Ralph Kimpton

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Ralph Kimpton (b. Bishopsgate, London, 25/03/1879 - d. **/**/1941) was a British-born stage manager, producer and occasional film director.


According to the official records, Howard Ralph Kimpton’s father was originally an outfitter, but when he died in 1897, Peter Kimpton’s profession was given as retired “coffee-house keeper”. The 1901 Census lists Ralph as a commercial clerk, though he was already involved in the theatre. In 1900 he played in a cricket match between London and provincial actors in order to raise money for the Actors’ Benevolent Fund and he remained involved in organising such charity matches for a number of years. In 1902 he became an assistant stage manager for Sir George Alexander at the St. James’s Theatre in London and in 1906 he took over the management of the company’s production of Pinero’s His House in Order. The following year he obtained the provincial rights for the play from Sir George and toured the smaller towns well into 1908.

In August 1909, he joined Alfred Wareing, the driving force behind the newly established Glasgow Repertory Theatre, where he and Wareing produced Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, the first time an English translation of the Russian playwrights works had been staged. He was also responsible for the production of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan. Next he became stage manager for Lena Ashwell’s company and then joined Charles Kenyon at the Little Theatre. When Kenyon took Cosmo Hamilton’s The Blindness of Virtue on a tour of the United States, Kimpton was the stage manager. Except for a short break when he became ill and returned to England to recuperate, he stayed in America until July 1914.

In November of 1915 he came to South Africa, travelling on the same ship as Frank Cellier, who was coming out with the Ethel Irving Company. He joined Leonard Rayne at the Standard Theatre and produced a number of plays throughout 1916. He also staged an amateur production of The Merchant of Venice for presentation at the Palladium Theatre from 24 to 27 April 1916 on the occasion of the Johannesburg Shakespeare Tercentenary Celebration. After that he was employed by African Film Productions and, according to the S.A. Pictorial of 1 September 1917, was one of the company’s assistant producers, having worked as such on Harold M. Shaw's De Voortrekkers. However, in April of that year the magazine had already reported that he was the co-producer (with Joseph Albrecht) of The Border Scourge (1917). It was a first feature for both of them and it is likely that Albrecht took care of the technical side, while Kimpton directed the actors. By the end of the year Kimpton was involved in an acrimonious libel case against his former employer, joining Shaw, who had also fallen out with I.W. Schlesinger. In April 1918 the case was settled out of court.

In December 1917, Kimpton had moved to Cape Town to join Harold Shaw Film Productions and actually had a small role in Shaw’s The Rose of Rhodesia (1918), but after Shaw returned to Great Britain, Kimpton went back to the theatre, re-joining Leonard Rayne at the Standard Theatre and staging a number of plays with Frank Cellier, Freda Godfrey, Florence Glossop-Harris and Dorothy Peters. These included favourites like The Blindness of Virtue and Disraeli (both 1918), as well as Peter Pan (1919), with Freda Godfrey in the title role. In November 1919, he directed Alfred Holtzer's play A Broken Chain at the Railway Institute for the Owl Club. There is circumstantial evidence that in 1923 he may have been in Port Elizabeth, but we have not been able to establish any further involvement in the theatre in South Africa. At some stage he returned to England and in 1935 he produced For the Love of Mike for the Great Yarmouth Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society. According to the Register of 1939 he was living in Shelton Mallet, Somerset and he seems to have died in 1941 in Hendon, which is now part of Greater London.

In 1906 he married Welsh actress/singer Elizabeth Davies and in 1907 the couple had a son. He also had two children with actress Eileen Draycott, a son in 1917 and a daughter in 1919, both born in South Africa. (FO)

Theatrical Credits (South Africa – as producer only)

1916 – Quinney's, 1916 – Peaches, 1916 – The Soldier’s Daughters (sketch), 1916 – The Lady of Ostend, 1916 – Jane, 1916 – Saturday to Monday, 1916 – The Passport, 1916 – Kultur at Home, 1916 – Tiger’s Cub, 1916 – What Every Woman Knows, 1916 – Caroline, 1916 – The Duchess’s Diamonds (sketch), 1918 – The Blindness of Virtue, 1918 – The Little Minister, 1918 – The Morals of Marcus, 1918 – The Professor’s Love Story, 1918 – The Natural Law, 1918 – Disraeli, 1918 – Folly, 1918 – Love, 1918 – East Lynne, 1919 – Peter Pan, 1919 – Quality Street, 1919 – A Broken Chain.


Stage & Cinema, 3 February 1917

Stage & Cienma, 1 September 1917

The Cape Times, 13 December 1917

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



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