Ernest Thesiger

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

Unread post by Ludi » Sat Apr 09, 2016 8:13 pm

My particular area of film study is Ernest Thesiger, for whom film was a sideline, but he is now known only for his work in a tiny handful of films. In his time he was one of the most well known London stage personalities, working largely in comedy and period plays.

My Ernest Thesiger website: http://ernestthesiger.org/" target="_blank The most extensive exploration into the life and work of this fascinating creative character. I hope you enjoy it!

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Last edited by Ludi on Sun Apr 10, 2016 6:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Michael O'Regan
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Sun Apr 10, 2016 3:37 am

Excellent.
One of my favourite roles of his is in They Drive by Night (39) - a wonderfully atmospheric, if seldom seen, little British thriller.

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Ludi
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Sun Apr 10, 2016 6:49 am

I think Thesiger is great in that film, and it's a really serious role for him for a change.

http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... e_Run.html" target="_blank

I don't know why the links are weird, but they seem to work... :?
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Ludi
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Sun Apr 10, 2016 10:25 am

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by bobfells » Sun Apr 10, 2016 2:48 pm

Recently, I watched the BFI Blu-ray of THE GHOUL (1933) and I had to remind myself that Thesiger and Karloff were the same actors who played Pretorius and the Monster in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. I think that's the heart of acting - watching actors play scenes as completely different characters and in completely different relationships to each other.
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by brendangcarroll » Sun Apr 10, 2016 11:50 pm

What a wonderful website you have created - bravo! Thesiger enlivened every film in which he appeared. His later performances in "Scrooge" and "The Man in the White Suit" are especially delightful.

I have looked through the sections on your website and haven't found my favourite Thesiger anecdote (though it may be there). I read it years ago in an obituary I think and it concerned his experiences in the trenches, during WW1.

Someone asked him what it had been like, at which he raised his eyes imperiously skyward saying, (as only he could) " My dear! The noise! And the people!"

It must be the greatest dismissive put-down of the worst conflict of the 20th century on record. Priceless! :lol:
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Ludi
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:47 am

Thank you. :) I've never found a historical reference to that Thesiger quote, and the various versions from our time indicate to me that it might be apocryphal. It's my goal on the website to use primary source material, and keep apocryphal material to the Gossip page. I think I'll add that phrase to the page, since people seem to like it.

http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... ossip.html" target="_blank

If anyone has a historical reference to Ernest saying that about the war, I'd be thrilled if you could share it so I can include it on the website. I try to track down the earliest instance in which an anecdote or piece of gossip appears.
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Daveismyhero » Tue Apr 12, 2016 10:55 am

Have a potato!
I am not a purist, I am a funist!

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Rollo Treadway
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Rollo Treadway » Tue Apr 12, 2016 11:36 am

Congratulations on a finely crafted Thesiger website!

One of my most wanted rediscoveries among lost films would be Ernest's debut, The Real Thing at Last (1916). Written and co-directed by J.M. Barrie, and with Edmund Gwenn and Gladys Cooper in the cast, and a great-sounding premise:
American film producer Rupert K. Thunder (Edmund Gwenn) hosted the 30-minute film live. It parodies the sensationalism of the American entertainment of the day, contrasting it with more reserved British sensibilities. It loosely follows the plot of the play, but two versions of each depicted scene are shown:

In the British version, Lady Macbeth wiped a small amount of blood from her hands; in the American she had to wash away gallons of the stuff. In the British, the witches danced around a small cauldron; in the American the witches became dancing beauties cavorting around a huge cauldron. In the British, Macbeth and Macduff fought in a ditch; in the American Macbeth falls to his death from a skyscraper.
Ernest, fittingly, played one of the weird sisters of Macbeth, a role he would later play straight both on stage and TV. He's the middle one in the photo below, from a British 1949 TV production.

Image

Image

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:02 pm

I think the First Witch may be the character Ernest played in the most iterations; film, stage, radio, and TV. My avatar is Ernest as the First Witch in the infamous "cursed" 1942 stage production of MACBETH.

http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesiger/Macbeth.html" target="_blank

http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... cbeth.html" target="_blank
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Mark Zimmer
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Mark Zimmer » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:38 am

That 1916 picture sounds like a hoot. I hope it turns up someday.

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Fri Apr 15, 2016 5:57 pm

So do I! I would also love to see "The Adventures of Mr. Pickwick/The Pickwick Papers" another lost one.

from The Picturegoer, December 1921, Ernest as Mr. Jingle:

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http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesiger/Pickwick.html" target="_blank
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by s.w.a.c. » Wed Apr 20, 2016 1:30 pm

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.)
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David Alp
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by David Alp » Thu Apr 21, 2016 6:24 am

"Have a potato" -- that line from "The Old Dark House" . Why is it so famous? (or infamous as the case may be?)

I love the film, it is one of my favourites, and I love that line. But I don't understand its significance, or the humour behind it? Can someone explain?

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Richard P. May » Thu Apr 21, 2016 9:07 am

To me, the "Have a potato" line is enjoyable just because of the way it was delivered. It is perfectly in context, with the character saying it being in the process of serving dinner.
Both Thesiger and director James Whale should be complimented for this now classic line.
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by boblipton » Thu Apr 21, 2016 3:30 pm

David Alp wrote:"Have a potato" -- that line from "The Old Dark House" . Why is it so famous? (or infamous as the case may be?)

I love the film, it is one of my favourites, and I love that line. But I don't understand its significance, or the humour behind it? Can someone explain?
Humor is like sex: inexplicable. However, the humor may lurk in the implications. In the recent Laurie King novel The Muder of Mary Russell, appears the line
When the choice came down to tears, strong drink, or potatoes, one chooses potatoes.
for related humor, see the Midwestern saying "I didn't know whether to kill myself or go bowling."

Or, as Richard May suggests, it may be the way Mr. Thesiger delivers the line.

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Sat Apr 23, 2016 6:53 pm

Just updated the website:

An unexpected hobby. http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesiger/Himself.html" target="_blank" target="_blank

New stage page, “The Dark Horse.” http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... Horse.html" target="_blank" target="_blank

Ernest and William travel to New York on the Aquitania. http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... hoice.html" target="_blank" target="_blank

Detective, or Master Criminal? “The Crooked Billet.” http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... illet.html" target="_blank" target="_blank

An image from the end of Ernest’s career, “The Last Joke.” http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... _Joke.html" target="_blank" target="_blank
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by George O'Brien » Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:09 pm

I love Ernest Thesiger as Theodotus, Ptolemy's tutor in Pascals's "Caesar And Cleopatra". Especially the scene where he runs into the chamber where Caesar is issuing commands, wailing, ""Horror unspeakable! Woe! Alas!"

The Alexandria library is on fire, and he is understandably upset.
"This bar of likker is now a bar of justice!"

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Ludi
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Sun Apr 24, 2016 6:54 pm

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Does anyone remember if Vivian and Ernest have a scene together in THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS STONE, Ernest's final movie? I've only seen it once and it was years ago before I became Ernest's biggest fan.
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by FrankFay » Mon Apr 25, 2016 6:59 am

For some reason, when I think of him I hear "Sir Trevor Lampington" in resounding tones
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Donald Binks » Mon Apr 25, 2016 3:32 pm

There is a delightful take-off of him in "Gods and Monsters" in a scene which is focused on the filming of "Bride of Frankenstein".
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Mon Apr 25, 2016 5:03 pm

As I recall that scene is possibly a little erroneous because it depicts Ernest stitching in an embroidery hoop, and I have not been able to find any examples of him stitching anything so small. He seemed to specialize in large tapestries, rugs, entire embroidered chairs.... :shock:

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http://ernestthesiger.org/Ernest_Thesig ... idery.html" target="_blank"
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Sun May 22, 2016 1:08 pm

Here's a photo of Ernest with Gladys Cooper at the Theatrical Garden Party in 1922.

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Ernest and Gladys worked together several times, the earliest example I've found being "The Real Thing at Last." During the 20s they performed on stage together in "The Second Mrs Tanqueray" and "Excelsior." During this time Ernest designed (and probably crafted) a pair of earrings for Gladys. Later they appeared together in the 1946 film "Beware of Pity."

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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:12 pm

brendangcarroll wrote: I have looked through the sections on your website and haven't found my favourite Thesiger anecdote (though it may be there). I read it years ago in an obituary I think and it concerned his experiences in the trenches, during WW1.

Someone asked him what it had been like, at which he raised his eyes imperiously skyward saying, (as only he could) " My dear! The noise! And the people!"

It must be the greatest dismissive put-down of the worst conflict of the 20th century on record. Priceless! :lol:

I have finally tracked down this quotation - according to The Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, 5th Edition, it originally appeared in the book Sword of Bone by Anthony Rhodes, 1942, and is apparently referring to the retreat from the battle of Dunkirk, in which of course Ernest was not involved! :shock:

I will definitely be updating the Gossip page to reflect this important finding! :lol:
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Sat Jun 25, 2016 6:45 pm

It's difficult to find much new about Ernest's films, because he worked mostly in theatre, but I thought I'd share this murderous lurking from the play "When Crummles Played" 1927 (although I suppose it should be posted in the Silents era boards):

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

Unread post by daveboz » Sun Jun 26, 2016 6:36 pm

It's a tad early, but what the hell--Merry Christmas, everybody! Remember: if you don't drink his liqueurs, you won't need his caskets. [Photo from the Ward, Lock photoplay edition of SCROOGE, page 97.]Image
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Ludi
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Sun Jun 26, 2016 7:21 pm

:D Isn't his name actually "Mr. Stretch"?
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by daveboz » Sun Jun 26, 2016 7:40 pm

He is billed (in the aforementioned book) as "Undertaker". Ditto the IMDB.
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Ludi
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by Ludi » Mon Jun 27, 2016 9:44 am

Yes, that's the credit I've found for him also, but I think the Dickens character is named Mr Stretch. I'm just being pedantic*! :oops:

*ignorant
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Re: Ernest Thesiger

Unread post by daveboz » Mon Jun 27, 2016 9:26 pm

Pedantry, eh? Very well!

Not only does the undertaker in the Dickens original not have a name, he doesn't even appear. He is referenced as having signed the death certificate, and, in the scene where Scrooge's possessions are posthumously proffered to Old Joe, the undertaker sends an assistant.

So the undertaker in the movie is essentially a new creation, and his name is never heard.

There is no legitimacy for "Mr. Stretch".

A side note: in the 1915 edition of the novella illustrated by the great Arthur Rackham, the scene with Old Joe shows the undertaker's assistant, and he sure does look like Ernie! (You can obtain this from the Gutenberg Project.)

All of this is irrelevant: the card was intended to amuse.

AND a Happy New Year!
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