Gerald du Maurier
Sir Gerald Hubert Edward Busson du Maurier (26 March 1873 – 11 April 1934) was an English actor and manager. He was the son of the writer George du Maurier and brother of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. In 1902, he married the actress Muriel Beaumont with whom he had three daughters: writers Angela du Maurier (1904–2002) and Daphne du Maurier (1907–1989), and painter Jeanne du Maurier (1911–1996). His popularity lay in his subtle yet realistic acting style: a "delicately realistic style of acting that sought to suggest rather than to state the deeper emotions". His Times obituary said of his career: "His parentage assured him of engagements in the best of company to begin with; but it was his own talent that took advantage of them."
Du Maurier was born in Hampstead, London, and attended Heath Mount School and Harrow School. He initially pursued a career in business, but it did not suit him, and he took to the stage. He obtained his first engagement, a small part in Sydney Grundy's An Old Jew, via his father's friend John Hare, manager of the Garrick Theatre.
After playing a number of small roles pre-1900, including an appearance in his father's popular drama Trilby with Herbert Beerbohm Tree in 1895, his popularity became assured via his acclaimed performance in major roles in the premieres of two J.M. Barrie plays: as Ernest in The Admirable Crichton in 1902, and the dual role of George Darling and Captain Hook (instead of Seymour Hicks, who had turned down the part) in Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, at the Duke of York's Theatre, London, on 27 December 1904. He also appeared in other Barrie plays, including Dear Brutus.
The Llewelyn Davies boys (du Maurier's nephews, the sons of his sister Sylvia Llewelyn Davies), were the inspiration for Peter Pan and other boy characters in Barrie's fiction. The character of Wendy Darling in Peter Pan shares one of her middle names with du Maurier's daughter Angela, who in later years portrayed Wendy onstage herself.
With Frank Curzon, he co-managed Wyndham's Theatre from 1910 to 1925, and then moved to the St James's Theatre. He served as the president of the Actors' Orphanage. Knighted in 1922 at the peak of his popularity, he continued to perform throughout his life. In later years he took on cinema roles such as Lord Camber's Ladies (1932), a German doctor in I Was a Spy (1933), the emperor's valet in Catherine the Great (1934) and, shortly before his final illness, Wessensee in the Michael Balcon version of Jew Süss (1934).
du Maurier cigarettes
Du Maurier was a regular cigarette smoker, and the du Maurier brand was named after him as a paid endorsement deal (he did not smoke them himself), which he undertook to help pay back taxes.
He served as President of the Actors' Orphanage Fund (now the Actors' Charitable Trust) from 1914 to his death, when he was succeeded by Noël Coward.
His daughter Daphne refused to attend his funeral but wrote a biography of him – Gerald: A Portrait – which was published shortly after he died of colon cancer in London in 1934.
- Justice (1917)
- Everybody's Business (1917)
- Unmarried (1920)
- Escape (1930)
- Lord Camber's Ladies (1932)
- I Was a Spy (1933)
- The Scotland Yard Mystery (1934)
- The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934)
- Jew Süss (1934)
References and sources
- Sir Gerald du Maurier, Actor, Manager and Producer, Obituary, The Times, 12 April 1934
- James Harding, "Du Maurier, Sir Gerald Hubert Edward Busson (1873–1934)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 10 Sept 2007