Julius Royston

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Julius Royston (b. Beverley, Yorkshire, **/**/1876 - d. Johannesburg, 29/06/1935) was a stage and film actor.


Alfred Julius (or Julius Alfred) Royston was born in the Yorkshire market town of Beverley and made his first appearance at Sadler’s Wells with a stock company under the management of J. Bannister Howard. Subsequently he acted first with Miller & Elliston, then with Sir Augustus Harris, followed by George Edwardes and finally W.S. Penley, the original stage star of Charley’s Aunt. In March 1897 he appeared in The Mariners of England at The Olympic and in January 1899 in A Little Ray of Sunshine at the Royalty Theatre in London. In 1901 he accompanied Mrs. Patrick Campbell’s repertory company to America, where they toured the United States and Canada for 15 months. The plays in which he appeared during this time included The Second Mrs. Tanqueray and The Joy of Living, both in October/November 1902 at the Garden Theatre, after which he returned to England.

He seems to have come out to South Africa in 1904 to join Joseph Ashman, performing in Cape Town in The Triumph of the Cross and then joining William Haviland and Edith Latimer under the management of the Wheeler Theatre Company. He was about to leave for England when he was called upon by Frank Wheeler to play Napoleon in The Duchess of Dantzic at His Majesty’s Theatre in Johannesburg. Afterwards he leased the Standard Theatre in that city for a number of farces and in 1910 organised a company to play the Theatre Royal in Durban. In addition, in October of that year, he co-produced The Dawn of Union at the Tivoli in Cape Town, which celebrated the unification of the country. Highly regarded by contemporary audiences, he achieved one of his greatest successes in the abridged version of the play The Bells as Mathias, the role Sir Henry Irving had made his own, but also acted in farces like Charley’s Aunt and The Private Secretary.

When African Film Productions began producing its own films, he soon became a member of its stock company, frequently playing the villain. He first acted in a number of shorts: A Story of the Rand (Lorimer Johnston/1916), A Zulu’s Devotion (Lorimer Johnston/1916), The Silver Wolf (Lorimer Johnston/1916), A Kract Affair (B.F. Clinton/1916), The Water Cure (B.F. Clinton/1916) and The Splendid Waster (Lorimer Johnston/1916) and these were followed by the features The Gun-Runner (Lorimer Johnston/1916), Gloria (Lorimer Johnston/1916), De Voortrekkers (Harold M. Shaw/1916), And Then --- (Dick Cruikshanks & Joseph Albrecht/1917) and The Symbol of Sacrifice (Dick Cruikshanks/1918). In the process he became one of South Africa’s first movie character actors.

In 1918 S.A. Pictorial reported that he had contracted tuberculosis of the spine and would be confined to bed at the Hillbrow Nursing Home for six months. He entered hospital in May 1918 and in March 1919 was allowed to go out for the first time. By August 1920 he was back in hospital, this time in East London, where he underwent an operation. Later that year, still seriously ill, he was advised to leave East London for the dry climate of the Free State. During his long illness his friends and colleagues organised a benefit concert for him, resulting in the General Manager of the African Theatres Trust being charged with contravening the Sunday Observance Law by “allowing and permitting” a non-sacred concert to take place in the Orpheum Theatre in Johannesburg. A somewhat uproarious court case ended with the charge being dismissed. After his eventual recovery he returned to the stage, primarily as a producer and ran a drama studio in Johannesburg. He died in 1935 and was survived by his wife, Mary Sophie Ives, whom he married in 1900, a son and a daughter. (FO)


Stage and Cinema, 25 May 1918

The Natal Witness, 1 July 1935 (Obituary)

The Star, 1 July 1935 (Obituary)

Human Sciences Research Council. Dictionary of South African Biography

André I. le Roux and Lilla Fourie. Filmverlede: Geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse Speelfilm



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