Adele Fillis

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Adele Fillis (b. Calcutta, 01/01/1891 – d. Johannesburg, 13/06/1960) was a circus equestrienne and actress.


Adele Vicenta Fillis was the daughter of Frank Fillis, a prominent circus proprietor and showman who toured South Africa and the Far East during the turn of the 19th century. Her mother was Elisa Maria Vicenta Mayol, a Spanish-born circus performer. Born in India, she attended the Convent of the Holy Family in Parktown and thereafter performed as a highly regarded and popular equestrienne, first in her father’s shows and thereafter in her divorced mother’s rival circus. The first film in which she appeared was I.D.B. (1912), probably directed by Frank Fillis Jr. in which she acted with her husband-to-be, Harry Vine. Subsequently she appeared in four silent features: Fallen Leaves (Dick Cruikshanks/1919), Copper Mask (Joseph Albrecht/1919), Prester John (Dick Cruikshanks/1920) and The Vulture’s Prey (Dick Cruikshanks & William Bowden/1922), all for African Film Productions. S.A. Pictorial reported that for Copper Mask she did her own stunt work, taking a four-metre dive into a river in order to rescue a “drowning man”. In 1913 she had married Harry Vine Gandar, who also acted with her in The Vulture’s Prey. Their son, Laurence Gandar, was to become the crusading anti-apartheid editor of the Rand Daily Mail. Cecil Fillis, who acted in The Man Who Was Afraid (1920), was her brother, while Frank Fillis Jr., who appeared in King Solomon’s Mines (1918), was her half-brother. (FO)

(Stage & Cinema 05/05/17 includes photographs of Adele Fillis with her horse under “Death of a famous circus horse”)


Thelma Gutsche - The History and Social Significance of Motion Pictures in South Africa 1895-1940 (1972).

Neil Parsons - Black and White Bioscope: Making Movies in Africa 1899 to 1925 (2018).

Floris van der Merwe - Frank Fillis: The Story of a Circus Legend (2007).

Stage & Cinema, 5 May 1917

S.A. Pictorial, 19 April 1919

S.A. Pictorial, 13 March 1920

S.A. Pictorial, 29 April 1922

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