Collection of Research Material on Edith Evans, actress

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains photographs and images covering the life and career of Edith Evans, as well as a continuity script for the Brian Forbes documentary film on her and a VHS copy of the same. The collection also contains two items of related ephemera.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bryan Forbes is an English actor, writer and director. He was friends with Edith Evans during the last 12 years of her life, and collected this material whilst conducting research for his biography on her, Ned's Girl. In 1976 he directed her in the musical film The Slipper and the Rose.

Born in London in 1899, Edith Mary Evans first appearance on stage was in 1910 in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In 1912 she was discovered by the noted producer William Poel, and made her first professional appearance for him in a production of Sakuntala. In 1914 she was noticed by the novelist George Moore, who became her mentor and was responsible for her first work engagement at the Royalty Theatre, London.

Her career spanned sixty-six years, during which she performed over 150 different roles in works by a range of playwrights ranging from Shakespeare and Henrik Ibsen to Noël Coward and Christopher Fry, and created six of the characters of George Bernard Shaw including Orinthia in The Apple Cart (1929). Some of her notable performances include Millamant in The Way of the World (1924), Rosalind in As You Like It (1926 and 1936), Nurse in Romeo and Juliet (1932, 1934 and 1961) and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest (1939). She performed without a break until a few months before her death. Her final public appearance was a BBC radio programme before an audience in August 1976.

Evans had also begun a film career in 1915, her breakthrough movie being The Last Days of Dolwyn (1948), written and directed by Emlyn Williams. Evans was twice nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, and was nominated for the 1967 Best Actress award for her performance in The Whisperers, eventually losing out to Katherine Hepburn.

A life-long lover of poetry, Evans' final West End stage appearance was a performance of her one-woman show of poetry readings in 1973, whilst her last performance on film was at the age of eighty-seven in The Slipper and the Rose, in which she sang and danced.

In 1925, Evans married George (Guy) Booth, a petroleum engineer. He died a decade later and the marriage was childless. She was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1946. She died at her home in Kent in 1976, at the age of 88.

Arrangement

This collection has been arranged into the following series:

  • THM/291/1 - Photographs and images
  • THM/291/2 - Documentary continuity scripts
  • THM/291/3 - Video copy of Bryan Forbes' documentary
  • THM/291/4 - Mixed ephemera

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.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Bryan Forbes, 2001.

Separated Material

The following items were also part of this collection, but has been integrated in the department's library collections:

  • Browning, Robert: The poems & plays of Robert Browning (London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1919-21)
  • Nuckstone, John Baldwin: The thimble rig: a farce in one act / by John Baldwin Buckstone ... as performed at the Theatre Royal, Hay-market. (London: NAtional Acting Drama Office, [1844?])
  • Church, Richard: The prodigal: a play in verse (London: Staples Press, 1953)
  • Farquhar, George: The beaux-stratagem: a comedy (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1925)
  • Forbes, Bryan: Edith Evans: an address (c.1976)
  • Fry, Christopher: The dark is light enough: a winter comedy (London: Oxford University Press, 1954)
  • Gilmore, Margalo: The B.O.W.S. (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co, 1945)
  • Merimee, Prosper: Le carrosse du Saint-Sacrement (Paris : Librairie Gallimard, 1927)
  • Rede, William Leman: An affair of honour : a farce, in one act (London: Thomas Hail Lacy, 187?)
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters (Great Britain): Illustrated catalogue of the thirty-seventh annual exhibition: held at the Grafton Galleries ... Nov. 2nd to Dec. 1st, 1928 (1928)
  • Shakespeare, William: Much ado about nothing (London; Cassell, 1909) - annotated in pencil and signed and dated by Edith Evans 22/1/1912.

For further information, please see the V&A Library catalogue.

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 was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

Custodial History

Bryan Forbes collected this material whilst conducting research for his 1977 biography on Edith Evans, Ned's Girl.

Accruals

No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to the life and career of Edith Evans may be found in several collections, including the biographical, production and photograph files as well as the library collections.