Classic Screams Banner

Ernest Thesiger Ernest Thesiger
Born: January 15, 1879
Died: January 14, 1961 (at the age of 81)

On January 15, 1879, Ernest Frederic Graham Thesiger was born in Chelsea, London, England, UK. Ernest was the grandson of the first Baron of Chelmsford. His family had many barons, war heroes and a famous explorer among his ancestors. As a young man, Thesiger should interest in painting and would socialize with some of the great artists of England such as George Bernard Shaw, Somerset Maugham, and John Singer Sargent. Ernest was educted at Marlbrough college and the Slade, he was originally hoping to become a great painter (he would however become an accomplished watercolour artist). He started acting in the theatre in the production of "Colonel Smith" (1909).

In 1914 Thesiger would enlist in the British army during World War I as a private (allegedly hoping to be assigned to a Scottish regiment because he wanted to wear a kilt). While in action he was wounded and joined the Church Army League of Friends of the Poor, helping to form the Disabled Soldiers Embroidery Industry and earning the humorous title of Honorary Secretary Cross-Stitch. His work teaching needlework to severely disabled men was admired by Queen Mary. Thesiger became a lifelong friend to Queen Mary and frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace.

Ernest Thesiger

Thesiger moved in several artistic, literary and theatrical circles. At various times, he frequented the studio of John Singer Sargent, befriended Mrs. Patrick Campbell, visited and corresponded with Percy Grainger and worked closely with George Bernard Shaw, who wrote the role of the Dauphin in Saint Joan for him. Somerset Maugham, on the other hand, responded to Thesiger's inquiry as to why he wrote no parts for him with the quip, "But I am always writing parts for you, Ernest. The trouble is that somebody called Gladys Cooper will insist on playing them."

In 1916 Thesiger would return to acting and was in a short film "The Real Thing at Last" (1916), he would portray a witch and appear in drag. In May 29, 1917, Thesiger would marry his first and only wife Janette Mary Fernie Ranken (sister of his close friend and fellow Slade graduate William Bruce Ellis Ranken) and they would stay married until he died. Thesiger retuned to the theatre in "A Little Bit of Fluff" and this play ran for over 1200 performances and he was asked to appear in the film version of "A Little Bit of Fluff" (1919). THesiger would appear in a production of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (1919) and he would meet and befriend James Whale. In 1925, Thesiger would show his ability to do camp by playing an eldery woman in Noel Coward's play "On With the Dance", again in drag.

Ernest Thesiger from The Ghoul (1933) James Whale, an old friend of Thesiger's, request him to come to Hollywood in the early 1930's to be in his upcoming film "Old Dark House" (1932) with Boris Karloff. Whale wanted Thesiger in the role of Horace Femm, Thesiger agreed to do the part and he stole the show. Thesiger would return to England again to make "The Ghoul" (1933) also with Boris Karloff.

Ernest Thesiger in Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) Thesiger made "The Only Girl" (1934) and "My Heart Is Calling" (1935). Then his old Friend James Whale asked him to come back to Hollywood to make the role that he would be remembered for, Thesiger would play Dr. Pretorious in the classic "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) (even though the studio wanted to use Claude Rains in the part). Dr Pretorious was only suppose to be a small character, Thesiger again stole the show. Unfortunatly this was the last time Thesiger would work with Whale's again. When Thesiger arrived in America he set up a display of all of his embroideries in his hotel room with price tags, he would work on embroidery during the making of the film.

Ernest Thesiger in Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) Ernest Thesiger in Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) Ernest Thesiger in Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)

Thesiger would go back to England and make "The Murder Party" (1935), "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" (1936) and a tongue-in-cheek horror film "They Drive by Night" (1938). He would appear in a few more notable films "My Learned Friend" (1943), "Don't Take It to Heart" (1944) 'Henry V" (1944), "The Ghosts of Berkeley Square" (1947), "The Winslow Boy" (1948).

Ernest Thesiger from Make Me An Offer (1954)

Thesiger came back to America to appear on Broadway in "As You Like It" (1950) then he would spend his time between theatre and film. He would make notable appearances in "Laughter in Paradise" (1951), "A Christmas Carol" (1951), "The Man in the White Suit" (1951) and "The Robe" (1953). He would make quite a few films finishing with "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" (1961).

Ernest Thesiger from Battle Of The Sexes (1959)

In 1960 He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) ay the Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama. He was a friend (and crochet partner) to Queen Mary.

Ernest Thesiger passed away in his sleep on the eve of his birthday January 14, 1961 (age 81) in Kensington, London, England of Natural causes. Thesiger was interred at Brompton Cemetery in London alongside his father, mother and sister.

Ernest THsiger Grave Stone

Ernest was an accomplished watercolor artist and embroiderer (and even published a book entitled 'Adventures in Embroidery' (1941)).

Thesiger's widow Janette passed away in 1970, aged 92.

------------ Films -----------
(1961)The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone Stefano
(1960)"ITV Television Playhouse" - Night Run to the West Calvin Broderick
(1960)Sons and Lovers Mr. Hadlock
(1960)The Battle of the Sexes Old Macpherson
(1960)"Armchair Theatre" - Lord Arthur Savile's Crime The Dean
(1959)"Armchair Theatre" - Suspicious Mind Professor Galton
(1959)"Armchair Theatre" - Invitation to Murder Millionaire
(1959)"ITV Television Playhouse" - The White Sheep of the Family
(1959)Result of an Accident (TV Short) Mr. Justice Finston
(1958)"ITV Television Playhouse" - The Touch of Fear
(1958)"ITV Television Playhouse" - Do as I Do Colonel Gyll
(1958)The Horse's Mouth Hickson
(1958)Chaucer's England (Short) Death
(1957)"ITV Television Playhouse" - The Queen's Husband Phipps
(1957)The Truth About Women Judge
(1957)"Joyous Errand"- Episode #1.1 Mr. Skaife
(1957)Doctor at Large First Examiner
(1956)Three Men in a Boat 3rd Old Gentleman
(1956)"BBC Sunday-Night Theatre"- Marching Song John Cadmus
(1956)Who Done It? Sir Walter Finch
(1956)"ITV Play of the Week"- Hamlet Polonius
(1955)An Alligator Named Daisy Notcher
(1955)Quentin Durward Lord Crawford
(1955)Value for Money Lord Dewsbury
(1955)Make Me an Offer Sir John
(1955)Simon and Laura (TV Movie) Wilson
(1954)Thought to Kill Burden Senior
(1954)The Detective Vicomte de Verdigris
(1954)Man with a Million Mr. Garrett, Bank Director (uncredited)
(1953)"BBC Sunday-Night Theatre"- The Public Prosecutor Montané
(1953)Meet Mr. Lucifer Mr. Macdonald
(1953)The Robe Emperor Tiberius
(1953)A Fish in the Family (TV Movie) Rev. Philip Hodgson
(1953)"Rheingold Theatre" - Thought to Kill Burdon Sr.
(1952)The Woman's Angle Judge
(1951)The Magic Box Earl
(1951)A Christmas Carol The Undertaker
(1951)The Man in the White Suit Sir John Kierlaw
(1951)Laughter in Paradise Endicott
(1950)Last Holiday Sir Trevor Lampington
(1949)The Bad Lord Byron Count Guiccioli
(1949)Macbeth/II (TV Movie) Weird Sister
(1949)Macbeth (TV Movie) Witch
(1949)Lost Daughter Bloomfield (scenes deleted)
(1948)Brass Monkey Ryder-Harris
(1948)The Winslow Boy Mr. Ridgeley Pierce
(1948)Quartet Henry Dashwood (segment "The Colonel's Lady")
(1947)The Ghosts of Berkeley Square Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Societ
(1947)Jassy Sir Edward Follesmark
(1947)The Smugglers Farne
(1946)Androcles and the Lion (TV Movie) Caesar
(1946)Beware of Pity Baron Emil de Kekesfalva
(1945)Caesar and Cleopatra Theodotus
(1945)A Place of One's Dr. Marsham
(1944)Henry V Duke of Berri - French Ambassador
(1944)Don't Take It to Heart Justices' Clerk
(1943)The Lamp Still Burns Chairman
(1943)My Learned Friend Ferris
(1939)Geneva (TV Movie) Sir Orpheus Midlander
(1938)Lightning Conductor Professor
(1938)The Ware Case Carter
(1938)They Drive by Night Walter Hoover
(1936)The Man Who Could Work Miracles Maydig
(1935)The Murder Party Chiddiatt
(1935)The Bride of Frankenstein Dr. Pretorius
(1935)My Heart Is Calling Fevrier
(1934)The Only Girl The Chamberlain
(1933)The Ghoul Laing
(1932)The Old Dark House Horace Femm
(1930)Ashes (Short) Announcer
(1929)Week-End Wives Bertram
(1929)The Vagabond Queen Lidoff
(1922)Number 13 Mr. Peabody
(1921)The Adventures of Mr. Pickwick Mr. Jingle
(1921)The Bachelor's Club Israfel Mondego
(1919)A Little Bit of Fluff Bertram Tully
(1918)The Life Story of David Lloyd George Joseph Chamberlain
(1918)Nelson Wiliam Pitt
(1916)The Real Thing at Last (Short) Witch

------------ Broadway Plays -----------
Nov 27, 1957 -
Jan 04, 1958
The Country Wife Sir Jasper Fidget
Jan 26, 1950 -
Jun 03, 1950
As You Like It Jacques
Nov 16, 1937 -
Dec 1937
Madame Bovary Lheureux
Oct 08, 1934 -
Nov 1934
A Sleeping Clergyman Dr. William Marshall
Jan 04, 1932 -
Mar 1932
The Devil Passes Cosmo Penny

Copyright © 2009 - 2016 by the author, Jess Oliver. All rights reserved