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30 December 2013

Lewis Waller

Lewis Waller (1860-1915) was best known as a matinee idol in the popular romantic plays of his day. He also worked as a playwright and a stage manager, and appeared in several films.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by J. Beagles & Co, E.C., no. G 703 O. Photo: Langfler Ltd.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by J. Beagles & Co, E.C., no. 703 B. Photo: Langfler Ltd., London.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., no. 4222 C. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the stage production Robin Hood (1906).

Lewis Waller
British postcard by Rotary Photo, EC, no. 107 G. Sent by mail in 1905.

Vigorous Acting


Lewis Waller was born William Waller Lewis in Bilbao, Spain, in 1860, as the son of a civil engineer.

He first appeared on the London stage in 1883, and came to the front by a fine performance as Buckingham in The Three Musketeers under legendary English actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree's management at His Majesty's in 1895.

Soon afterwards Waller organized a company of his own, first at the Haymarket and afterwards at other theatres. His fine voice and vigorous acting earned him critical acclaim in a number of Shakespeare roles, such as the title character in Henry V, Brutus in Julius Caesar, and Faulkenbridge in King John.

He had his greatest successes, however, in romantic roles, such as Monsieur Beaucaire, a dramatic adaptation of Booth Tarkington's novel.

He married Florence West, an actress who appeared often with Waller in his most successful romances.

Grace Lane, Lewis Waller
Grace Lane and Lewis Waller. British postcard, no. 1595. Photo: Rotary Photo.

Lewis Waller as Monsieur Beaucaire
British postcard by Raphael Tuck & Sons in the Play Pictorial Series, no. 5A. Photo: publicity still for the stage play Monsieur Beaucaire.

Lewis Waller, Evelyn Millard
British postcard by J. Beagles & Co., London, no. 756V. Photo: Langfier Ltd. Lewis Waller and Evelyn Millard.

Lewis Waller, Valli Valli
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., no. 2183 E. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the stage play The Duke's Motto (1908) with Lewis Waller and Valli Valli.

Fires of Fate


In 1899 Lewis Waller appeared in the short film drama King John (Walter Pfeffer Dando, William K.L. Dickson, 1899), based on a scene from Shakespeare's play. King John was played by Sir Henry Beerbohm Tree.

Fifteen years later Waller played the title role in the historical drama Brigadier Gerard (Bert Haldane, 1915), an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel.

Two of his plays were filmed after his death. His Fires of Fate, based on another novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Tragedy of Korosco, was filmed in 1923 by Tom Terriss.

Finally Maurice Elvey directed Henry, King of Navarre (1924), based on Waller’s adaptation of the historical novel by Alexandre Dumas père.

Lewis Waller died in 1915, only 55 years old.

Lewis Waller
British postcard in The Wrench series, printed in Saxony, no. 997. Photo: Biograph Studio.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by E. Hildesheimer & Co, London/Manchester. Sent by mail in 1905. Photo: Lafayette. Waller in his stage role as Brutus in Julius Caesar.

Lewis Waller
British postcard by Rotary Photo, no. 4252 K. Sent by mail in 1908. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the play The White Man (1908). In this play, based on the Western play The Squaw Man (1905) by Edwin Milton Royle, Lewis Waller appeared as Cowboy Bronco Buster at the Lyric Theatre in London. In the cast there were also several American performers.

Lewis Waller and George Fawcett in A White man
British postcard by Rotary Photographic Series, no. 4298 D. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the play A White Man (1908). This play, based on the Western play The Squaw Man (1905) by Edwin Milton Royle, was presented at the Lyric Theatre in London.

Sources: Harry Rusche (Shakespeare & The Players), IMDb and Wikipedia.

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