Ernest Thesiger

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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Ludi

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostTue Jun 28, 2016 6:53 am

Thank you, that's weird, I wonder where that name came from? The name shows up in various books and websites, referring to the undertaker in the movie, but I wonder when it first appeared?

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostFri Jul 01, 2016 3:16 pm

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection, which houses the Ernest Thesiger Archive, reports much recent interest in Ernest.  One result of this interest is an article by Joseph McBrinn in the current issue of TEXT, the journal of the UK Textile Society, entitled “Ernest Thesiger ‘Expert Embroiderer.’”  http://www.textilesociety.org.uk/text-journal/text-back-issues.php

Not surprisingly, McBrinn focuses on Thesiger’s outlandish personality and behavior, one remarkable aspect of which was his insistence on carrying his needlework with him wherever he went.  McBrinn seems to take a somewhat negative tack in his discussion of Ernest’s impression on his contemporaries, including opinions from people who found him bizarre and even frightening, rather than those who found him charming and funny.  Regarding Thesiger’s penchant for female costume, McBrinn leaps to an odd conclusion “his fondness for female impersonation often led him to be compared to, if not mistaken for, the actresses Violet Vanbrugh and Gladys Cooper.” The comparison to Cooper, at least, derives from a story told by Ernest himself.  It’s implausible that he, with his caricature-like physiognomy, could be mistaken for the famous beauty.  McBrinn comments on Thesiger’s open homosexuality, yet claims “Any reference to homosexuality is omitted from the two volumes of published and unpublished memoirs he completed in 1927 and in 1955.”  This is not strictly accurate; in his 1927 memoir Practically True, Thesiger gives a subtle account of the attempt by author Samuel Butler to seduce him when he was a youth:  “The next time I met this Mr. Butler was at a garden-party at Lambeth Palace, and he spent the afternoon filling me with ices and strawberries and cream.  We met several times after that, and he was always extraordinarily friendly and kind, and had his appearance been less repugnant to me I should have completely succumbed to his charm.”

McBrinn points out that Thesiger holds the place as the most famous male figure in the history of English embroidery, and yet, sadly, apparently none of his embroidery work survives.  McBrinn continues with more commentary about Thesiger’s life, saying that much of what is known about him “is, in many respects, gossip.”  McBrinn does little to repair this sad state of affairs, gossiping about Thesiger’s marriage to Janette Ranken, his friendship with Queen Mary, and his relationship with Janette’s brother William.  No new light is shed on this relationship, which remains in the realm of speculation, although it is mentioned as significant in the context of the article because it was William who apparently introduced Thesiger to the craft of embroidery.

The article continues with a discussion of the Disabled Soldiers’ Embroidery Industry, which Ernest helped found after WW1, and then on to comments about Ernest’s ecclesiastical embroidery work, all of which appears to be lost, the publication of Thesiger’s book Adventures in Embroidery, and his later  appearances promoting embroidery in various media.

McBrinn states “Throughout his long and productive life Ernest Thesiger was dismissed as effeminate, camp and frivolous.”  This is, I feel,  a rather negative conclusion and differs from the impression I have received from my investigations into his life.  I find it to be the interpretation of critics from our own time.  In his day, Thesiger was a highly regarded figure on the stage, one of the most popular comic actors of his time, while simultaneously being a much-publicized eccentric.  McBrinn continues ”But his commitment to embroidery is undeniable and his life and work deserve to be much better documented.  Given that the centenary of the Disabled Soldiers’ Embroidery Industry is only a few years away surely it is time for a proper reassessment of this inimitable figure and his context.”  I heartily agree and am doing my best to forward this documentation.  

In the notes, McBrinn claims that, aside from a watercolor in the Victoria and Albert Museum, “The only other surviving work by Thesiger is a painted copy of an Aubusson carpet for the dining room and two miniature paintings of Italianate landscapes for the library in Queen Mary’s Doll’s House.”  This is inaccurate as there are many surviving examples of Ernest’s drawing and painting  as can be seen on The Artist page of the Ernest Thesiger website.

I’m happy to see an article about Ernest appear in a journal of this kind, though I have reservations about McBrinn’s unoriginal repetition of a stereotypical interpretation of Ernest’s life.  I’m also critical of McBrinn’s choice to use references which contain errors, such as Eccentrics of Comedy.

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Ludi

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSat Jul 23, 2016 4:38 pm

Clipping from The Telegraph, Brisbane, July 16, 1935

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Has anyone here seen it?
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Ludi

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostFri Aug 19, 2016 6:51 pm

c. 1934

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c. 1946

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Ludi

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSun Sep 18, 2016 6:01 pm

DON'T TAKE IT TO HEART (1944)

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(Please pardon the crummy screen grab - it's difficult to find stills of him in these small roles.)
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSun Oct 23, 2016 6:47 pm

Thanks to help from a fellow researcher, I've been able to learn a little more about the early career of Ernest's wife Janette, who was a professional on the stage a few years before he was, though she had given up the stage by the time they married. They both appeared in a charity production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" in 1908, when he was still an amateur.

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Janette. From the photograph collections of Robert RF Bruce DFC, nephew of JMFT.

I think she's quite interesting, not least because she married him.

http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... anken.html
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostTue Oct 25, 2016 4:59 am

Ludi wrote:Image

That's one way to hold up and balance your hand...
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostTue Oct 25, 2016 8:15 am

I imagine in the Thesiger household if you wanted something done you had to do it yourself.
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostTue Oct 25, 2016 11:24 am

Perhaps bosom-clutching is meant to depict dramatic tragic heart pain....

Here's Ernest's version:

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostFri Nov 11, 2016 11:40 am

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSun Dec 25, 2016 10:44 am

I was happy to finally find photos of one of Ernest's most famous roles, Lord Foppington in "A Trip to Scarborough," 1931, so I'm spamming them around. :)

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostTue Jan 03, 2017 11:02 am

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Derry Journal, December 8, 1954
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostTue Jan 03, 2017 4:30 pm

Do you think people realized they were getting re-edited episodes from a TV series?
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostWed Jan 04, 2017 11:24 am

Repackaged old TV! :roll: "Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Presents ..." aka "Rheingold Theatre."

Do you know anything more about the show? Have you been able to see it?
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R Michael Pyle

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostWed Jan 04, 2017 11:53 am

Ludi wrote:Repackaged old TV! :roll: "Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Presents ..." aka "Rheingold Theatre."

Do you know anything more about the show? Have you been able to see it?

Some of them are out there. I've got the 1957 showing of Robert Beatty as Bulldog Drummond. (Now, yes, this was a pilot, but it was integrated as part of Fairbanks' show.) I reviewed this last 30 Sept as follows:

"As far as I've been able to ascertain, 19 different people have played Drummond on film since his inception. I have 12 different actors playing Drummond in my collection, beginning with Rod LaRocque in the silent film "Captain Swagger". My first talkie Drummond is Ronald Colman who portrayed Drummond twice, and is considered by most the most successful. I wholly agree with that assessment. Others who have played the part who I have on DVD are Ralph Richardson, John Lodge, Athole Fleming, John Howard, Ray Milland, Tom Conway, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Beatty, and Richard Johnson. The Robert Beatty outing that I have was actually a TV pilot produced in 1957 by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Both Margaret and I agreed that it would have been a far better outing with Fairbanks, Jr. himself in the part. Beatty was a bust, and the pilot unsuccessful. It's not really anything significant, so its lack of success was correct. Beatty, however, had played the character twice before in movies earlier in the decade."
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSun Jan 15, 2017 11:55 am

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostTue Feb 14, 2017 11:53 am

It's difficult to find much about Thesiger's early movies. Here's a promotional ad and a review of his starring vehicle, A LITTLE BIT OF FLUFF.

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The Era, April 23, 1919

“The screen version of the most successful farce staged during the last twenty years was simply a riot of extraordinary and mirth-provoking scenes, and during its projection large audiences were continually laughing in the hearty manner that tells of real appreciation and enjoyment. Ernest Thesiger, as Bertram Tully, was the outstanding character of the film, and his facial expressions were truly wonderful achievements.”

The Derbyshire Advertiser, April 16, 1920

http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... _1919.html
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostWed Feb 15, 2017 9:39 am

Now I can only wonder what a "Q" film is.

Edit: Ah, it was the name of the studio.
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSat Apr 01, 2017 9:26 am

Portsmouth Daily News, April 11, 1939

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSat Apr 01, 2017 1:12 pm

I remember seeing this They Drive By Night at Cinefest in the 1990s. I also remember Thesiger's character's "peculiar taste in books" included a volume clearly visible on the bookshelf titled "Sex In Prison"!
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSat Apr 01, 2017 6:02 pm

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSat Apr 01, 2017 9:17 pm

Ludi wrote:Image

Also reminds me of an episode of Rocky & Bullwinkle where they were on the Moon Men's spacecraft, and there was a bookshelf containing "Sex on Planet X".

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I wonder why I keep spotting these...
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSat Apr 01, 2017 9:47 pm

s.w.a.c. wrote:I remember seeing this They Drive By Night at Cinefest in the 1990s. I also remember Thesiger's character's "peculiar taste in books" included a volume clearly visible on the bookshelf titled "Sex In Prison"!


Believe it or not, a real (and quite influential) book!
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSun Apr 02, 2017 5:05 am

s.w.a.c. wrote:Seconded what Michael O'Regan says about the UK They Drive By Night. Saw it at one of my first Cinefests in the early '90s, possibly from a William K. Everson copy, and it was a delightful thriller, with some moments of humour as well. One of my memories of the film is that Thesiger's study had a number of books on the shelf, including one titled SEX IN PRISON. I don't think that detail is as discernible in the fuzzy video copies available online.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1dkg8 ... shortfilms" target="_blank" target="_blank

(Edit: Yes it is, around the 1:14:00 mark.)


I recall that scene in the uploads you mentioned (being a bookseller with specialities in detective fiction and criminology as well as cinema) and was hoping there were better copies extant, as that obviously affected my enjoyment of the film. I had read James Curtis's novel several years earlier - an interesting writer whose works are far from common.

And Thesiger was in good form in THE NIGHT OF THE PARTY which I watched the other day, despite its rather over-the-top denouement...
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

PostSat Jul 01, 2017 7:23 pm

Relatively little of Thesiger's life concerned motion pictures, but I still want to keep this thread active because I think he was such an interesting person. :D Here's a page from the revised, 1947 edition of his book Adventures in Embroidery:

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