The Info List - Sybil Thorndike

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Agnes Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
CH DBE (24 October 1882 – 9 June 1976) was an English actress who toured internationally in Shakespearean productions, often appearing with her husband Lewis Casson. Bernard Shaw wrote Saint Joan specially for her, and she starred in it with great success. She was made Dame
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Order of the British Empire
in 1931, and Companion of Honour
Companion of Honour
in 1970.


1 Early life 2 Career 3 Personal life 4 Films

4.1 Selected filmography

5 Television 6 In fiction 7 Famous quotes 8 Recognition 9 Bibliography 10 Notes 11 External links

Early life[edit]

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Thorndike was born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, to Arthur Thorndike and Agnes Macdonald. Her father was a canon of Rochester Cathedral. She was educated at Rochester Grammar School for Girls, and first trained as a classical pianist, making weekly visits to London
for music lessons at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her childhood home in Rochester has been renamed after her.[3] She gave her first public performance as a pianist at the age of 11, but in 1899 was forced to give up playing owing to piano cramp. At the instigation of her brother, the author Russell Thorndike, she then trained as an actress under Elsie Fogerty at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London.[4] Career[edit]

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At the age of 21 she was offered her first professional contract: a tour of the United States with the actor-manager Ben Greet's company. She made her first stage appearance in Greet's 1904 production of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. She went on to tour the U.S. in Shakespearean repertory for four years, playing some 112 roles.[citation needed] In 1908, she was spotted by the playwright George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
when she understudied the leading role of Candida in a tour directed by Shaw himself. There she also met her future husband, Lewis Casson. They were married in December 1908, and had four children: John (1909–1999), Christopher (1912–1996), Mary (1914–2009), and Ann (1915–1990). She was survived by four children and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren when she died.[citation needed] She joined Annie Horniman's company in Manchester
(1908–09 and 1911–13), went to Broadway in 1910, and then joined the Old Vic Company in London
(1914–18), playing leading roles in Shakespeare and in other classic plays. After the war, she played Hecuba
in Euripides
The Trojan Women
The Trojan Women
(1919–20), then from 1920–22 Thorndike and her husband starred in a British version of France's Grand Guignol directed by Jose Levy.[citation needed] She returned to the stage in the title role of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan in 1924, which had been written with her specifically in mind. The production was a huge success, and was revived repeatedly until her final performance in the role in 1941. In 1927, Thorndike appeared in a short film of the cathedral scene from Saint Joan made in the DeForest Phonofilm
sound-on-film process. Both Thorndike and Casson were active members of the Labour Party, and held strong left-wing views.[citation needed] Even when the 1926 General Strike stopped the first run of Saint Joan, they both still supported the strikers. She was made a Dame
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Order of the British Empire
in 1931. As a pacifist, Thorndike was a member of the Peace Pledge Union
Peace Pledge Union
and gave readings for its benefit. During the Second World War, Thorndike and her husband toured in Shakespearean productions on behalf of the Council For the Encouragement of the Arts, before joining Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
and Ralph Richardson in the Old Vic
Old Vic
season at the New Theatre in 1944.[5] At the end of the Second World War, it was discovered that Thorndike was on "The Black Book" or Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. list of Britons who were to be arrested in the event of a Nazi invasion of Britain.[6] She continued to have success in such plays as N. C. Hunter's Waters of the Moon at the Haymarket in 1951–52. She also undertook tours of Australia and South Africa, before playing again with Olivier in Uncle Vanya at Chichester
in 1962. She made her farewell appearance with her husband in a London
revival of Arsenic and Old Lace at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1966. Her last stage performance was at the Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead, Surrey, in There Was an Old Woman in 1969, the year Lewis Casson
Lewis Casson

Portrait by Allan Warren, 1973

Her final acting appearance was in a TV drama The Great Inimitable Mr. Dickens, with Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins
in 1970. That same year she was made a Companion of Honour. She and her husband (who was knighted in 1945) were one of the few couples who both held titles in their own right. She had also been awarded an honorary degree from Manchester University in 1922, and an honorary D.Litt from Oxford University
Oxford University
in 1966. Dame
Sybil's ashes are buried in Westminster Abbey. Personal life[edit] In 1908, Thorndike married Lewis Casson, to whom she remained married until his death in 1969. The couple had four children, John (born 1909), Christopher (born 1912), Mary (born 1914), and Ann (born 1915). Films[edit]

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She made her film debut in Moth and Rust (1921), and appeared in a large number of silent films the next year, including versions of Bleak House, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice and The Scarlet Letter. She also appeared in a 1927 short film, made in the DeForest Phonofilm process, of her performing as Saint Joan in an excerpt of the play by George Bernard Shaw. Among her notable film roles were as Nurse Edith Cavell in Dawn (1928), General Baines in Major Barbara (1941), Mrs. Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby (1948), Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria
in Melba (1952) and as the Queen Dowager in The Prince and the Showgirl
The Prince and the Showgirl
(1957), for which she was awarded the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress. She made her last film appearance, in a version of Uncle Vanya, in 1963. Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes

1921 Moth and Rust Mrs Brand

1922 Macbeth Lady Macbeth

1922 The Merchant of Venice Lady Portia

1928 Dawn Nurse Edith Cavell

1931 A Gentleman of Paris Lola Duval

1931 Hindle Wakes Mrs. Hawthorne

1947 The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby Mrs. Squeers

1949 The Forbidden Street Mrs. "The Sow" Mounsey

1950 Stage Fright Mrs. Gill

1951 The Lady with a Lamp Miss Bosanquet

1951 The Magic Box Sitters

1953 Melba Queen Victoria

1957 The Prince and the Showgirl The Queen Dowager

1958 Smiley Gets a Gun Granny McKinlay

1959 Alive and Kicking Dora

Television[edit] Appearances included:

1960 — Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
appeared as the guest in This is Your Life 1965 — A Passage to India as Mrs. Moore 1969 - Join Jim Dale

In fiction[edit] She appears in Tony Harrison's play Fram, played in the premiere by Sian Thomas. Here she is resurrected from the dead to play herself in one of Gilbert Murray's plays. Her name is also used in Muriel Spark's novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, citing her as "a woman of noble mien." In the film My Week with Marilyn, she is played by Judi Dench. She is one of the principal characters in Nicholas de Jongh's play Plague Over England, about John Gielgud's arrest for homosexual acts in 1953. She was played in the premiere by Nichola McAuliffe. In the London
production she was played by Celia Imrie. Famous quotes[edit] When asked if she ever considered leaving her husband, she answered: "Divorce, never! Murder, often!" Recognition[edit] When Lindsey County Council constructed an east-west dual-carriageway southern relief road in her birthplace of Gainsborough, since April 1974 in West Lindsey, the new route of the A631 road
A631 road
was named Thorndike Way, in recognition of her, when it opened in March 1974; this was two years before her death in 1976. The former A631 route is now the B1433 (Corringham Road). The western terminus is with a roundabout with the A156 and A159. Soil from the bypass was taken to build the new bypass of Beckingham, Nottinghamshire, two miles to the west in Bassetlaw. Bibliography[edit]

Sybil Thorndike: A Life in the Theatre by Sheridan Morley (1977) Sybil Thorndike: A Star of Life by Jonathan Croall
Jonathan Croall


^ "findmypast.co.uk". Search.findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved 4 September 2015.  ^ "findmypast.co.uk". Search.findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved 4 September 2015.  ^ Historic England. "Thorndikes and former stable and coach house adjoining  (Grade II) (1086441)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 November 2014.  ^ ‘Fogie – The Life (1865-1945) of Elsie Fogerty Pioneer of speech training for the theatre and everyday life’, Marion Cole (Peter Davis, London, 1967), ^ "ROB WILTON THEATRICALIA Theatre World Magazines 1940s". Phyllis.demon.co.uk. 20 February 1946. Retrieved 3 June 2015.  ^ William Hetherington, Swimming Against the Tide:The Peace Pledge Union Story, 1934-2009. London; The Peace Pledge Union; ISBN 978-0-902680-51-7 (p. 14) ^ " Lewis Casson
Lewis Casson
(1875–1969)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sybil Thorndike.

The Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
Scrapbook Performances listed at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection archive Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
at the Internet Broadway Database
Internet Broadway Database
Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
on IMDb Works by Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
at Open Library Sybil Thorndike's appearance on This Is Your Life The life's work of Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
@ Ward's Book of Days Sybil Thorndike: A Star of Life, by Jonathan Croall, pub. 1 October 2008 A report of biographer Jonathan Croall's lecture to the Society for Theatre Research (Oct 2008) Patron of The Young Theatre 1970-1976 The Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
and Lewis Casson
Lewis Casson
Archive is held by the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre and Performance Department.

v t e

National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress

Nina Foch
Nina Foch
(1954) Marjorie Rambeau
Marjorie Rambeau
(1955) Debbie Reynolds
Debbie Reynolds
(1956) Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
(1957) Kay Walsh
Kay Walsh
(1958) Edith Evans
Edith Evans
(1959) Shirley Jones
Shirley Jones
(1960) Ruby Dee
Ruby Dee
(1961) Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury
(1962) Margaret Rutherford
Margaret Rutherford
(1963) Edith Evans
Edith Evans
(1964) Joan Blondell
Joan Blondell
(1965) Vivien Merchant (1966) Marjorie Rhodes
Marjorie Rhodes
(1967) Virginia Maskell
Virginia Maskell
(1968) Pamela Franklin
Pamela Franklin
(1969) Karen Black
Karen Black
(1970) Cloris Leachman
Cloris Leachman
(1971) Marisa Berenson
Marisa Berenson
(1972) Sylvia Sidney
Sylvia Sidney
(1973) Valerie Perrine
Valerie Perrine
(1974) Ronee Blakley
Ronee Blakley
(1975) Talia Shire
Talia Shire
(1976) Diane Keaton
Diane Keaton
(1977) Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury
(1978) Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep
(1979) Eva Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne
(1980) Mona Washbourne
Mona Washbourne
(1981) Glenn Close
Glenn Close
(1982) Linda Hunt
Linda Hunt
(1983) Sabine Azéma
Sabine Azéma
(1984) Anjelica Huston
Anjelica Huston
(1985) Dianne Wiest
Dianne Wiest
(1986) Olympia Dukakis
Olympia Dukakis
(1987) Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand
(1988) Mary Stuart Masterson
Mary Stuart Masterson
(1989) Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder
(1990) Kate Nelligan (1991) Judy Davis
Judy Davis
(1992) Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder
(1993) Rosemary Harris
Rosemary Harris
(1994) Mira Sorvino
Mira Sorvino
(1995) Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
/ Kristin Scott Thomas
Kristin Scott Thomas
(1996) Anne Heche
Anne Heche
(1997) Christina Ricci
Christina Ricci
(1998) Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore
(1999) Lupe Ontiveros
Lupe Ontiveros
(2000) Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett
(2001) Kathy Bates
Kathy Bates
(2002) Patricia Clarkson
Patricia Clarkson
(2003) Laura Linney
Laura Linney
(2004) Gong Li
Gong Li
(2005) Catherine O'Hara
Catherine O'Hara
(2006) Amy Ryan
Amy Ryan
(2007) Penélope Cruz
Penélope Cruz
(2008) Anna Kendrick
Anna Kendrick
(2009) Jacki Weaver
Jacki Weaver
(2010) Shailene Woodley
Shailene Woodley
(2011) Ann Dowd
Ann Dowd
(2012) Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer
(2013) Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain
(2014) Jennifer Jason Leigh
Jennifer Jason Leigh
(2015) Naomie Harris
Naomie Harris
(2016) Laurie Metcalf
Laurie Metcalf

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 64097827 LCCN: n85025639 ISNI: 0000 0001 1067 586X GND: 137335008 SUDOC: 033499195 BNF: cb12435987b (data) BIBSYS: 90825