Alfred Edward Matthews

(1869—1960) actor

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(?1870–1960), English actor, son of a Christy Minstrel (see MINSTREL SHOW) and grand-nephew of Grimaldi's pupil, the Clown Tom Matthews. He began his career as a call-boy at the Princess's Theatre in 1886, and continued to act almost up to the time of his death. He never appeared in Shakespeare or in classical plays, which he rightly considered outside his range, but in his own line he was inimitable, with a sure technique which enabled him to seem at his most careless when he was most in control. He excelled in farce, and in his early years toured England, South Africa, and Australia in such plays as Pinero's Dandy Dick and The Magistrate, Hawtrey's The Private Secretary, and Brandon Thomas's Charley's Aunt. He returned to England in 1896, was in the first production of R. C. Carton's Lord and Lady Algy (1898), and then created a wide range of parts, including Cosmo Grey in Barrie's Alice Sit-By-The-Fire and Eustace Jackson in St John Hankin's The Return of the Prodigal (both 1905). He made his first appearance in New York in 1910, returning many times, and was as popular there as in London. Among his last and most successful parts were the Earl of Lister in The Chiltern Hundreds (1947) and The Manor of Northstead (1954), both by William Douglas Home. In private life Matthews, who was known affectionately as ‘Matty’, was an eccentric of dry humour, who refused to take his success seriously and posed as the bluff country gentleman. In youth he added 10 years to his age for fear of seeming too young for the parts he wanted, and in old age cut off 10 years in case he was thought too old to go on acting, but it now seems certain that he was 90 at the time of his death.

From The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Theatre.

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