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About Florence Lilian Braithwaite
DAME LILIAN BRAITHWAITE: INTERPRETER OF COMEDY
<The Times, September 18, 1948>
Dame Lilian Braithwaite, the well-known actress, died yesterday at her home in London. She had been ill for some days and had had to cancel a tour she had planned.
The distinctive quality of this accomplished player of comedy was womanly sweetness. She gave it considerable range and variety. It served her excellently, says report, as Virgilia in "Coriolanus". As innocent and genuine sweetness it made her the perfect young widowed mother in "Little Lord Fauntleroy". As deliberate and exploited sweetness it was the weapon of the parasite mother in Mr. Sidney Howard's play "The Silver Cord"; and in an ingeniously sinister form it made exquistite comedy in "Arsenic and Old Lace".
Born at Ramsgate, the daughter of the Rev. J.M. Braithwaite, vicar and rural dean of Croydon, Lilian Braithwaite was educated at the High Schools of Croydon and Hampstead and in Dresden. Seh acted a good deal with amateurs, including the O.U.D.S., before sailing in 1897 for South Africa with the Shakespearian Company of Mr. William Haviland and Mr. Gerald Lawrence. In 1900 she was in England again; and her acting of Celia to the Rosalind of Miss Julia Neilson led to her engagament for "Sweet Nell of Old Drury", which Miss Neilson and Mr. Fred Terry produced in August. Small parts in Mr. F.R. (later Sir Frank) Benson's season at the Comedy in 1901, preceded a tour with Sir George Alexander, who engaged her for the St. James's Theatre. There she stayed till 1904, acting among other plays, in Desmond's/or Raymond's (?) "The Wilderness" and Stephen Phillips's "Paolo and Francesca". She was now firmly set in the way of West End comedy, and the chronilc oe her stage life is long and full.
She was Ethel Newcome in Beerbohm Tree's production of "Colonel Newcome" in 1906. At the Playhouse in 1908, with Mr. Cyril Maude, she shared in the success of "The Flag Lieutenant". In 1913, at the Strand she joined Matheson Lang to act for more than a year in "Mr. Wu", and she appeared in it again at the revival in 1922. In 1914 at the Playhouse she gave the performance of Mrs Erroll in "Little Lord Fauntleroy" to which reference has already been made. In 1915 she was in Miss Constance Collier's production of "Peter Ibbetson". She had not altogether abandoned Shakespeare; and having played Portia in "The Merchant of Venice" at the Stand in 1916, she played Portia in "Julius Caesar" at the St. James's in 1920, when Mr, Henry Ainley was the Mark Antony. But her almost innumerable succession of parts were nearly all modern comedy. She was seen in Harold Terry's "General Post" in 1917; in Miss Clemence Dane's " A Bill of Divorcement" in 1921, in "The Vortex" by Mr. Noel Coward in London in 1924 and in New York in 1925. Since she had acted in five or six of Mr. Ivor Novello's comedies, with one of which, "A Symphony in Two Flats", she went to Canada and the United States.Of "The Silver Cord", and of the extremely successful "Arsenic and Old Lace", in which she played throughout its long run from 1942 to 1946, mention has already been made. Miss Braithwaite took up acting for the cinema in 1915, and has appeared in many films of British production. Her long and distinguished service to the stage led her to being created a D.B.E. in 1943.
She married Mr. Gerald Lawrence, and they had one daughter, the actress and dramatist Miss Joyce Carey.