Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings and photographs about actress Sybil Thorndike; her actor and producer husband Sir Lewis Casson and their daughters, Mary and Ann Casson who both acted from childhood. The majority are reviews of plays, including G.B. Shaw's St Joan and Major Barbara, but there are also articles by and about the Cassons. Heavily annotated rehearsal scripts pasted into scrapbooks for two productions of Macbeth, and G.B. Shaw's St Joan; copies of other plays and a book draft of Theatre Testament by Kay Poulton, for which Lewis Casson was writing the foreward. Various honours including honorary degrees and a medal from the ' Quinzaine Anglo-Americaine', in 1945. Items range in date from 1919-1971, though most are from between 1924 and 1930.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dame Sybil Thorndike and her husband Sir Lewis Casson were a popular and celebrated theatrical couple from the 1920s onwards. Both acted from an early age; Thorndike beginning her professional career with Ben Greet, Casson with Poel and the Vedrenne-Barker company at the Royal Court. They met acting in Annie Horniman's repertory company at the Gaiety Theatre Manchester and married in 1908. They moved to London and toured the USA before returning to Manchester where Casson directed his wife in a highly acclaimed production of Hindle Wakes. During the First World War Thorndike acted at the Old Vic (while Casson was in the army) and began to win critical recognition for her work. She followed this with a series of special performances of Greek plays and two years in Grand Guignol melodramas alongside her brother Russell and Casson (who also directed). Thorndike's next role was in Shaw's St Joan (written for her), widely regarded as the finest moment in a long career which saw her play a variety of parts with a range of celebrated co-stars (among them Olivier, Gielgud, Richardson and Ashrcoft). Casson continued to act occasionally but concentrated his energies on directing, helping to establish Equity, promoting CEMA and serving on the board of the Arts Council.

Arrangement

Arranged in to the following series:

  • THM/33/1 - Scrapbooks and cuttings
  • THM/33/2 - Honours including degrees, medals etc
  • THM/33/3 - Correspondence and legal documents
  • THM/33/4 - Miscellaneous papers
  • THM/33/5 - Photographs and images

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Appraisal Information

This collection has been appraised according to departmental policy. Playscripts, books and gramophone records have been incorporated in to library and core collections.

Accruals

No further accruals expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files. Related material may also be located in THM/34 James Bridie and John Casson Archive.

Please ask for details.