Florence Roberts

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(b. New York, 16/03/1864 - d. Hollywood, 06/06/1940). American stage and film actress. According to the 1880 Census, at the time 16-year-old Florence Margaret Adelaide Roberts was living with her parents in New York, but she was already an actress. She began her stage career with the Denman Thompson Company when she acted first in the rural drama Joshua Whitcomb and then in its sequel, the hugely popular The Old Homestead. This is where she met her husband-to-be Walter Gale, who was a also a member of the company. Subsequently she joined M.B. Curtis for two seasons , acting in Sam'l of Posen by George H. Jessop. Most of her early working life was spent in stock companies and at one stage she headed her own theatrical group, operating out of Philadelphia.

In March 1917 she was one of the members of the American Dramatic Company that sailed for a tour of South Africa, arriving in Cape Town on Easter Sunday. For the African Theatres Trust she acted in Kick In, The Heart of Wetano, Help Wanted and The Easiest Way, all at His Majesty's Theatre, appearing with the likes of Richard Scott and Edward Donnelly, who had come over with her. The company subsequently went on tour and this was followed by appearances in The Cinderella Man, Nothing But the Truth and Palace, Bedroom and Bath, the latter with Edith Cartwright, Cecil Kellaway, Elise Hamilton, Hilda Attenboro and Harcourt Collett. Thereafter she joined the Allen Doone Company and appeared in The Burglar and the Lady and Tom Moore, acting with Richard Scott, J.B. Rowe, Yvon Saxby and Edna Keeley at the Standard Theatre. While in South Africa, she took small roles in three films produced by African Film Productions: Allan Quatermain (H. Lisle Lucoque/1919), The Man Who Was Afraid (Joseph Albrecht/1920) and The Vulture’s Prey (Dick Cruikshanks & William Bowden/1922).

In March 1918 she was planning to return to the United States via the Far East and Australia, but soon afterwards she was placed under an indefinite contract with the African Theatres Trust, which induced her to postpone her departure. In the event, she only arrived back in New York in December 1920. Her film career started in earnest in 1930, when she appeared in The Eyes of the World for Henry King. Though usually in small roles and frequently uncredited, she was gainfully employed until her death in 1940, appearing in such prestigious productions as The Life of Emile Zola (1937) and Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940). She became particularly well known for her role as Grandma in the multiple-part low-budget comedy series featuring the Jones family for 20th Century Fox. (FO)

(Note: Though practically every source gives her birthdate as 16 March 1861 - taken from Wikipedia - according to the 1880 U.S. Census she was born in 1864 and this is the date she provided for her passport application to the American Consulate in Johannesburg. It is difficult to establish an accurate overview of her early stage appearances as her career coincides with that of a contemporary namesake who lived from 1871 to 1927.)


The New York Clipper, 21 March 1917

The Dramatic Mirror, 6 April 1918

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




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