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Dame Sybil Thorndike (1945)

Dame Sybil Thorndike, CH DBE


Patron: 1970—1976

Dame Agnes Sybil Thorndike (24 October 1882 — 9 June 1976) was a British actress who toured internationally in Shakespearean productions, often appearing with her husband Lewis Casson.

Born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, Dame Sybil was the actress for whom George Bernard Shaw created the play St Joan. Having made her acting debut in 1904, she demonstrated her wide acting range when, during World War I, she took both male and female parts in Shakespearean plays at the Old Vic Theatre. An actress of great skill and versatility, she was especially noted for her tragic roles in Euripides' The Trojan Women (1920) and in St Joan (1924); she subsequently played St Joan more than 2000 times with great success. She also excelled in comedies such as Shaw's Candida (1924); She Stoops to Conquer (1943) by Oliver Goldsmith, and The Reluctant Peer (1964) by William Douglas Home. In 1962, she appeared in the first Chichester Festival production - Uncle Vanya directed by Laurence Olivier (who also played the Doctor) with a star-studded cast that included Michael Redgrave, Max Adrian, Rosemary Harris and Joan Plowright - and which was acclaimed as “the admitted master achievement in British twentieth-century theatre” by the Sunday Times, while The New Yorker called it “probably the best 'Vanya' in English we shall ever see”.

She was married to the noted actor and director Sir Lewis Thomas Casson, and she was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1931, and Companion of Honour in 1970.

Dame Sybil's ashes are buried in Westminster Abbey.

Sybil Thorndike
St Joan 1924
Sybil Thorndike
Wikipedia | Obituary

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