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Bancroft, Squire (Sir)

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The actor-manager Squire Bancroft was born on 14 May 1841 and was educated privately in England and France. He made his first appearance on the stage at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, in January 1861 as Lt Manley in “St Mary’s Eve”. After playing numerous roles in provincial theatres he appeared in London for the first time on 15 April 1865 at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre as Jack Crawley in “A Winning Hazard”. There he met Marie Effie Wilton, the daughter of provincial players and already a well-established actress in London and co-manager of the theatre. They married in 1867 and embarked on distinguished co-managerial careers that made the Prince of Wales’s Theatre one of the most successful of its time and brought them into eminence as innovative producers. They made significant increases in the performers’ compensation and used more realistic and practical scenery, a practice started by Mme Vestris. They also played numerous leading roles. Among his finest were Sidney Daryk in “Society” (1865), Captain Hawtree in “Caste” (1867), Triplet in “Masks and Faces” (1875) and Orloff in “Diplomacy” (1878). She excelled in a number of the productions. They made their last appearances on 20 July 1885 in a mixed bill of their showpieces. They made occasional appearances thereafter under other managements. Bancroft was knighted in 1897. He served as President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and received an honorary doctorate at St Andrew’s University (1922). Bancroft, who cut a tall elegant figure, became a member of the Garrick Club in 1869; he was also a member of the Athenaeum and Green Room clubs (and was president of the latter). The Bancrofts published their memoirs “On and Off Stage” in 1888. He died on 19 April 1926 at the age of 84. Lady Bancroft, who also wrote several plays and a novel, died on 22 May 1921 at the age of 82. Their son George Pleydell Bancroft (1868-1956) also acted on the London stage and wrote novels; he was also a member of the Garrick Club. (OCT, WWWT)
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