Herbert Beerbohm Tree

Herbert Beerbohm Tree

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree (17 December 18522 July 1917) was an English actor-manager.

Life and career

Born in Kensington, London as Herbert Draper Beerbohm, Tree was the second son of Julius Beerbohm, a Lithuanian-born businessman of German descent, and his English wife Constantia Draper . [Obituary, "The Times", Tuesday, July 03, 1917; pg. 11] His younger half-brother was the parodist and caricaturist Max Beerbohm. (Max jokingly claimed that Herbert added the "Tree" to his name because it was easier for audiences than shouting "Beerbohm! Beerbohm!" at curtain calls.)

Educated in Germany, he went on the stage in 1876 on his return to England, performing with amateur troupes. In 1878 he played Grimaldi in Dion Boucicault's "The Life of an Actress"; shortly after, he began his professional career. For the next two years he performed mainly in the country. His first London success came in Charles Hawtrey's "The Private Secretary" in 1884. In 1886 he played Iago with F. R. Benson's company at Bournemouth.

By 1887 he was running the Haymarket Theatre in the West End of London. His tenure there restored the Haymarket to its mid-Victorian prestige. While popular melodramas like "Trilby" anchored the repertoire, Tree also encouraged the new drama associated with Ibsen, staging such plays as Wilde's "A Woman of No Importance" and Maeterlinck's "The Intruder". Tree also mounted critically-acclaimed productions of "Hamlet" and "The Merry Wives of Windsor". In 1889 he produced Charles Haddon Chambers' play "The Tyranny of Tears".cite web |url=http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A070612b.htm |title=Chambers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1860 - 1921) |accessdate=2008-03-17 |author=B. G. Andrews |work=Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7 |publisher=MUP |year=1979 |pages=p 603]

Ten years later, he helped fund construction of His Majesty's Theatre, also in the West End. He played many of the leading roles in his own elaborate productions, which included the premiere of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion", in 1914. The repertory at the new theatre was at least as varied as that of the Haymarket. The theatre opened with a dramatization of Gilbert Parker's "The Seats of the Mighty". Dramatizations of novels by Dickens, Tolstoy, and others formed a significant part of the offerings. Tree staged many of the verse dramas of Stephen Phillips. The classical repertory included Molière and others. But the theatre was most famous for its work with Shakespeare. Tree's productions were exceptionally profitable; they were famous, most of all, for their elaborate and often spectacular scenery and effects. In this respect, Tree continued and perfected the realistic tradition of Charles Kean. In the last decade of his career, the experimental and historical method of Poel and others made Tree's spectacles appear somewhat outdated; still, his productions remained well attended and profitable.

As an actor, Tree was noted for his versatility. He made his name first as a character actor able to adopt widely varying styles; he continued, with liberal use of makeup, to take on a great variety of roles. He was especially noted for his attention to gesture and demeanor. Indeed, criticism of Tree often focused on what was perceived as an excessively external, superficial approach to character. Tree was tall and thin, but his voice was thin, and he was sometimes criticized for struggling to project his voice in a manner that made his performance seem unnatural. He was perhaps most famous for roles as eccentrics such as Malvolio; in the great tragic roles he was largely overshadowed by older actors such as Henry Irving.


Tree married Helen Maud Holt (1863-1937), who acted as Lady Tree and often played opposite him, in 1882. Iris Tree, the poet and actress, and the actress Viola Tree were their daughters. Tree fathered several illegitimate children with May Pinney, including film director Carol Reed and Peter Reed, the father of the late actor Oliver Reed, [imdb name|0001657|Oliver Reed (I)] .

He was the grandfather of Hollywood screenwriter and producer Ivan Moffat and the late British actor Oliver Reed and also the great-great-grandfather of actress Georgina Moffat.

Tree directed and starred in the earliest surviving film of an excerpt from a Shakespearean play: "King John" in 1899. He founded the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 1904 and was knighted in 1909. He also starred in an early film version of "Macbeth", in the 1916 film "Macbeth", which is now considered a Lost film. He died in 1917 of blood clots.


Tree recorded five 10" records for the Gramophone Company (afterwards HMV, couplings as E numbers) in 1906. [Source: J.R. Bennett, "Voices of the Past - Catalogue of Vocal Recordings from the English Catalogues of the Gramophone Company", etc. (Oakwood press, c1955).]
*1312 Hamlet's Soliloquy on Death - 'To be, or not to be' from "Hamlet" (Shakespeare) (3554/E162). (See external link)
*1313 Svengali mesmerises Trilby - 'The roof of your mouth is like the dome of the Pantheon' from "Trilby" (G. du Maurier) (3751/E162).
*1314 Mark Antony's lament over the body of Julius Caesar - 'Oh pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth' from "Julius Caesar" (Shakespeare) (3557/E161).
*1315 (Richard II's) Soliloquy on the death of kings - 'No matter where - of comfort no man speak' from "Richard II" (Shakespeare) (3556/E163).
*1316 Falstaff's speech on Honour - 'Hal, if thou see me down in battle/'Tis not due yet...' from "Henry IV, Part 1" (Shakespeare) (3555/E161).

Popular culture references

In the musical Cats, Gus the Theatre Cat claims, "He has acted with Irving, he's acted with Tree."

The songwriter Maude Valerie White dedicated her setting of Byron's 'So we'll go no more a-roving' to Tree, "in grateful remembrance of 13th July, 1888".


External links

* [http://shakespeare.emory.edu/actordisplay.cfm?actorid=89 Herbert Beerbohm Tree in postcards at Shakespeare & the Players] , Emory University
* [http://www.bristol.ac.uk/theatrecollection/beerbohm_herbert.html Tree archive at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection] , University of Bristol
* [http://www.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/playhamlet.html Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Hamlet reading 'To be or not to be']
* [http://www.siue.edu/COSTUMES/actors/pics.html Image of the actor in costume]

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  • Herbert Beerbohm Tree — Nombre real Herbert Draper Beerbohm Nacimiento 17 de diciembre de 1852 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Herbert Beerbohm Tree — Tree im Alter …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Herbert Beerbohm Tree — Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, né le 17 décembre 1853 et décédé le 2 juillet 1917, est un acteur et responsable de théâtre britannique qui a fondé en 1904 la Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Académie royale d art dramatique, en abrégé RADA). Il est le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree — Herbert Beerbohm Tree Herbert Beerbohm Tree Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, né le 17 décembre 1853 et décédé le 2 juillet 1917, est un acteur et responsable de théâtre britannique qui a fondé en 1904 la Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Académie royale d …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree — noun English actor and theatrical producer noted for his lavish productions of Shakespeare (1853 1917) • Syn: ↑Tree • Instance Hypernyms: ↑actor, ↑histrion, ↑player, ↑thespian, ↑role player, ↑theatrical producer …   Useful english dictionary

  • Tree, Sir Herbert Beerbohm — ▪ British actor and manager born Dec. 17, 1853, London, Eng. died July 2, 1917, London, Eng.  one of the great figures of the English theatre, who became the most successful actor manager of his time. His half brother, Max Beerbohm (Beerbohm, Sir …   Universalium

  • Tree,Sir Herbert Beerbohm — Tree (trē), Sir Herbert Beerbohm. 1853 1917. British actor and producer who founded the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (1904). * * * …   Universalium

  • BEERBOHM TREE, HERBERT —    actor, born in London, son of a grain merchant; his first appearance was as the timid curate in the Private Secretary, and then as the spy Macari in Called Back ; is lessee of the Haymarket Theatre, London, and has had many notable successes;… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Beerbohm — is a surname and may refer to:* Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852 1917), English actor and manager * Max Beerbohm (1872 1956), English parodist and caricaturist …   Wikipedia

  • Beerbohm — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1853 1917), engl. Theaterleiter und Schauspieler Max Beerbohm (1872 1956), engl. Parodist und Karikaturist Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheid …   Deutsch Wikipedia