Edward Donnelly

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(b. Benson, Vermont, 13/11/1870 - d. Bennington, Vermont, 22/05/1940). An American stage actor who was active between 1898 and 1930, Edward Donnelly was born in rural Vermont and according to the local Bennington Evening Banner, he always retained his link with the area. His name first comes up in the cast list of Rupert of Hentzau (1898) and after that he toured the United States with various stock companies, including that of David Belasco. An article in Stage & Cinema reported that he had also appeared in motion pictures, supporting Clara Kimball Young and others. In 1900 he had married Isabel Grogan.

In March 1917 it was announced that he would be a member of the newly established American Dramatic Company that would sail for a tour of South Africa to play the houses controlled by the African Theatres Trust. The company was recruited by Wyrley Birch and also included George Stillwell, Louise Holden, Richard Scott, Florence Roberts and Jack Pendleton. Towards the end of 1917 his brother in Bennington received a letter to say that they were doing excellent business and were likely to stay for another year.

After their arrival in Cape Town the company travelled to Johannesburg to appear at His Majesty's Theatre in a wide range of plays, many of which were also taken to the Theatre Royal in Durban and the Opera House in Cape Town. Between April 1917 and October 1918 he acted in Kick In, The Heart of Wetano, Help Wanted and The Easiest Way (1st season), followed by The House of Glass, The Dummy, The Misleading Lady, Daddy Long-Legs, Turn to the Right, The Cinderella Man, Nothing but the Truth (Montgomery), Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, The Thirteenth Chair, The Silent Witness and Sunday (2nd season). Early in 1919 he appeared in Romance, Seven Days’ Leave, Within the Law and The Little Brother, all with Madge Fabian and Frank Cellier. In 1918 he had also played the part of Mr. Bond in Dick Cruikshanks's film Bond and Word for African Film Productions.

Of all the members of the members of the American Dramatic Company he, Richard Scott and Florence Roberts stayed the longest and had become very popular amongst local theatregoers. He travelled to Southampton from Durban in May 1919 and finally arrived back in the United States in September of that year. Towards the end of 1917 reinforcements had been recruited for the ADC and amongst them was the widowed Caroline Locke (1869-1941). She left South Africa in February 1919 and later that year it was reported (by Florence Roberts) that she and Donnelly had married. Back in America he resumed his theatrical career and appeared on stages all over the country. His last role seems to have been in Everything’s Jake, a play by Don Marquis that had a brief run at the Assembly Theatre on Broadway in January 1930. He died in his home state of Vermont in 1940. (FO)

(Note: Various supposedly authoritative sources give his birthdate as either 1870, 1871 or 1872, but his death certificate states it to be 1870)


The New York Clipper, 21 March 1917

Stage & Cinema, 14 April 1917

The Bennington Evening Banner, 15 August 1917

The New York Times, 23 May 1940

Variety, 29 May 1940

Bryan, George A. - A historical who's who of Vermont theatre

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