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Fay Compton's Geni Profile

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Virginia Lilian Emmeline Compton Mackenzie

Also Known As: "Fay Compton"
Birthdate: (84)
Birthplace: Kensington, Greater London, UK
Death: December 12, 1978 (84)
London, Greater London, UK
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Edward Compton and Virginia Frances Compton
Wife of H. G. Pélissier
Ex-wife of Leon Fred Quartermaine
Mother of Anthony Pelissier
Sister of Compton Mackenzie; Sir Compton Mackenzie and Viola Compton

Occupation: Actress
Managed by: Michael Hugh Jessop
Last Updated:

About Fay Compton

Fay Compton (/ˈkʌmptən/; 1894–1978) was an English actress from a notable acting lineage; her father was actor/manager Edward Compton; her mother, Virginia Bateman, was a distinguished member of the profession, as were her sister, the actress Viola Compton, and her uncles and aunts. Her grandfather was the 19th-century theatrical luminary Henry Compton. The novelist Compton Mackenzie was her brother.


Virginia Lilian Emmeline Compton Mackenzie was born in West Kensington, London, England. Compton made her first professional appearances between 1911 and 1913 with The Follies under the leadership of H. G. Pelissier, her future first husband, whom she married as a teenager. She made her mark in the several plays of J. M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame) introducing him to London audiences, notably in the title role of Mary Rose in 1920. In 1926, she published reminiscences entitled Rosemary: Some remembrances.

Active in the classics as well as contemporary material, Compton had the distinction of playing Ophelia opposite two of the most celebrated Hamlets, John Barrymore and John Gielgud. In 1962 she appeared as Marya in Laurence Olivier's production of Uncle Vanya at Chichester Festival Theatre. This production was filmed.

Film and television

Compton's film work is not as well known as her stage appearances. She appeared in more than forty films between 1914 and 1970. Her most popular performances in films are Odd Man Out (1947), Laughter in Paradise (1951) Orson Welles' Othello (1952) and The Haunting (1963).

Among her television performances, she appeared in 1965 with Michael Hordern in the television play, Land of My Dreams by Clive Exton. One of her last major roles was as Aunt Ann in the BBC's 1967 television adaptation of The Forsyte Saga.

She had a successful career in the radio, television and gramophone recordings.

Distinguished figures such as Alec Guinness, John Le Mesurier, Jan Sterling, Sally Gray, Joe Mitchenson and Elton Hayes, developed their acting career in her "Fay Compton School of Dramatic Arts".

Personal life

Fay Compton was married four times:

1.H. G. Pelissier; (one son: Anthony Pelissier)

2.Lauri de Frece; de Frece was Jerome Kern's best man at his wedding in 1910 at St Mary's Walton on Thames]

3.Leon Quartermaine

4.Ralph Michael

Her granddaughter is the British actress Tracy Reed.


Fay Compton died on 12 December 1978, in London, aged 84.


Rosemary, Some Remembrances (1926), by Fay Compton, introduction by Compton Mackenzie.

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Fay Compton's Timeline

September 18, 1894
Kensington, Greater London, UK
Age 17
December 12, 1978
Age 84
London, Greater London, UK

<Daily Telegraph, December 13, 1978>

FAY COMPTON: an actress of high and varied gifts

FAY COMPTON, who has died aged 84, was a born actress of high and
varied gifts.

She went straight from school on to the stage at the age of 16 without
any special training and found herself an once an important member of
a famous troupe at the peak of its spectacular West End success.

She married at 17, the man who was at once the architect and the
corner-stone of the troupe's fortunes and experienced, almost at once,
the first signs that success was giving place to failure.

Finally, at 18, she was left a widow and these events with their
catastrophic climax, might well have daunted any ordinary girl.

But Fay Compton was not an ordinary girl. In spite of the shatterng
nature of her adventure as the young wife of H.G. Pelissier, a man
more than twice her age, she had her way to great achievements clear
before her.

She was, in fact, the only member of Pelissier's unmatchable team
whose individual gifts were outstanding enough to reach the heights,
once this troupe had disintegrated at its founder's untimely death at


The lack of special stage training did not matter in her case, because
she belonged to a theatrical family and had behind her the two
strongest influences, heredity and environment, that any stage
aspirant can have.

Her brother, Sir Compton Mackenzie, explained in his autobiography
that while the family name was Mackenzie, it had become custom for its
theatrical members to take the professional name of Compton.

Fay Compton's father, an actor, was therefore known as Edward Compton;
but she herself was christened Virginia Lilian Eumeline Compton

"Fay" came in when a younger sister could get no closer to Virginia
than "Fay Ginger", and "Mackenzie" went out, by family custom, with
her stage debut.

As her talents developedm she was seen to have remarkable versatility,
and her readiness to take on anything fom Shakespeare to pantomime
earned her, before very long, a reputation as "the actress who is
never out of work."

For this distinction she owed much to her acting ability but also not
a little to her glamorous appearance and to her truly wonderful voice.

This ran the whole gamut of inflexion; she used it with equal effect
as a shreiking virago, as Ophelia in "Hamlet", and "Queen Victoria" in
New York, as principal boy in many pantomimes and as Mrs Squeers in
"Nicholas Nickleby".

In the 30s she played Shakespeare on many occasions at the Regent's
Park open-air theatre - and it was as Ophelia that she appeared at the
Lyceum in July, 1939, when the curtain fell there for the last time.
She was indeed, the outstanding Ophelia of her time.

When the BBC asked leading actors and actresses in 1952 to nominate
their favourite plays she chose "The Barretts of Wimpole Street", but
some critics thought other plays gave greater scope to her ability,
notably her Mother of Jesus in "Family Portrait", at the Strand, or as
an ordinary woman in Christopher Hassall's "Out of the Whirlwind."

A religious play staged in Westminster Abbey, this illustrated the
afflictions which tested the nation from 1914 until the woman's death
in 1951.


In 1959 she was at the Old Vic in "The Importance of Being Earnest";
in 1961 she gave a superb performance as Mrs Malaprop in "The Rivals"
at Croydon; in 1962 and 1963 she played "Uncle Vanya" at the
Chichester Festival, and in 1965 took part in the festival season at
the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford.

In 1966, she was engaged by the BBC to appear in 26 episodes of "The
Forsyte Saga", in 1967 to celebrate the centenary of John Galsworthy's
birth. She was appointed a CBE in 1975.

She declared: "Among the things I hate are people who have said all
the years that my hair (a lovely auburn) is dyed. It is not, and never
has been."

She was married four times, to H.G. Pelissier (died 1913), by whom she
had a son; to Lauri de Freece (died 1921); to Leon Quartermaine, who
divorced her in 1942, and to Ralph Champion Shotter - Ralph Michael,
the actor -whom she divorced in 1946.