BOUCICAULT, Dion (1859-1929)


BOUCICAULT, Dion (1859-1929)
actor and stage director
was born at New York on 23 May 1859, the son of Dion Boucicault the elder, the well-known actor and dramatist, and of his wife, Agnes Boucicault, who was also well known on the stage. Boucicault was educated at Esher, Cuddington and Paris, and made his first appearance as an actor in New York on 11 October 1879. His first appearance in London was in November 1880, when he played Andy in Andy Blake. Thereafter he was constantly on the stage either playing himself or directing the production. In 1885 he went to Australia with his father and decided to remain there. He entered into partnership with Robert Brough in 1886, and at the Bijou Theatre in Melbourne and the Criterion in Sydney a long series of plays by Robertson, Pinero, Jones and other dramatists of the period was produced with great care and artistry. A remarkably fine company was got together which included Boucicault's. sister Nina, afterwards to make a reputation in London, G. S. Titheradge (q.v.), and G. W. Anson. Though modern comedy was usually played there was one excursion into Shakespeare, a notable performance of Much Ado About Nothing with Titheradge as Benedick, and Mrs Brough as Beatrice. Boucicault had invaluable experience both as a producer and as an actor, and when he returned to London in 1896 he was capable of taking any part that his small stature did not disqualify him for. On 20 January 1898 he played one of his most successful parts, Sir William Gower, in Trelawney of the Wells, and a long succession of important parts followed. He directed the first production of Peter Pan and other well-known plays by Barrie, Milne and various leading dramatists of the time. He visited Australia in 1923 with his wife Irene Vanbrugh, with a repertoire which included Mr Pim Passes By, Belinda, The Second Mrs Tanquerary, Trelawney of the Wells, His House in Order and Aren't We All. Two other visits followed in 1926 and 1927-28 when plays by Barrie, Milne and others were staged. Boucicault's health began to decline in Australia, and returning to London, he died there on 25 June 1929. His wife survived him. A portrait by Byam Shaw is at the national gallery, Melbourne.
Boucicault was a great producer of comedy. No detail was too small and everything fell into its place in exact relation to the whole production. In Australia he set a standard that has seldom if ever been surpassed. He was a most finished actor in a wide range of parts and in his later years became the legitimate successor of Sir John Hare in playing old men's parts. It might be urged that his carefully thought out and elaborate business in such a part as Mr Pim drew too much attention to himself and prevented him from keeping within the frame of the picture. But to his many admirers the perfection of his detail was a constant delight, which more than compensated for any risks of that kind he may have run.
The Times, 26 June 1929; The Argus, Melbourne, 27 June 1929; Who's Who's in the Theatre, 1925; D, Mackail, The Story of J. M. B.; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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