Gertrude Elliott

Gertrude Elliott (December 14, 1874 — December 24, 1950), later Lady Forbes-Robertson, was an American stage actress, part of an extended family of theatre professionals including her husband, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, and her elder sister, Maxine Elliott.

Gertrude Elliott
Gertrude Elliott, from a 1904 publication
Born
May Gertrude Dermot

(1874-12-14)December 14, 1874
Rockland, Maine
DiedDecember 24, 1950(1950-12-24) (aged 76)
NationalityAmerican
Other namesLady Forbes-Robertson
OccupationActor
Spouse(s)
Johnston Forbes-Robertson (m. 19001937)
his death

Early life

May Gertrude Dermot was born in Rockland, Maine,[1] a daughter of Thomas and Adelaide Hall Dermott. Her father was a sea captain born in Ireland, and her mother had been a schoolteacher. Her older sister Maxine left the household for New York City by age 16, and Gertrude soon followed. Both of them began using the surname "Elliott" as young women.

Career

Elliott's career on stage began in 1894, with a role in Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance, in a company that was touring New York state.[2] Both Elliotts joined a company in San Francisco that toured Australia in 1896. The company was run by Nat C. Goodwin, an actor who soon married Maxine Elliott. Their company went to London in 1899, and the next year Gertrude was hired into the company of Johnston Forbes-Robertson; Gertrude Elliott and Forbes-Robertson married at the end of 1900, and continued to work together for much of their careers. She was, literally, Ophelia to his Hamlet, Desdemona to his Othello, and Cleopatra to his Caesar.[3]

Away from the stage, Gertrude Elliott starred with her husband in a silent film version of Hamlet in 1913, directed by their friend J. H. Ryley. She also appeared in a 1917 silent film, Masks and Faces. Gertrude Elliott was a co-founder and president of the Actresses' Franchise League.[4] During World War I she managed the "Shakespeare Hut" in Bloomsbury, a project of the YMCA for entertaining and raising morale among war workers.[5] In 1923, New Zealand gave Gertrude Elliott an award for her work for ANZAC troops during the war.[6]

Personal life

Gertrude Elliott married English actor Johnston Forbes-Robertson in 1900. They had four daughters, including aircraft designer Maxine (Blossom) Miles, writer Diana Forbes-Robertson, and actress Jean Forbes-Robertson. Johnston was knighted in 1913, making Gertrude "Lady Forbes-Robertson" from that time.[7] She was widowed when her husband died in 1937, and Gertrude died in 1950, aged 76 years. Her grandchildren include actress Joanna Van Gyseghem.[8]

There is a plaque marking the birthplace of the Elliott sisters in the Trackside Station in Rockland, Maine.[9]

References

  1. James Fisher, Felicia Hardison Londré, The A to Z of American Theatre: Modernism (Scarecrow Press 2009): p. 151; ISBN 9780810870475
  2. Martin Banham, The Cambridge Guide to Theatre (Cambridge University Press 1995): 328. ISBN 9780521434379
  3. Clara M. Behringer, "Gertrude Elliott", in Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S. Boyer, eds., Notable American Women 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 3 (Harvard University Press 1971): 570-572. ISBN 9780674627345
  4. Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (Routledge 2003): 4. ISBN 9781135434021
  5. Ailsa Grant Ferguson, "Lady Forbes-Robertson's War Work: Gertrude Elliott and the Shakespeare Hut Performances, 1916-1919" in Gordon McMullan, Lena Cowen Orlin, Virginia Mason Vaughan, eds., Women Making Shakespeare: Text, Reception and Performance (A&C Black 2013). ISBN 9781472539373
  6. Ailsa Grant Ferguson, "Entertaining the Anzacs: Performances for Australian and New Zealand Troops on Leave in London, 1916–1919" in Andrew Maunder, ed., British Theatre and the Great War, 1914 - 1919: New Perspectives (Springer 2015). ISBN 9781137402004
  7. Alan Dale, "An American Actress of Title" The Cosmopolitan (January 1914): 262-264.
  8. Brian McFarlane, Anthony Slide, eds., The Encyclopedia of British Film: Fourth Edition (Oxford University Press 2014): 781-782. ISBN 9780719091391
  9. "Maxine Elliott" Maine: An Encyclopedia.
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