightened theatre-goer wrote to the police accusing Mansfield of the murders because he could not believe that any actor could make so convincing a stage transformation from a gentleman into a mad killer without being homicidal. Mansfield attempted to gain public favour and stem the criticism that he was receiving by offering a performance of the comedy Prince Karl for the benefit of the Suffragan Bishop of London's home and refuge fund for reformed prostitutes. [7]

Family life

Mansfield was married in 1892 to Beatrice Cameron (1868–1940), [8] an actress. [9] After their wedding, she was often referred to as Mrs Richard Mansfield by the press. In 1898 the couple had their only child, Richard Gibbs Mansfield (1898–1918). The younger Mansfield was an ambulance driver in France early during World War I, eagerly enlisting while underage (with his mother's consent). When America entered the war, he joined the U.S. Army and went to Texas to be part of an aviation unit. There he contracted meningitis and died in 1918. [10] After the war, Mansfield's wife worked with refugees from the Armenian genocide in Turkey and Palestine. [11]


  1. 1 2 Turney, Wayne S. "Richard Mansfield" Archived 5 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine , A Glimpse of Theater History, accessed 20 May 2012
  2. "Erminia Rudersdorff (1822–1882)" Archived 6 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine , Picture History, accessed 24 June 2014; and Winter, pp. 349 et seq.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Stone, David. "Richard Mansfield", Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 27 August 2001, 20 May 2012
  4. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, IBDB, accessed 20 May 2012
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Meridan Phelps (Also known as Richard Mansfield)", accessed 20 May 2012
  6. Beau Brummell, IBDB, accessed 20 May 2012
  7. Morley, Christopher J. Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide (2005)
  8. Who's Who in New England by Albert Nelson Marquis, c. 1915, p. 719
  9. Beatrice Cameron NYP Library
  10. "Richard Mansfield Dies in Texas Camp", The New York Times, 5 April 1918, p. 15
  11. "Shakespeare in Lieu of Stew", New Near East, November 1920, pp. 23–24

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard D'Oyly Carte</span> English theatre manager and producer (1844–1901)

Richard D'Oyly Carte was an English talent agent, theatrical impresario, composer, and hotelier during the latter half of the Victorian era. He built two of London's theatres and a hotel empire, while also establishing an opera company that ran continuously for over a hundred years and a management agency representing some of the most important artists of the day.

<i>The Pirates of Penzance</i> 1879 comic opera by Gilbert & Sullivan

The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. Its official premiere was at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City on 31 December 1879, where it was well received by both audiences and critics. Its London debut was on 3 April 1880, at the Opera Comique, where it ran for 363 performances.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Savoy Theatre</span> Theatre in London

The Savoy Theatre is a West End theatre in the Strand in the City of Westminster, London, England. The theatre was designed by C. J. Phipps for Richard D'Oyly Carte and opened on 10 October 1881 on a site previously occupied by the Savoy Palace. Its intended purpose was to showcase the popular series of comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, which became known as the Savoy operas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Martyn Green</span> English singer and actor

William Martin Green, known by his stage name, Martyn Green, was an English actor and singer. He is remembered for his performances and recordings as principal comedian of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, in the leading patter roles of the Gilbert & Sullivan comic operas in the 1930s and 1940s, and for his career in America from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Robert Cuccioli is an American actor and singer. He is best known for originating the lead dual title roles in the musical Jekyll & Hyde, for which he received a Tony Award nomination and won the Joseph Jefferson Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award, and the Fany Award for outstanding actor in a musical.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">D'Oyly Carte Opera Company</span> British theatre company

The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company is a professional British light opera company which, from the 1870s until 1982, staged Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operas nearly year-round in the UK and sometimes toured in Europe, North America and elsewhere. The company was revived for short seasons and tours from 1988 to 2003, and since 2013 it has co-produced four of the operas with Scottish Opera.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Lytton</span> British actor and singer (1865–1936)

Sir Henry Lytton was an English actor and singer who was the leading exponent of the starring comic patter-baritone roles in Gilbert and Sullivan operas from 1909 to 1934. He also starred in musical comedies. His career with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company spanned 50 years, and he is the only performer ever knighted for achievements in Gilbert and Sullivan roles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Temple (bass-baritone)</span> English opera singer, actor and stage director

Richard Barker Cobb Temple was an English opera singer, actor and stage director, best known for his performances in the bass-baritone roles in the famous series of Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Courtice Pounds</span> British singer and actor (1862–1927)

Charles Courtice Pounds, better known by the stage name Courtice Pounds, was an English singer and actor known for his performances in the tenor roles of the Savoy Operas with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and his later roles in Shakespeare plays and Edwardian musical comedies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Walker (baritone)</span> English singer and actor (1897–1989)

Richard Walker, was an English opera singer and actor, best known for his performances in the baritone roles of the Savoy Operas with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. Between 1932 and 1939 Walker was married to D'Oyly Carte chorister Ena Martin. He married the company's principal soprano Helen Roberts in 1944.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Thorne (actor)</span>

George Tyrell Thorne was an English singer and actor, best known for his performances in the comic baritone roles of the Savoy Operas with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, especially on tour and in the original New York City productions. He married D'Oyly Carte chorister Geraldine Thompson.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">W. H. Denny</span> English singer and actor

W. H. Denny was an English singer and actor in comic operas, operettas and musical theatre. He is best remembered for his portrayal of baritone roles in the Savoy operas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Evett</span>

Robert Evett was an English singer, actor, theatre manager and producer. He was best known as a leading man in Edwardian musical comedies and later managed the George Edwardes theatrical empire.

<i>The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan</i> 1953 film by Sidney Gilliat

The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan is a 1953 British musical drama film dramatisation of the collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan. Librettist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, portrayed by Robert Morley and Maurice Evans, co-wrote fourteen extraordinarily successful comic operas, later referred to as the Savoy Operas, which continue to be popular today.

<i>Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde</i> (1887 play) Stage play by Thomas Russell Sullivan

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a four-act play written by Thomas Russell Sullivan in collaboration with the actor Richard Mansfield. It is an adaptation of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, an 1886 novella by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. The story focuses on the respected London doctor Henry Jekyll and his involvement with Edward Hyde, a loathsome criminal. After Hyde murders the father of Jekyll's fiancée, Jekyll's friends discover that he and Jekyll are the same person; Jekyll has developed a potion that allows him to transform himself into Hyde and back again. When he runs out of the potion, he is trapped as Hyde and commits suicide before he can be arrested.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beatrice Cameron</span> American actress

Beatrice Cameron was an American stage actress. She was the leading lady for the company of actor Richard Mansfield, whom she married in 1892. She retired from acting in 1898.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Llewellyn Cadwaladr</span> Welsh operatic tenor

Llewellyn "Lyn" Cadwaladr was a Welsh operatic tenor who originated roles in, or starred in early tours of, comic operas and operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, Solomon and Stephens, Robert Planquette and others in the Victorian era, often in America for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. He was touring as Ralph in H.M.S. Pinafore when he was asked to create the role of Frederic in the ad hoc 1879 British copyright performance of The Pirates of Penzance.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a four-act play written by John McKinney in collaboration with the actor Daniel E. Bandmann. It is an adaptation of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, an 1886 novella written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. The story focuses on Henry Jekyll, a respected London doctor, and his involvement with Edward Hyde, a loathsome criminal. After Hyde murders a vicar, Jekyll's friends suspect he is helping the killer, but the truth is that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. Jekyll has developed a potion that allows him to transform himself into Hyde and back again. When he runs out of the potion, he is trapped in his Hyde form and commits suicide before he can be arrested.

Lesbia is a one-act play written by Richard Davey. The story is a comedy about the relationship between the Roman poet Catullus and his lover Lesbia. The actor-manager Richard Mansfield staged the play at the Lyceum Theatre in London, where it debuted on 17 September 1888 with Beatrice Cameron as Lesbia. Mansfield later took the play to the United States as part of the repertory of his company.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph W. Herbert</span> American dramatist

Joseph William Herbert was a British-born American director, silent-film actor, singer and dramatist notable for being the first person to play Ko-Ko in America in a pirate production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado (1885) before joining D'Oyly Carte Opera Company touring companies across America (1885–1890).