Charles Hallam Elton Brookfield

Charles Brookfield

Lottie Venne and Charles Brookfield.png

Charles Hallam Elton Brookfield (19 May 1857 – 20 October 1913) was a British actor, author, playwright and journalist, including for The Saturday Review. His most famous work for the theatre was The Belle of Mayfair (1906).

Brookfield achieved success in a 20-year acting career, including with the company of Squire Bancroft at London's Haymarket Theatre in the 1880s. After he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, in 1898, Brookfield focused on writing plays and musical theatre. In his last years, he was Britain's Examiner of Plays, even though he had been criticized as biased against various playwrights and also for writing a particularly risqué comedy in 1908.

Early life and career

Brookfield was born in London, the third child of Rev. William Henry Brookfield, curate of St. Luke's, Berwick Street and his wife, , novelist, daughter of Sir Charles Elton, 6th Baronet and niece of Henry Hallam. Brookfield was named after his paternal grandfather, a solicitor. His mother was a close friend of Thackeray and other literary figures, and his father was a devotee of the theatre, and young Brookfield grew up used to the company of artists and celebrities. With his brother Arthur, he created "dramatic diversions" at home. He was educated at Westminster School, from 1871 to 1873, and over the next two years attended lectures at King's College London, while also studying French theatre and becoming a reviewer of novels for The Examiner and a member of the Savile Club at the early age of seventeen. He then entered Trinity College, Cambridge (1875–78), participating in the productions of the Amateur Dramatic Club. There he earned the Winchester Reading Prize in 1878. After this, he tried studying law but disliked it.

Despite opposition from his family, Brookfield decided to try acting and made his professional stage debut in 1879 in a production of Still Waters Run Deep at the Alexandra Palace Theatre. In his first year, he appeared mostly on tour. In 1880, after a severe bout of ill health, Brookfield joined the company of Squire Bancroft at London's Haymarket Theatre, earning complimentary reviews for his performances in supporting roles. In 1884 he married actress and author Frances Mary Grogan (1857–1926), who used the stage name Ruth Francis. The couple had one child, Peter, born in 1888. Brookfield became known for witty repartee and was popular at clubs and social gatherings. His acting career ranged from pantomime and farce to Shakespeare. He starred in plays together with such stars of the day as Ellen Terry, Herbert Beerbohm Tree and the Kendals.

Early in his acting career, Brookfield began to write plays, including adaptations of French plays. His Poet and Puppets, a travesty of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, was well received at the Comedy Theatre in 1892, starring Charles Hawtrey and Lottie Venne. He also wrote To-day in 1892 and The Twilight of Love in 1893. In November 1893, he became the first actor known to portray Sherlock Holmes on stage, appearing at the Royal Court Theatre in Under the Clock, a musical parody of Holmes and Watson written with Seymour Hicks, who played Watson. Lottie Venne played Hannah, a maid of all-work. The piece angered Arthur Conan Doyle. His play, A Woman's Reason, which ran at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1895, was the first of his plays to appear on Broadway, in 1896. One of Brookfield's last acting roles was in The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, as Baron Grog, with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Savoy Theatre in 1897. He prepared the English adaptation of this piece, in which he bowdlerized the more risqué French version.

Later years


External links

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