The eminent theatrical impresario and stage director Basil Dean was born on 27 September 1888 at Croydon, the son of Harding Hewar Dean and his wife Elizabeth Mary (née Winton). He was educated at Whitgift School and made his first stage appearance at the Opera House, Cheltenham, in September 1906 as Trip in “The School for Scandal”. He acted a number of roles in Miss Horniman’s company at the Midland Hotel Theatre, Manchester, from 1907 to 1910, and in the spring of 1911 he became the first controller of the experimental Kelly’s Theatre in Liverpool, out of which emerged the Liverpool Playhouse. In 1912-1913 he was in charge of stage construction work at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He was associated with Barry Jackson and Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree and organized entertainments for the troops during World War I. He was awarded the MBE in 1918. In 1919, with Alec Rea, he formed the Readean Company, in a partnership that made many important contributions to the British theatre in the 1920s. In 1922 he was appointed consultant on stage lighting for the General Electric Company, Ltd. His partnership with Rea was terminated in July 1926 and the next month he formed Basil Dean Productions. He was managing director of L.B.D. Productions from 1939 to 1946 and also served as Director of the National Service Entertainments.
Dean was among the first to make talking pictures in Britain and was the first Chairman and Managing Director of Associated Talking Pictures, Ltd, British Film Distributors, Ltd, and Ealing Studios. Throughout his distinguished and varied career he also directed and produced numerous plays and films, including many of the films of Gracie Fields. He brought “The Inspector Calls” to the stage at the New Theatre (Old Vic) in October 1946. Among his many significant productions after the Second World War was “The Aspern Papers” (Queen’s 1959), with Michael Redgrave and Flora Robson.
Dean became a member of the Garrick Club in 1939 and was honoured with the CBE in 1947. He died in 1971. A very important archive of his papers, covering some 60 years of his career, including correspondence with many leading theatrical figures, press cuttings, promptbooks, set and costume designs, reviews and programmes, is in the John Rylands Library, Manchester University. (OCT, WWWT)