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Topical Budget 697-2: Ellen Terry: Dame of Grand Cross (1925)


Main image of Topical Budget 697-2: Ellen Terry: Dame of Grand Cross (1925)
35mm, black and white, 62 feet
Production CompanyTopical Film Company

Actress Ellen Terry and author J.M. Barrie on the occasion of her being made Dame Grand Cross of the British Empire in the New Year's Honours list.

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Ellen Terry (1847-1928) was one of the legends of the Victorian theatre. Born into a theatrical family, and on stage from childhood, she quickly developed into the best known Shakespearean actress of her generation, playing nearly all the major female roles.

Many of these were opposite Sir Henry Irving, the highest-profile theatrical actor-manager of the era. He hired Terry as his leading lady in 1878 after he leased London's Lyceum Theatre as a showcase for his work. The partnership lasted for over twenty years, and Terry was devastated by Irving's death in 1905.

Following that, she began appearing in the work of George Bernard Shaw, which led to a longstanding correspondence with the playwright. In 1909 she embarked on a highly successful lecture tour of the United States, discussing her work in Shakespeare. She made five films between 1916 and 1922, but they added little to her reputation, not least because by then she was nearly blind.

This short Topical Budget item catches her at the age of 77, three years before her death, on the occasion of being made a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. By then confined to a wheelchair, she would only live another three years, though her dynasty would continue for decades more: her great-nephew was Sir John Gielgud.

J.M.Barrie (1860-1937), pictured next to her, is best known today for being the author of the much-adapted play Peter Pan.

Michael Brooke

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Complete film (0:30)
A Very Topical Year: 1925