Dick Cruikshanks

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Dick Cruikshanks (b. Walthamstow, London, 28/10/1874 – d. East London, South Africa, 17/03/1947) was a stage and film actor, a writer as well as a producer and director. Also credited as Richard Cruikshanks and Dick Cruickshanks.


Richard Wheatley Cruikshanks was the youngest child of Charles Cruikshanks and his wife, Charlotte Richard. His father was a successful actor and at one stage was Secretary of the Actors’ Association and later of the Royal General Theatrical Fund. Richard’s older sister, Edith, was also on the stage. Initially appearing as Richard Cruikshanks, he was with a number of English repertory companies and in the Census of 1901 he was described as a musical hall professional. In 1907 his sketch entitled La Vivandière, based on the Ouida novel Under Two Flags, was staged in London at the Britannia Theatre (with the cast including two horses who had “fought” in the South African War). In February 1900 he had married actress Florence Elizabeth Dentry, who was eight years his senior. She had taken the stage name of Florence Creagh, and in 1908 she acted in his play Daddy’s Boy. According to The Stage Year Book of 1911, the couple were both members of The Sketch Association.

In 1914 they came out to South Africa, initially with the Brandon Company, but later as permanent members of the London Dramatic Company, based at the Palladium Theatre. He had a prolific stage career and became a popular character actor. His appearances included the role of Javert in a version of Les Misérables (1914) and in hits such as The Octoroon (1914), Trilby (1914), United We Stand (195), Proof (1915), Hindle Wakes (1915), The Gay Lord Quex (1915) and Good Gracious, Annabella! (1918), many of them directed by Edward Vincent. However, from 1917 onwards he divided his attention between film and theatre. As an employee of African Film Productions, he directed or co-directed 13 of the films the company produced and acted in more than half of their total output. He clearly had the confidence of I.W. Schlesinger and when Harold M. Shaw walked out before The Symbol of Sacrifice (1918) commenced production, this prestigious film was entrusted to Cruikshanks.

In 1924 he and Florence performed in The Rising Generation for African Theatres and in July 1925 he acted in Baby Mine at His Majesty’s Theatre in Johannesburg. The following year he was part of a theatrical company that left for a tour of East Africa. After playing the historical figure of Piet Retief in De Voortrekkers (Harold M. Shaw/1916), he made a last film appearance in 1938 in the role of Paul Kruger in the English-language version of Die Bou van 'n Nasie and was singled out by the Cape Times for a “sensitive and, at times, extremely moving portrayal”. A popular and convivial figure, he took an active part in a variety of theatrical fundraisers for charity and benefits for theatrical colleagues. He was also one of the trustees of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund. When he died in East London in 1947, his profession was given as cinema manager, clearly a position given to him in view of his years of loyal service. Florence Creagh died the following year. (FO)


Stage actor

From Convent to Throne (1914), The Balloon (1914), A Beautiful Criminal (1914), The Old Folks at Home (1914), Les Misérables (1914), Bridget’s Idea (1914), The Octoroon (1914), Jim the Penman (1914), A Life’s Revenge (1914), Trilby (1914), No Mother to Guide Her (1914), Arra-na-Pogue (1914), Her Fatal Past (1914), Mrs. Gorringe’s Necklace (1914), United We Stand (1915), Proof (1915), The Traitor (1915), Hindle Wakes (1915), The Younger Generation (1915), Searchlights (1915), One of the Best (1915), At the Barn (1915), Advertisement (1915), The Angel in the House (1915), Letty (1915), The Gay Lord Quex (1915), Strife (1915), Outcast (1915), Quinney’s (1916), Liberty Hall (1916), General Joh Regan (1916), Have a Guess (1917), Guess Again (1917), Damaged Goods (1917), Good Gracious, Annabella! (1918), Captain Kidd, Jr. (1921), Tom Moore (1921), The Rising Generation (1924), Baby Mine (1925), Jill the Giant-Killer (1925), Charley's Aunt (1930), The Calendar (1931).

Film Director

Zulutown Rink (1917), Zulutown Races (1917), And Then--- (1917, co-directed with Joseph Albrecht), The Major’s Dilemma (1917, co-directed with Joseph Albrecht?), The Piccanin’s Christmas (1917, co-directed with Joseph Albrecht?), The Symbol of Sacrifice (1918), Bond and Word (1918), The Bridge (1918), Fallen Leaves (1919), Prester John (1920), The Madcap of the Veld (1920, co-directed with William Bowden), The Vulture’s Prey (1922, co-directed with William Bowden), The Blue Lagoon (1923, co-directed with William Bowden)

Film Actor

An Artist’s Inspiration (Lorimer Johnston?/1916), A Zulu’s Devotion (Lorimer Johnston, 1916), The Silver Wolf (Lorimer Johnston, 1916), The Illicit Liquor Seller (Lorimer Johnston, 1916), The Water Cure (B.F. Clinton/1916), The Splendid Waster (Lorimer Johnston/1916), The Gun Runner (Lorimer Johnston/1916), Gloria (Lorimer Johnston, 1916), De Voortrekkers (Harold M. Shaw/1916), Sonny’s Little Bit (Lorimer Johnston/1917), A Border Scourge (Ralph Kimpton & Joseph Albrecht/1917), And Then--- (Cruikshanks & Joseph Albrecht/1917), The Major’s Dilemma (Cruikshanks & Joseph Albrecht?/1917), The Symbol of Sacrifice (Cruikshanks/1918), Bond and Word (Cruikshanks/1918), Fallen Leaves (Cruikshanks/1919), Prester John (Cruikshanks/1920), The Man Who Was Afraid (Joseph Albrecht/1920), The Madcap of the Veld (Cruikshanks &William Bowden/1920), The Vulture’s Prey (Cruikshanks & William Bowden/1922), Swallow (Leander De Cordova/1922), Sam’s Kid (Leander De Cordova/1922), The Blue Lagoon (Cruikshanks & William Bowden/1923), The Reef of Stars (Joseph Albrecht/1924), Die Bou van 'n Nasie / Building a Nation (Joseph Albrecht & Andries A. Pienaar/1939).


Rand Daily Mail (various issues)

Gutsche, Thelma - The history and social significance of motion pictures in South Africa 1895-1940

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

Estate Papers, Western Cape Archives & Records Service

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