Russell Thorndike

Last updated

Russell Thorndike
Russell Thorndyke 1925.jpg
Russell Thorndike aged about 40
Born(1885-02-06)6 February 1885
Rochester, Kent, England
Died7 November 1972(1972-11-07) (aged 87)
London, England
Education King's School, Rochester
St George's School, Windsor Castle
OccupationActor, novelist
Notable work
Doctor Syn novels
Spouse(s)
Rosemary Dowson
(m. 1918)
Relatives Sybil Thorndike (sister)
Christopher Casson (nephew)
Mary Casson (niece)
Ann Casson (niece)
Military career
Battles/wars World War I

Arthur Russell Thorndike (6 February 1885 – 7 November 1972) was a British actor and novelist, best known for the Doctor Syn of Romney Marsh novels. Less well-known than his sister Sybil but equally versatile, Russell Thorndike's first love was writing and, after serving in World War I, he devoted himself to it.

Contents

Background

He was born in Rochester, Kent, where his father had recently become a canon at the cathedral. He was a student at the King's School, Rochester and at St George's School, Windsor Castle and a chorister of St George's Chapel, an experience he later recounted in his book Children of the Garter (1937). Thorndike married Rosemary Dowson, a daughter of the well-known actress Rosina Filippi, in 1918.

Acting

At his suggestion, both he and Sybil (who once aspired to be a concert pianist) tried acting as a career in 1903. They became students at Ben Greet's Academy and two years later accompanied fellow members of the company on a North American tour, which included New York City. He remained three-and-a-half years with the company, once giving three performances as Hamlet in three different versions of the text on the same day. He also toured in South Africa and Asia.

In 1914 he enlisted. His brother Frank, who once performed on stage, was killed in action. Russell was severely wounded at Gallipoli and discharged. He rejoined Ben Greet's theatre company and his sister at the Old Vic in 1916, where he played in Shakespeare's King John, Richard II, and King Lear. Thorndike also acted with Sybil and her husband, Lewis Casson, in their touring repertory performing melodramas. In 1922 he was applauded for his performance in the first professional production of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt at the Old Vic.

In film, Thorndike's appearances were infrequent. He played Macbeth (1922) in a silent version of the play opposite Sybil's Lady and also played leads in silent versions of other classic plays, including Scrooge (1923) as Old Ebenezer, and The School for Scandal (1923) as Sir Peter Teazle. He ended his film career in minor priest roles for Laurence Olivier in Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955). Although Thorndike appeared on the stage over four decades (including playing his own Dr. Syn character and entertaining audiences as Smee in ten revivals of Peter Pan , including the famous Scala Theatre version where Donald Sinden doubled the roles of Mr Darling and Captain Hook), he felt a deeper fulfilment in writing, which would include the later work The House of Jeffreys.

Writing

Published in the Dymchurch Day of Syn programme from 1985 is an apocryphal biography of Thorndike that indicates it was during the period of touring with Ben Greet's theatre company, that Russell and his sister Sybil came up with the idea of Dr Syn. The story goes, both were with the company in Spartanburg when a man was murdered on the street outside their hotel. The article suggests the corpse laid there for some time while "... his glazed eyes seemed to stare right up into Sybil's bedroom". Sybil was unable to sleep, so she asked Russell to sit up with her. She made a pot of tea while they talked, and the character of Dr Syn was born. As the night went on, "They piled horror on horror's head and after each new horror was invented they took another squint at the corpse to encourage them." Around this time he completed his first novel of romantic adventure on Romney Marsh entitled Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh .

Personal life

Thorndike and his wife had five children: Daniel (1920-2016), an actor; Dickon (1921-2016); Jill (1924-2013); Georgia (born 1927), who married the theatre administrator David Peacock; and Rhona (1929-2016).

He died in 1972, aged 87, and is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul, Dymchurch, made famous by his Dr Syn novels. [1]

Filmography

YearTitleRoleNotes
1922 Macbeth MacbethShort
1922It's Never Too Late to MendSquire MeadowsShort, directed by George Wynn [2]
1922Tense Moments from Great PlaysMacbeth / Squire Meadows(segments "Macbeth", and "It's Never Too Late to Mend")
1923The BellsMathiasShort [3]
1923 The Audacious Mr. Squire Harry Smallwood
1923 Heartstrings Tom Openshaw
1923 The Fair Maid of Perth Dwining
1924 Miriam Rozella Crewe Stevens
1924 Human Desires Paul Perot
1933 A Shot in the Dark Dr. Stuart
1933 The Roof Clive Bristow
1933 Puppets of Fate Dr. Orton Munroe
1934 Whispering Tongues Fenwick
1936 Fame Judge
1944 Fiddlers Three High Priest
1944 Henry V Duke of Bourbon
1945 Caesar and Cleopatra Harpist's MasterUncredited
1948 Hamlet Priest
1955 Richard III First Priest

Selected writings

Related Research Articles

The Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn is the smuggler hero of a series of novels by Russell Thorndike. The first book, Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh was published in 1915. The story idea came from smuggling in the 18th-century Romney Marsh, where brandy and tobacco were brought in at night by boat from France to avoid high tax. Minor battles were fought, sometimes at night, between gangs of smugglers, such as the Hawkhurst Gang, and the Revenue, supported by the army and local militias in the South, Kent and the West, Sussex.

The year 1914 in film involved some significant events, including the debut of Cecil B. DeMille as a director.

1913 was a particularly fruitful year for film as an art form, and is often cited one of the years in the decade which contributed to the medium the most, along with 1917. The year was one where filmmakers of several countries made great artistic advancements, producing notable pioneering masterpieces such as The Student of Prague, Suspense, Atlantis, Raja Harischandra, Juve contre Fantomas, Quo Vadis?, Ingeborg Holm, The Mothering Heart, Ma l’amor mio non muore!, L’enfant de Paris and Twilight of a Woman's Soul.

The year 1912 in film involved some significant events.

The year 1911 in film involved some significant events.

The year 1910 in film involved some significant events.

Dymchurch Human settlement in England

Dymchurch is a village and civil parish in the Folkestone and Hythe district of Kent, England. The village is located on the coast five miles (8 km) south-west of Hythe, and on the Romney Marsh.

<i>The Monster</i> (1925 film) 1925 film by Roland West

The Monster is a 1925 American silent horror comedy film directed by Roland West, based on the play by Crane Wilbur, and starring Lon Chaney and Johnny Arthur. It is remembered as an antecedental "old dark house" movie, as well as a precedent to a number of horror film subgenres. The film has been shown on the TCM network with an alternative, uncredited musical score. Roland West went on to direct The Bat (1926) and its later sound remake The Bat Whispers (1930).

Harry Brodribb Irving British actor-manager

Harry Brodribb Irving, was a British stage actor and actor-manager; the eldest son of Sir Henry Irving and his wife Florence, and father of designer Laurence Irving and actress Elizabeth Irving.

<i>Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde</i> (1912 film)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1912 horror film based on both Robert Louis Stevenson's novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and on the 1887 play version written by Thomas Russell Sullivan. Directed by Lucius Henderson, the film stars actor James Cruze in the dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and co-starred his real life wife Marguerite Snow as well.

<i>The Hunchback and the Dancer</i> 1920 film

The Hunchback and the Dancer is a 1920 silent German horror film directed by F. W. Murnau and photographed by Karl Freund. This is now considered to be a lost film. The film was written by Carl Mayer, who also wrote The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). Karl Freund later emigrated to Hollywood where he directed such classic horror films as The Mummy (1932) and Mad Love (1935). It premiered at the Marmorhaus in Berlin.

The Other Person is a 1921 Dutch-British silent mystery film directed by Maurits Binger and B.E. Doxat-Pratt. It was a co-production between a Dutch film company and a British film company.

Esmeralda is a 1922 British silent film and an adaptation of the 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo, with more emphasis on the character of the gypsy girl rather than Quasimodo. It was directed by Edwin J. Collins and starred Sybil Thorndike as Esmeralda and Booth Conway as the hunchback. The film is considered lost, but extant still photos show a 40-year-old Thorndike who appears to be too old for the role of the young and virginal Esmeralda. This version emphasized romance and melodrama over horror.

Harry Agar Lyons was an Irish-born British actor. He is best known for playing Fu Manchu in a series of fifteen silent films called The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu all filmed in 1923, followed by a 1924 series of eight additional Fu Manchu films under the title The Further Mysteries of Dr. Fu Manchu. Lyons starred in the title role of all 23 movies, all of which featured Fu's ongoing battle with his two British nemeses, Sir Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie. Both series were produced by Oswald Stoll, who had earlier produced a 1920 film version of Sax Rohmer's 1915 "Yellow Peril" novel, The Yellow Claw.

Lord Arthur Saville's Crime is a 1920 Hungarian silent crime film directed by Pál Fejös and starring Ödön Bárdi, Lajos Gellért and Margit Lux. It was also released as both Mark of the Phantom and Lidercnyomas. The film was based on the 1891 short story Lord Arthur Savile's Crime by Oscar Wilde. It was one of Pal Fejos' earliest films and is now considered lost. It was photographed by Jozsef Karban.

Alwin Neuß German actor and film director

Carl Alwin Heinrich Neuß was a German film director and actor, noted for playing Sherlock Holmes in a series of silent films during the 1910s. He also played the dual role of Jekyll and Hyde in the 1910 Danish silent film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, directed by August Blom. He played Jekyll and Hyde again in the 1914 German silent film Ein Seltsamer Fall, scripted by Richard Oswald.

The Grinning Face, aka The Man Who Laughs, is a 1921 Austrian-German silent horror film directed by Julius Herska and starring Franz Höbling, Nora Gregor and Lucienne Delacroix. It is an adaptation of the 1869 novel The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo.

The Monster of Frankenstein was a 1920 Italian silent horror film, produced by Luciano Albertini, directed by Eugenio Testa, starring Luciano Albertini, Aldo Mezzanotte and Umberto Guarracino, and is an adaptation of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. It was one of a very few Italian horror films produced in the silent era, since after Benito Mussolini seized control of the country, horror films were strictly forbidden. The Mary Shelley novel had been filmed twice before during the silent era, as Thomas Edison's Frankenstein (1910) and as Life Without Soul (1915).

The Sorrows of Satan is a 1917 British silent fantasy film directed by Alexander Butler and starring Gladys Cooper, Owen Nares and Cecil Humphreys. It was made at Isleworth Studios. It was based on the 1895 novel of the same name by Marie Corelli (1855-1924). The plot involves a poverty-stricken author who is so depressed about his life that he agrees to sell his soul to the Devil.

The Island of the Lost is a 1921 German silent science fiction film directed by Urban Gad and starring Alf Blütecher, Hanni Weisse and Erich Kaiser-Titz. It is a loose unauthorized adaptation of the 1896 novel The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells. Author Wells was allegedly unaware that this unauthorized version of his novel existed. It was a common practice in the silent era for European filmmakers to produce unauthorized versions of famous works of literature, as evidenced by F.W. Murnau's Der Januskopf (1920) and Nosferatu (1922).

References

  1. "Find a Grave: Russell Thorndike" . Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  2. Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 252. ISBN   978-1936168-68-2.
  3. Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 252. ISBN   978-1936168-68-2.