Grafton Williams

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Grafton Williams (b. London, **/**/1880 – d. Johannesburg, 30/08/1928) was a stage and film actor.


In 1921, S.A. Pictorial described Grafton Williams as the father of musical comedy in South Africa and it was in this genre and in light opera that he made his first major stage appearances in England, amongst them in such favourites as The Lady Dandies (1907), The Merry Widow (1908), The Count of Luxembourg (1912), The Quaker Girl (1912) and The Girl on the Film (1913). The latter show, staged at the Gaiety Theatre in London, was also taken to Broadway, where afterwards Williams also featured in The Belle of Bond Street (1914) at the Shubert Theatre. Subsequently he returned to England and soon afterwards came to South Africa with J.C. Williamson’s London Gaiety Company, for whom he also acted as stage manager. He appeared in a number of plays produced by Wybert Stamford at His Majesty’s Theatre, as well as pantomimes produced by visiting British actor Dan Thomas. For a period he was also a member of Lew James’s New Comedy Company.

In between his stage appearances he acted in seven films for African Film Productions, including four directed by Joseph Albrecht. In 1920 he married Gertrude Baker in Johannesburg and in August of the following year they left for Australia, where he resumed his theatrical career and acted in three more silent films. In January 1926 he appeared in The New Aladdin in Melbourne, but in August 1928 he was back in Johannesburg. There he apparently choked to death in his sleep as a result of taking paraldehyde, a sedative he took because he suffered from insomnia after he had been injured in a railway accident. A newspaper reporting on the inquest described him as “an unemployed Australian actor”.


Theatre Credits in South Africa

1915 – The Cinema Star, 1915 – The Marriage Market, 1916 – The Merry Widow, 1916 – High Jinks, 1916 – The Quaker Girl, 1916 – Betty, 1916 – To-night’s the Night, 1916 – The Girl in the Taxi, 1916 – Mr. Manhattan, 1917 – The Red Widow, 1917 – Theodore & Co., 1917 – The Country Girl, 1917 – The Maid of the Mountains, 1917 – Princess Caprice, 1917 – Dick Whittington and his Cat (pantomime), 1918 – The Pink Lady, 1918 – Arlette, 1918 – Aladdin (pantomime), 1920 – The High Cost of Loving, 1920 – Business Before Pleasure, 1921 – Hit the Trail Holliday.

Film Credits in South Africa

1916 – A Story of the Rand (Lorimer Johnston), 1916 – Gloria (Lorimer Johnston), 1919 – Copper Mask (Joseph Albrecht), 1919 – With Edged Tools (Joseph Albrecht), 1919 – Isban; or, The Mystery of the Great Zimbabwe (Joseph Albrecht), 1920 – Prester John (Dick Cruikshanks), 1920 – The Man Who Was Afraid (Joseph Albrecht).


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

Parsons, Neil - Black and white bioscope: making movies in Africa 1899 to 1925 (2019)

Pike, Andrew & Cooper, Ross - Australian film 1900-1977: a guide to feature film production

S.A. Pictorial, 22 March 1919

S.A. Pictorial, 20 August 1921

The Brisbane Courier, 24 September 1928

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