Kyrle Bellew

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Kyrle Bellew (1855-1911)[1] was an English stage and silent film actor in the late 19th and early 20th century.


Born Harold Kyrle Money Bellew, he was a handsome man, who started performing in Australia, and for many years regarded as the foremost lover on the English stage. He acted with the Bancrofts and Sir Henry Irving and most notably toured with Mrs James Brown-Potter (Cora Brown-Potter) in the 1880s and 1890s as the Potter-Bellew Company, cast as the leading man in many stage productions alongside her.

He was also a signwriter, gold prospector and rancher mainly in Australia, making his fortune there. He settled in the USA at the turn of the century, to make his mark as an actor once more, most notably playing the original Raffles in Raffles, The Amateur Cracksman[2]. (The play opened at the Princess Theatre on Broadway on 27 October 1903, then moved to the Savoy Theatre in February 1904, eventually playing 168 performances.) He also did some early silent film work.

He was also a successful dramatist, his works including the English versions of Charlotte Corday, Hero and Leander, Yvonne, Iolande, Francillon, and others.

He died of pneumonia on November 2nd, 1911, in the Hotel Utah, Salt Lake City, while on tour in the USA .

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Mrs James Brown-Potter's company, including Bellew as leading man, was brought out to South Africa in early 1892 by Luscombe Searelle where they were greatly admired and popular with the public. Their repertoire included Romeo and Juliet, Camille, Hamlet, La Tosca, Frou-Frou, David Garrick and She Stoops to Conquer. They returned to England toward the end of February after the Exhibition Theatre in Cape Town burnt down, with all their costumes, just before a what was to have been their final appearance, a performance of As You Like It.


D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 300, 393-4, 403, 427

Jill Fletcher. 1994. The Story of Theatre in South Africa: A Guide to its History from 1780-1930. Cape Town: Vlaeberg.

Phyllis Hartnoll (ed.), 1967. The Oxford Companion to the Theatre. London: Oxford University Press: pp. 99-100.

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