Violet Vanbrugh Edwardian Actress Postcard

Violet Vanbrugh Actress Postcard
In the Victorian era a stage career was an unusual and adventurous choice for a Vicar's daughter. It was also a brave decision by a father to allow his well educated daughter to follow her passion and seek a career as an actress.

Miss Violet Vanbrugh was born in 1867, the eldest of three children. Her real name was Violet Augusta Mary Barnes. Dad was an official at Exeter Catherdral and the Vicar of Heavitree. Violet had a younger sister Irene (later to be Dame Irene) and a brother Kenneth (Sir Kenneth) both of whom were destined to follow in her footsteps to a theatrical career.

At the age of nineteen Violet travelled to London in pursuit of a stage career and, after some months, she attracted the attention of the great Ellen Terry. Ms Terry helped Violet to secure her first professional stage appearance in Toole's Theatre where she performed as a chorus girl in Burnand's burlesque Faust and Loose. In her biography Ellen Terry wrote...


Mr. Toole ran a burlesque on the Lyceum "Faust," called
"Faust-and-Loose." Henry did not care for burlesques as a rule. He thought Fred
Leslie's exact imitation of him, face, spectacles, voice--everything was like
Henry except the ballet-skirt--in the worst taste. But everything that Toole did
was to him adorable. ............ There was an absurd chorus of girl "mashers"
in "Faust-and-Loose," dressed in tight black satin oats, who besides dancing and
singing had lines in unison, such as "No, no!" "We will!" As one of these girls
Violet Vanbrugh made her first appearance on the stage. In her case "we will!"
proved prophetic. It was her lucky "I will get on" which finally landed her in
her present successful position.
While it was a strange start for a provincial but well educated girl Violet made the very best of her opportunity. Her next role was in the West End of London in "The Little Pilgrims" (her first speaking part) and, over the next two years, she developed her stagecraft performing in a considerable number of productions working for Sarah Thorne in Margate ('a new role every week') and Toole in London. By late 1887 and early 1888 she was performing lead Shakespearean roles for the Sarah Thorne company and the following two years saw her touring America with the Kendalls in a variety or roles.

After her return to London her great chance came when Henry Irving offered her the part of Ann Boleyn in his production of King Henry VIII at the Lyceum Theatre (1892). This was followed by a period with Augustin Daly's Theatre company where she met her future husband the actor Arthur Bourchier.

Violet married Bourchier in 1894 and over the next few years frequently appeared on stage with him. It seemed the ideal theatre and marital partnership.. Their first child, a daughter named Prudence, was born in 1902 and she also was destined to become a successful Vanbrugh actress. Violet continued over the forthcoming years to charm her theatre audiences. In 1906 at Stratford upon Avon she played Lady Macbeth to her husband's Macbeth. There followed an endless stream of dates and roles. They appeared in a film together in 1911 and two years later produced their own silent movie performing scenes from Macbeth.

Sadly the off stage relationship had its problems and Violet and Arthur separated in 1916, their marriage was dissolved two years later.

Violet continued her stage and film career throughout her life. Six films are mentioned on the imdb.com web site, no doubt it is still possible to find at least some of them available today on DVD.

1911 - Henry VIII [Queen Catherine]
1913 - Macbeth [Lady Macbeth]
1931 - Captivation [Lady Froster]
1935 - Joy Ride [Duchess]
1938 - Pygmalion [Ambassadress]
1940 - Young Man's Fancy

Violet Vanbrugh died in London in 1942, a strong woman, a pioneer, eclipsed somewhat by her younger sister.


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