Dame May Whitty (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸
Star of the British stage for more than fifty years, Dame May Whitty came to Hollywood to make her sound film debut in Night Must Fall, in the same role she played fifty-five weeks on the London stage. After completing the film with Rosalind Russell and Robert Montgomery, she stepped into the role of a psychic in The Thirteenth Chair.
Dame Whitty was born in Liverpool, June 19, the daughter of Alfred Whitty, editor of the Liverpool Post, and granddaughter of Michael James Whitty, founder of the newspaper when he was High Constable of Liverpool. She went on the stage when she was fifteen and was a star three years later.
14 Roles in 12 Nights
In 1886, she toured the British Isles with a repertoire that required her to play fourteen parts in twelve nights. Her first trip to America was with Ellen Terry and Henry Irving in 1895. Her next trip was as the wife of Ben Webster, who was making a New York stage appearance.
Her daughter, Margaret Webster, is also interested in the theatre and recently directed Maurice Evans in Richard II in New York City.
Dame Whitty appeared in America with Grace George in The Marriage of William Asche. Then, in 1907, she came again with Viola Allen in There’s Always Juliet. Her most recent stage appearance was on Broadway in Night Must Fall.
She also appeared in silent pictures in England. The first was “Enoch Arden,” in which her husband starred in 1914 at Elstree.
Honored by King
In spite of the fact that she is a pacifist, May Whitty was elevated to the rank of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1918, by King George V. because of her work in the war. She had raised $1,250,000 in nine months for the Star and Garter hospital at Richmond for wounded soldiers, without any remuneration for herself.
During the Pankhurst days, she also headed theatrical organizations which did much to secure the vote for English women and to place them in wartime jobs. She still belongs to many civic committees at home.
Dame May Whitty has already earned for herself the reputation of being a real trouper in Hollywood. She has a remarkable sense of timing and experienced little or no trouble in becoming used to sound pictures. Although she says that her greatest fear is to blow up on her lines, she has never yet forgotten her dialogue while in front of the camera.
She has traveled extensively in connection with her theatrical career and has spent considerable time in France, Italy and South Africa. She is very happy in Hollywood, and is living in Santa Monica within view of the Pacific.
Her favorite pets are dogs and she likes to read biographies and good fiction. Since she is such a talented actress, it is only natural that her favorite playwright should be Shakespeare and her favorite play Hamlet. Dame May’s favorite color is blue and her favorite food is chicken a la king.
Since her arrival in Hollywood, Dame Whitty has become very friendly with that other grand old actress, May Robson. The two have attended many social functions together and they thoroughly enjoy discussing the show-people of yesteryear.
Dame May Whitty’s greatest disappointment in America is the fact that no official government awards are bestowed on artists of meritorious abilities, as is the case in Europe.
Her latest role was in Conquest with Greta Garbo and Charles Boyer.
Collection: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1937)