Arthur Bourchier (1863-1927) was one of the survivors of the pre-World War 1 generation of actor-managers, though 'never a great actor' (MacQueen-Pope, 1959, 173). He remained an actor-manager, unlike many who returned to the ranks of actors only (26). He has a prime place in the history of radio drama, because he played Henry VIII in the 'Scenes from Shakespeare' of 16 February 1923, the first B.B.C. production (according to Gielgud's account see 3.2). His most popular production was the 1922 Christmas adaptation of 'Treasure Island', regularly revived.
The rising generation relevant to the B.B.C. included the 'handsome and distinguished' Henry Ainley (1879-1945), who was installed at the St. James's Theatre, with the title of actor-manager (MacQueen-Pope, 1959, 27). Ainley was best known, perhaps, for his performance in 'Hassan' at His Majesty's (20 September 1923-24 May 1924, 222 performances) in the title role (Agate, 1944, 227-230). 'Hassan' (James Elroy Flecker) was broadcast in an abbreviated form in 1925, with R.E. Jeffries and David Calthrop as producers, and fully in 1933 (7 February 1933 Daventry 9.20-10.55). Ainley had become famous overnight in Stephen Phillips's 'Paolo and Francesca', in Sir George Alexander's production of 1902.
Also there was Matheson Lang, who later recreated his famous title role in 'The Wandering Jew' (Temple Thurston) for wireless (7 June 1927 London 9.15-11) after his 1920 success at the New (9 September 1920 to 17 August 1921, 391 performances), along with his original co-star and wife, Hutin Britton (playing Judith) on stage and wireless. Lang in 1920 'was at the zenith of his career, a great actor indeed and the last of them all to possess the "Grand Manner" (MacQueen-Pope, 1959, 44).
Lewis Casson, director and actor, and his wife, Sybil Thorndike, were crucial in sustaining play broadcasting from the London Station in 1924 and 1925, during the B.B.C. Boycott. In all, their combined total was six programmes, which covered seven plays and an excerpt from 'Henry VIII'. Sybil was already forty-two in their first broadcast two short plays which repeated their stage versions (19 February 1924 London 8.20-9.30). The first was 'The Tragedy of Mr Punch' (Reginald Arkell and Russell Thorndike) which was a success of theirs at the Little (15 December 1920 19 March 1921, 107 performances) and the other was 'Columbine' (Reginald Arkell). In 1920, Sybil had become a great success as Hecuba in Euripides' 'The Trojan Women', with Lewis directing, and this lead to a 'Medea', and to her famous 'Saint Joan' (Bernard Shaw) (Agate, 1944, 211-8; Sprigge, 1971, 153-70).
Another key figure was Nigel Playfair, later Sir Nigel, who took over the Lyric, Hammersmith in 1920, an 'outlying and long disregarded playhouse' (MacQueen-Pope, 1959, 27). But there were many stars who never, or not often, made it to the microphone, at least for wireless drama. Fay Compton (born 1894), sister of novelist and playwright Compton McKenzie, who was 'beautiful of face, figure and voice' (MacQueen-Pope, 1959, 44), may have been too busy with stage, variety and filming, for she only broadcast some readings, and excerpts from Shakespeare (20 June 1926 2LO London 5.30-5.50 as Ophelia; the Ellen Terry Tribute, 27 February 1928; a sketch by Cecil Lewis on 28 July 1928). 'The Radio Times' described her voice as 'outstandingly "microphonic"' (13 July 1928 p 53).
Edith Evans, whose early plays included Bernard Shaw's 'Back To Methuselah' at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1923 (Trewin, 1954, 35) and 'The Way of the World' in the Lyric Hammersmith with Robert Loraine in 1924, and who had already been hailed by Herbert Farjeon in the 'Daily Herald' as 'Our Greatest Actress' in 1922 (Trewin, 1954, 34), only broadcast twice. She was Beatrice in an excerpt from 'Much Ado About Nothing' (6 June 1926 2LO London 5-5.30) to Baliol Holloway's Benedick, and for Shakespeare's Birthday celebration in 1928, took part in 'A Shakespeare Day Duologue' with Robert Loraine (23 April 1928 London and Daventry 6.45-7), billed in 'The Radio Times' as 'our leading young comedy actress and our most distingushed romantic actor'. (For all the fame still of her voice, in a later 'Antony and Cleopatra' (Shakespeare), 'The Guardian' review complained that 'sometimes her voice fell too low for the microphone' and 'there was apparent a constant mannerism, a quavering of the voice' (12 February 1934).)
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