Sir Henry Irving – Iconic English Actor Manager

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One of the most famous English theatrical Actor Manager's in the Victorian era was Sir Henry Irving who was born John Henry Brodribb on Feb. 6th 1838 in Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, England. Irving is thought to have been the inspiration for the title character in Lyceum manager "Bram Stoker's" 1897 novel "Dracula".

Bram Stoker left Dublin for London in 1878 to take a position managing the Lyceum Theatre for actor manager Sir Henry Irving. During his long career at the Lyceum he wrote many fantastic stories and novels, cementing his fame with Dracula. Stoker's tale made vampires famous, and his creepy Count Dracula based on Sir Henry Irving became the model for the popular movie "Dracula" of the 20th century.

He toured for 10 years with a stock company before making his London debut in 1866. With his success in The Bells (1871), he became a leading actor in H.L. Batman's company (1871 – 77).

As actor-manager of the Lyceum Theatre (from 1878), he made it London's most successful theatre. He formed a celebrated acting partnership with Ellen Terry that lasted until the company dissolved in 1902. They were noted for their Shakespearean roles, and their theatrical qualities complemented each other: he the brooding introvert, she the spontaneous charmer.

He was a champion of the star system and produced artistic spectacles that emphasized scenic detail. As an actor he was most successful in the "realistic" melodramas of his day and in Shakespeare's plays, which he liberally abridged. To him acting was movement and emotion; his realistic approach to creating a character, in which he stressed that the actor should incorporate real feelings into his characterization, led to the noted controversy with his French contemporary, Coquelin, who advocated simulated emotion (or representation) in acting. His company frequently toured the United States where he became quite well known.

Irving was knighted in 1895, the first actor to be so honoured.

His acting divided critics; opinions differed as to the extent to which his mannerisms of voice and deportment interfered with or assisted the expression of his ideas. On October 13th 1905, Henry Irving appeared as "Becket" at the Bradford Theatre, he was seized with a stroke just after uttering Becket's dying words 'Into thy hands, O Lord, into thy hands', and though he lived for an hour or so longer he never spoke again. He was brought to the lobby of the Midland Hotel, where he died. The chair that he was sitting in when he died is now at the Garrick Club. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. There is a fabulous statue of Sir Henry Irving behind "The National Portrait Gallery" in London.

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Sir Henry Irving – Iconic English Actor Manager

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This article was published on 2010/10/08
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