Life and career
Gwenn was born in Wandsworth
, London to John and Catherine (Oliver) Kellaway. His brother was the actor Arthur Chesney
and his cousin, Cecil Kellaway
. Gwenn was educated at St. Olave's School
and later at King's College London
He began his acting career in the theatre in 1895, and learnt his craft as a member of Willie Edouin
's company, playing brash comic roles.
In 1901 he married Minnie Terry
, niece of the famous actress Ellen Terry
. In the same year, he went to Australia
and acted there for three years with the J. C. Williamson
His wife accompanied him and when Gwenn was in a production of Ben Hur
that was a disastrous failure, she restored the couple's fortunes by accepting an engagement from Williamson.
Later, the couple appeared on stage together in London in a farce called What the Butler Saw
and, in 1911, when Irene Vanbrugh
made her debut in variety, she chose Terry and Gwenn to join her in a short play specially written by J. M. Barrie
When he returned to London, Gwenn appeared not in low comedy, but in what The Times
called "a notably intellectual and even sophisticated setting" at the Court Theatre
under the management of J. E. Vedrenne
and Harley Granville-Barker
There, in 1905 to 1907, in the words of The Times
, "he was invaluable in smaller parts [giving] every part he played its full worth", including Straker, the proletarian chauffeur to John Tanner in Bernard Shaw
's Man and Superman
, and Drinkwater, the cockney
gangster in Captain Brassbound's Conversion
He also appeared in plays by Granville-Barker and John Galsworthy
, in Elizabeth Robins
’s suffragette drama Votes for Women 
and in works by other contemporaries. In Barrie's What Every Woman Knows
(1908) in the role of the over-enthusiastic James Wylie he impressed the producer Charles Frohman
, who engaged him for his repertory company at the Duke of York's Theatre
In 1912 Gwenn went into management in partnership with Hilda Trevelyan
His career was interrupted by his military service during the First World War
, serving as an officer in the British Army
During the war, Gwenn's marriage broke up and was dissolved. His ex-wife remarried but remained on affectionate terms with him.
Leading roles on stage and screen
After peace returned, Gwenn's leading roles in the West End
during the 1920s included Old Bill in Bruce Bairnsfather
's Old Bill, M.P.
(1922); Christian Veit in Lilac Time
(1922–23); the title role in A. A. Milne
's The Great Broxoff
(1923); Leo Swinburne in Good Luck
by Seymour Hicks
and Ian Hay
(1923); and Hippolyte Gallipot in Lehár
Looking back at Gwenn's career, The Times
considered, "Out of scores of other parts which he played in England and in America, the best remembered are probably Hornblower in Galsworthy's The Skin Game
, the Viennese paterfamilias in Lilac Time
and Samuel Pepys in Fagan
's And So to Bed
Gwenn remained a British subject all his life. When he first moved to Hollywood, he lived at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel
in Beverly Hills
. His home in London had been reduced to rubble during the bombings by the German Luftwaffe
in the Second World War
. Only the fireplace survived. What Gwenn regretted most was the loss of the memorabilia he had collected of the actor Henry Irving
. Eventually Gwenn bought a house at 617 North Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills, which he later shared with the former Olympic athlete Rodney Soher
At the age of 78 he travelled from his home in California for a reunion with his ex-wife in London.
He told a reporter, "I never married again because I was very happy with my wife. I simply stayed faithful to the memory of that happiness."
Audition program for the Suspense
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Mr Edmund Gwenn – Versatile Character Actor", The Times, 8 September 1959, p. 13
- ^ "Miss Minnie Terry", Table Talk, 9 October 1902, p. 10
- ^ "Wyndham's Theatre", The Times, 3 August 1905, p. 8
- ^ "The Theatres", The Times, 30 October 1911, p. 11
- ^ Hayman, Carole (1985). How the vote was won, and other suffragette plays. London New York: Methuen. p. 38. ISBN 0413583805.
- ^ a b c "Veteran Edmund Gwenn Keeps a Tryst", The Daily Mail, 12 July 1956, p. 3
- ^ Parker, pp. xxxvi–cxxii
- ^ "Screen Legends", The Observer Review, 20 December 2009
- ^ Review, Time, details of issue and page number needed.
- ^ "Rodney Soher" Archived 3 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Sports Reference, retrieved 28 May 2014
- ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 38 (3): 32–39. Summer 2012.
- ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 41 (4): 38. Autumn 2016.
Parker, John (1925). Who's Who in the Theatre
(fifth ed.). London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons. OCLC 10013159
Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Edmund Gwenn". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age
(softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 115–118. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5
Last edited on 19 March 2021, at 16:50
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