theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
“Walk! Not bloody likely. I am going in a taxi.” This famous line from George Bernard Shaw‘s Pygmalion was first spoken by Mrs Patrick Campbell in the original production in 1914. At the time she was almost 50 years old and yet she was considered such a distinctive actress that she could make an audience believe in her youth.
Born in London of an English father and Italian mother, her first experience of acting was when she joined the Anomalies Dramatic Club and it was through this group that she acquired an agent. One of her early successes was as Paula in Arthur Wing Pinero‘s The Second Mrs Tanqueray.
She was well-known for her sharp wit and eccentricities – Shaw called her ‘perilously bewitching’ – and she went on to play Shakespeare and Ibsen, as well as the redoubtable Anastasia Rakonitz in a stage adaptation of G B Stern’s The Matriarch.
On one notable occasion in 1905, she and Sarah Bernhardt played a three-week tour of Pelléas and Mélisande in the provinces; a great success, one Dublin critic nevertheless had this to say: ‘Mrs Campbell played Mélisande, Madame Bernhardt Pelléas; they are both old enough to know better.’
In her later years she went to live in the States. She lives on in her quotes, the most famous being: “It doesn’t matter what you do in the bedroom, as long as you don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses,’ and in the lengthy correspondence between her and Shaw which was turned into a play by Jerome Kilty called Dear Liar. According to Richard Huggett in the introduction to his play, The First Night of Pygmalion, she hated the sobriquet, ‘Mrs Pat’, by which so many of us refer to her. She died in France at the age of 75.
Originally published 30 September 2001.
Sarah Vernon © 2001
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