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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 6 February 1885Rochester, Kent, England, UK
Date of Death 7 November 1972London, England, UK
Birth NameArthur Russell Thorndike

Mini Bio (1)

Lesser known than sister Dame Sybil Thorndike but just as versatile, Russell Thorndike was a British actor who later turned author and novelist. Of the two, Russell had natural talent but lacked the fire. His first love was for the pen and, following WWI, devoted himself more and more to writing. He was born Arthur Russell Thorndike on February 6, 1885, at Rochester, where his father had recently taken the position of canon at Rochester Cathedral. A student at St Georges School, Windsor Castle, he was a chorister of the Chapel Royal. At his suggestion, both Russell and Sybil (who once aspired to be a concert pianist) tried acting as a career in 1903. They became students at Ben Greets Academy and two years later fellow-members of his company on a North American tour, including New York. He remained in all three-and-a-half years with the company, once giving three performances as Hamlet in three different versions of the text on the same day. He also toured in South Africa and Asia.

At around this time he completed his first novel of romantic adventure on Romney marsh entitled "Dr Syn." In 1914 he entered military service. Brother Frank, who once performed on stage, was killed in action and Russell was severely wounded at Gallipoli and discharged. He rejoined Ben Greet's theatre company and his sister at the Old Vic in 1916 in which he played the classics -- King John, Richard II, and King Lear (Sybil portrayed The Fool) He also acted with Sybil and her husband, Lewis Casson, in their touring repertory of melodramas. In 1922 he earned applause for his performance in Henrik Ibsen's first professional production of "Peer Gynt" at the Old Vic.

As for film, Russell's appearances were infrequent. He did portray Macbeth (1922) in a silent version of the play opposite Sybil's Lady Macbeth and also played leads in silent versions of other classic plays including A Christmas Carol (1923) as Old Ebenezer, and The School for Scandal (1923) as Sir Peter Teazle. He ended his career in minor priest roles for Laurence Olivier in Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955). Although Russell continued on the stage for four more decades (including playing his own Dr Syn character and entertaining audiences as Smee in ten revivals of "Peter Pan"), he felt a deeper fulfillment for writing, which would include the later work "The House of Jeffreys." Thorndike married Rosemary Dowson, a daughter of the well-known actress Rosina Filippi, in 1918. He died on November 7 1972 at the age of 87.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Rosemary Dowson (17 August 1918 - 7 November 1972) (his death)

Trivia (7)

Brother of actresses Sybil Thorndike and Eileen Thorndike.
Was sister Sybil's biographer in 1950.
A cousin of actress Brenda Dunrich, whose mother was a Thorndike.
Father of Daniel Thorndike. It is possible that Rosina Thorndike is also one of his children as she has the same given name is his wife's mother.
Along with John Laurie and Esmond Knight, he is one of only three actors other than Laurence Olivier himself to appear in all three Shakespearean films that Olivier directed: Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955).
Both he and his sister Sybil Thorndike appeared in films starring and directed by Laurence Olivier: he appeared in Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955) while his sister appeared in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957).
He played the husband of his real life sister Sybil Thorndike in Macbeth (1922).

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