Dame Agnes Sybil Thorndike CH DBE
(24 October 18829 June 1976) was a British actress
She was born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire
to Arthur Thorndike and Agnes Macdonald. Her father was a Canon
of Rochester Cathedral
. She was educated at The Rochester Grammar School for Girls
, and first trained as a classical pianist, making weekly visits to London
for music lessons at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama
She gave her first public performance as a pianist at the age of 11, but in 1899 was forced to give up playing owing to piano cramp. At the instigation of her brother, the author Russell Thorndike
, she then trained as an actress.
At the age of 21 she was offered her first professional contract: a tour of the United States
with the actor-manager Ben Greet
's company. She made her first stage appearance in Greet's 1904 production of Shakespeare
's The Merry Wives of Windsor
. She went on to tour the U.S. in Shakespearean repertory for four years, playing some 112 roles.
In 1908 Sybil was spotted by the playwright George Bernard Shaw
when she understudied the leading role of Candida
in a tour directed by Shaw himself. There she also met her future husband, Lewis Casson
. They were married in December 1908, and had four children - John (1909–1999), Christopher
(1912–1996), Mary (1914–2009) and Ann (1915–1990).
She joined Annie Horniman
's company in Manchester (1908–09 and 1911–13), went to Broadway
in 1910, and then joined the Old Vic
Company in... Read More