Further to Augustus Harris becoming my dead theatrical Jewish MASONIC boyfriend (he worked himself to death at 44, people! On pantomimes that lasted SIX HOURS! He used to fall off the stage during dress rehearsals! He was awesome, I have pages just on him), I have also discovered that the man who played the first Lord Windermere in Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, and the first Jack Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest, Sir George ‘now, look here Oscar’ Alexander, is the great-great-uncle of Hugh Laurie. According to IMDB, but I really want to believe it’s true! They’re both of Scottish descent! And George Alexander had a sister, the Oxford DNB says so!
Alexander was also the first Tanqueray in The Second Mrs Tanqueray (1893) (pictures are from the 1916 film. I need this film). I know nobody cares, but, damnit, this is what helps to make my degree worthwhile… he was a total fascist with his wife! But she was his manager and ran his life, I think. There’s this really sweet and appallingly-written memoir at the back of A. E. W. Mason’s biography of George. She used to buy all the flowers and arrange them herself for the St James’s shows (oh, yes, Alexander also ran the theatre. He was effectively what we’d now call the director – then the producer – for the above plays). Lady Alexander used, on first nights, to get her own round of applause simply for entering her box. Sir G also had some appalling rows with Wilde on the subject of his plays, and once entered into a conspiracy with a conservative theatre critic to get him to change a plot…. and back to my presentation.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.