Ellaline Terriss

Ellaline Terriss

.

Life and career

Terriss was born in Stanley, Falkland Islands. Her father, William Lewin, was a sheep-farmer there and eventually became a well-known actor in London. He loved the adventurous, outdoor life, and had previously tried his hand at various professions, including merchant seaman and silver miner. Shortly after Ellaline's birth, he gave up farming and moved his family to England where, adopting his stage-name, William Terriss, he became a popular actor who, because of his swashbuckling style, was known as "Breezy Bill". Her brother Tom Terriss became a well-known film director, writer and actor. Her mother Amy had also acted.

Early career

In 1888, at the age of sixteen, Terriss made her professional London stage debut with "Cupid's Messenger" in the role of Mary Herbert. Petite, pretty and talented, she attracted the praise of both critics and the public. She was given a three-year contract by producer Charles Wyndham, first playing Madge in "Why Women Weep". She also attracted a promising young actor, Seymour Hicks. They married in 1893.

In December 1893, Terriss starred in the title role in the successful and famously lavish version of the "fairy pantomime" "Cinderella", produced by Henry Irving with music by Oscar Barrett. Towards the end of the run, Hicks took over the role of Thisbe, one of Cinderella's half-sisters. They brought this production to America under the management of George Edwardes. The following season, Terriss played in the W. S. Gilbert and Frank Osmond Carr's comic opera "His Excellency.

In 1895, Terriss was a replacement in the London George Edwardes hit, "The Shop Girl", joining her husband as co-star, which they repeated on Broadway. They toured America in 1895, where they befriended the American novelist Richard Harding Davis. At the instance of Gilbert, Hicks wrote a drama called "One of the Best", a vehicle for Terriss's father William Terriss at the Adelphi Theatre, based on the famous Dreyfus trial. The Hickses were frequent guests of Gilbert at his estate in Grim's Dyke. She next played the title role, May, in "My Girl" (1896 at the Gaiety. [Hollingshead, p. 74] Another early success for the young couple was "The Circus Girl" (1896; Terriss made Lionel Monckton's song, "A Little Bit of String" into a major hit). Hicks and Terriss both had a comedy background, and they transformed the "lovers" roles in musicals from overly sentimental to mischievous and light-hearted.

Tragedy and triumph

most successful shows. This was followed by "With Flying Colours" (1899).

The Hickses then joined forces with producer Charles Frohman and, in his company over a period of seven years, they played the leads in a series of musicals written by Hicks, including "Bluebell in Fairyland" (1901 — this was continually revived as a Christmas entertainment for the next four decades), "The Cherry Girl" (1902) and , "The Beauty of Bath" (1906), which opened the Hicks Theatre (later renamed the Globe; the show included additional lyrics by a newcomer: P. G. Wodehouse and music by Jerome Kern and became one of Terriss best-loved roles), and "The Gay Gordons" (1907). Hicks and Terriss also starred in "Quality Street" in 1902. At that time, they moved to a new home, The Old Forge, at Merstham, Surrey. Their cul-de-sac was renamed "Quality Street".

Later career

The couple performed constantly, both in London and on tour in America, except when Terriss was pregnant with their first child, Mabel, born in 1904. In 1905, Terriss took over the role of Angela in her husband's "The Catch of the Season", which had been created by Zena Dare during Terriss's pregnancy. Later Terriss ceded the role to Dare's sister, Phyllis Dare. After the birth of their second daughter, Betty, in 1907, Terriss reduced the grueling acting schedule she had kept up for almost twenty years. She did continue to appear in a limited number of plays, including "The Dashing Little Duke" (1909; with C. Hayden Coffin, Courtice Pounds and Louie Pounds), which was less successful. Terriss played the title role in that production (a woman playing a man). When she missed several performances due to illness, Hicks played the role — possibly the only case in the history of the musical where a husband succeeded to his wife's role.

After the failure of "Captain Kidd" (1910), Hicks and Terriss concentrated on comedy roles and music hall tours, including a tour of South Africa in 1911 and later a tour of France following the outbreak of World War I, to give concerts to British troops at the front. Their one return to musical comedy, "Cash on Delivery" (1917), confirmed the wisdom of their new career course. After 1917, Terriss returned to the stage only on special occasions. In December 1925, she appeared at the Lyceum with her husband in "The Man in Dress Clothes", a French farce he had translated and in which their daughter made her stage debut. It was intended only to run for a short season, but it was such a success that its run was extended. "The Theatre World" reported in January, 1926:

:There is little doubt that much of the success of this revival is due to the presence in the cast of our one and only Ellaline Terriss. Of the older generation of actresses there is no more beloved figure than 'dear Ella' as the gallery girls used to call her. She has never been a 'great' actress, but her charm – a sort of sweet radiance – has made her one of the most popular of living players.

Film career and retirement

Terriss also appeared in almost a dozen British films, generally in which her husband was involved as an actor, writer or director. These included "Scrooge" (1931), "David Garrick" (1913), "Flame of Passion" (1915), "A Woman of the World" (1916), "Masks and Faces" (1918), "Always Tell Your Wife" (1923), "Land of Hope and Glory" (1927), "Blighty" (1927), "Atlantic" (1929), "A Man of Mayfair" (1931), "Glamour" (1931), "The Iron Duke" (1934), "Royal Cavalcade" (1935) and "The Four Just Men" (1939).

Hicks died in 1949, and Terriss survived him by 22 years. She died in Richmond, England, at the age of 99.

Notes

References

* Hollingshead, John. "Good Old Gaiety: An Historiette & Remembrance" (1903) London:Gaity Theatre Co
* Autobiography: "Ellaline Terriss By Herself and with Others". London: Cassell, 1928.
* Autobiography: "Just a Little Bit of String". London: Hutchinson & Co. 1955.
* Seymour Hicks Autobiography: "Between Ourselves". London: Cassell 1930.
* Seymour Hicks Autobiography: "Me and My Missus". London: Cassell 1939.

External links

* [http://www.collectorspost.com/terriss.htm Biography and photos]
* [http://www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/th-frames.html?http&&&www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/terriss/terriss-e2.html Biography and other information]
* [http://www.cyranos.ch/spterr-e.htm Profile and photos]
* [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0855909/ Filmography]
* [http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/gasdisc/mdpemberton-wsg.htm Views of Gilbert and Sullivan by Terriss]
* [http://www.oldreigate.com/?goto=qualitystreet Photos and information about Hicks and Terriss's home at "Quality Street" in Merstham]


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