(born 1892) and actor Dennis Neilson-Terry.
Life and career
Neilson was born in
London, and her parents divorced shortly after her birth, leaving her mother to struggle to support her child. Neilson learned to speak French and German, and attended school in Wiesbaden, Germany. She entered the Royal Academy of Musicin 1884 at the age of fifteen. At the academy, the young sopranowon the Llewellyn Thomas Gold Medal (1885), the Westmoreland Scholarship (1886) and the Sainton Dolby Prize (1886).
Early stage career
Neilson's first professional stage appearance was as Cynisca in the
W. S. Gilbertplay, " Pygmalion and Galatea" in 1888, where she later assumed the lead character, Galatea. Gilbert suggested that the statuesque young woman concentrate her career on acting rather than singing. Her next role was Lady Hilda in Gilbert's " Broken Hearts". Gilbert wrote a short song for her to sing during Act I, and she proposed that a fellow student of hers at the Royal College of Music, Edward German, should set it to music. The conductor was Gilbert's and Sullivan's friend, Alfred Cellier. She then played Selene in Gilbert's " The Wicked World". In November 1888, she was engaged to create the role of Ruth Redmayne in Rutland Barrington's production of Gilbert's " Brantinghame Hall".
Next, Neilson joined
Herbert Beerbohm Tree's company and toured in "Captain Swift", "The Red Lamp" and " The Merry Wives of Windsor". She remained with Tree's company for five years at the Haymarket Theatreas a tragedienne, beginning with the role of Julie de Noirville in "A Mans Shadow", which opened in September 1889. Neilson married the actor Fred Terryin 1889, and they appeared together in Sydney Grundy's translation of the french play "A Village Priest" and numerous other productions together with Tree's company, including "Beau Austin", " Hamlet", "Peril", and Gilbert's "Comedy and Tragedy" (1890). She created the role of Hester Worsley in Oscar Wilde's " A Woman of No Importance" (1893). A review of the Neilson's performance in the play "Ballad Monger" declared: :Miss Neilson's really wonderful singing took the curtain up on the very keynote of the beautiful and pathetic play. And to her singing no higher tribute can be paid. One of these days, we do not doubt, it will be possible to write in the same strain about her acting. In that there is splendid promise. And the promise will come the more near to performance when she is a trifle less conscious of her remarkable physical beauty, and of the fact that she has been to some extent rushed into her present position. [http://www.marxists.org/archive/eleanor-marx/1890/theatre.htm]
Terry and Neilson's first daughter Phyllis was born in 1892. In June 1894, they appeared together in "Shall We Forgive Her?". Neilson next played Lady Chiltern in Wilde's comedy "An Ideal Husband" (January 1895). She gave birth to her second child, Dennis, in October 1895. Two months later, the family traveled to America to perform with
John Hare's company. There they played together in "The Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith" in New York. In 1886, they returned to England. Neilson played as Princess Flavia in " The Prisoner of Zenda", and continued with numerous other roles at the St. James's Theatre. She played Grace in "Shall We Forgive Her?" in 1894.
One of Neilson's biggest successes was as Rosalind in the extremely successful run of "
As You Like It", which toured Canadaand the United States(in 1895 and 1910, respectively). Her husband appeared with her in "The Tree of Knowledge" and other plays from October 1897 until the summer of 1898, including in " Much Ado About Nothing". Next, they appeared in "The Gipsy Earl". Back with Tree's company, Neilson appeared as Constance in "King John" and in an early short silent movie recreating King John's death scene at the end of the play.
The couple entered into management together in 1900, producing and starring in "
Sweet Nell of Old Drury". They would continue to produce plays together for the next 30 years, most notably, " The Scarlet Pimpernel" (first produced in 1903), which they also starred in and adapted for the stage from Baroness Orczy's manuscript. Despite scathing reviews from the critics, the play was a record-breaking hit and played for more than 2,000 performances, then enjoying numerous revivals.
After this, Neilson devoted more time to managing productions and less to acting, although she continued to do so regularly. For instance, she took roles in "Dorothy Vernon of
Haddon Hall" (1907), "Henry of Navarre" (1909), "Mistress Wilful" (1915), and Louis N. Parker's masque, "A Wreath of a Hundred Roses" (1922), celebrating the Royal Academy's centenary in the Duke's Hall. Neilson toured regularly with her husband in the 1920s, mainly in the romantic historical dramas that they enjoyed playing together.
Terry died in 1933, and Neilson retired from the stage two years later, after a run as Josephine Popinot in the revival of "Vintage Wine". She made a brief return to the stage in 1944 to play Lady Rutven in "The Widow of 40". She wrote a memoir entitled, "This For Remembrance", which gives an account of her life in the theatre business.
Neilson died in London at the age of 88. She and her husband are buried at Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green Road, London.
* [http://www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/th-frames.html?http&&&www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/neilson/neilson-j.html Biography at "Stage Beauty" site]
* [http://www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/th-frames.html?http&&&www.dgillan.screaming.net/stage/neilson/neilson-j.html Photos of Neilson]
* [http://www.ram.ac.uk/museum/dh-portraits.htm Profiles and portraits of Neilson and her daughter]
* [http://shakespeare.emory.edu/actordisplay.cfm?actorid=133 Postcards and photos of Neilson]
* [http://www.collectorspost.com/cgi-bin/ShopLoader.cgi?Actors/fred_terry.html Information and photos of Terry and Neilson]
* [http://www.xs4all.nl/~androom/index.htm?biography/p008519.htm Brief biography of Neilson]
* [http://library.kent.ac.uk/library/special/icons/playbills/playdat1.htm Lists some of Neilson's roles]
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