Frank Harrison

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Frank Harrison (b. Birkenhead, Cheshire, **/**/1869 - d. **/**/****) was an actor and stage manager.

Biography

Robert Frank Harrison was the son of Robert Thomas Harrison, an accountant, and his wife Frances Eleanor Stevenson. By 1886 he was already employed by Sir Augustus Harris at the Drury Lane Theatre in London and he basically spent all of his life playing in repertory, occasionally acting with the big names, like Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in Robespierre (1899), but usually featuring in popular hits – The Girl in the Taxi, East Lynne, Under Two Flags – in the provinces. He was also stage manager at various theatres, including the new Coliseum in London (1904) for Oswald Stoll, and was occasionally asked to produce end-of-the-year pantomimes like Cinderella.

In April 1916 he came out to South Africa for an engagement with the African Theatres Trust. The first production in which he appeared was The Lady of Ostend at the Standard Theatre, produced by Ralph Kimpton for Leonard Rayne. Later he switched to the London Gaiety Company at His Majesty’s Theatre, acting with the likes of Marie Ault, Nancy Benyon, Thomas Pauncefort and Grafton Williams. His last appearance in South Africa was in Dick Whittington and his Cat (1917/18), first at His Majesty’s Theatre and then at the Pretoria Opera House. In between he also found time to act in the short film £20,000 (1916), directed by B.F. Clinton and co-starring Violet Dickens and Marie Ault. Altogether he spent more than a year-and-a-half in the country.

In 1918 it was reported that he would be leaving for India to join the company of Maurice E. Bandmann. By November of that year he was with the Bandman Musical Comedy Company in Egypt, but in 1919 he wrote from Alexandria that he had left Bandmann and was building his own theatre, hoping to open early in July. However, these plans do not seem to have worked out. It is not known where he went afterwards. He may have gone to the United States, because on 24 February 1922 Variety reported from Chicago that Janet Merle (Janet King Lyle) and a Frank Harrison would shortly launch a new vaudeville vehicle, written by Will Bradshaw and Gil Brown. However, by 1925 he was back in England to resume his repertory career there.

In 1896, Frank Harrison married actress Ethel Kay, with whom he had appeared in The Prodigal Daughter at the Royal Court in Liverpool. They had a daughter called Doris, but the couple divorced in 1911. In 1919, he wrote to S.A. Pictorial from Egypt to tell them that he had married Lily Stewart, whom he said was the granddaughter of Sir Oliver Stewart. (FO)

South African Stage Appearances

The Lady of Ostend (1916), Jane (1916), The Passport (1916), Tiger’s Cub (1916), To-night’s the Night (1916), The Girl in the Taxi (1916), Mr. Manhattan (1917), The Red Widow (1917), Theodore and Co (1917), So Long, Letty! (1917), A Country Girl (1917), The Maid of the Mountains (1917), Princess Caprice (1917), Dick Whittington and his Cat (1917).

Sources

The Stage, 13 April 1916

Stage & Cinema, 13 April 1918

Neil Parsons - Black and white bioscope: making movies in Africa 1899 to 1925 (2018)

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