Ethel Terry

Ellen Terry

Ellen Alice Terry (1848-1928) English Actress. Legendary British stage actress who made a few silent film appearances. The daughter of strolling players, she was born in Coventry into an almost exclusively theatrical family. Her grandparents were actors, as were all six of her siblings. But only her son, Edward Gordon Craig, would in any way approach her fame in the theatre, albeit as a designer rather than as an actor. She made her debut in 1856 at the age of 8 before an audience which included Queen Victoria. By age 11, she had played a dozen roles including Puck. At 16, after showing early brilliance, she played "An American Cousin" (a year before the famed American production clouded by Lincoln's assassination) and then retired. After six years, still only 22, she returned to the stage and in 1875 played a landmark Portia in "The Merchant of Venice." For the next three decades, she played every major Shakespearean role opposite the greatest British tragedians, in England and in America. Her long association with theatrical giant Henry Irving ended with his death, but a year later, in 1906, she began a long professional and personal relationship with George Bernard Shaw. After more than half a century onstage, she undertook a tour of England, America, and Australia, lecturing on the theatre and on Shakespeare. She was coaxed into a film appearance in 1916 and played in a handful of additional pictures through 1922. Created a Dame by George V in 1925, she was the recipient of virtually every honor available to a figure of the English-speaking stage. After a long illness, she died at 81 from a combination of stroke and heart attack at her home in Smallhythe Place, Tenterdon, Kent, England. Her long estranged husband, James Carew, survived her.

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