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The Importance of Being Earnest 1939

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In 1939 the world trembled on the brink of war. Life had to go on.

John Gielgud directed and starred in a revival of "The Importance of Being Earnest" at the Globe Theatre in London.

Cast: Edith Evans, Angela Baddeley, Joyce Carey, Margaret Rutherford, Felix Irwin, John Gielgud, Leon Quartermaine, David Horne, Ronald Ward and John Justin. [1]

They gave eight matinee performances in aid of Theatrical charities in January and February.

On the 16th of August the play opened for a six week run at The Globe with Jack Hawkins, Peggy Ashcroft, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Edith Evans, John Gielgud, Margaret Rutherford and George Howe. [2] On the 1st of September Germany invaded Poland and on the 3rd Britain and France declared war on Germany. [3]If the play ran for the full 6 weeks it should have closed on the 26th of September.

The Government introduced a National Registration Bill into the House of Commons the same day that war was declared [4] and a National Register of the entire population was established coming into force on the 29th of September. [5] It is from this register that we can see how quickly Earnest was on tour in Blackpool.

Margaret Rutherford was with Lucy Griffith in digs at 112 Caunce St. [6]

Gielgud, Ashcroft, Hawkins and Howe were lodged together in Park Rd. [7]

Evans and Ffrangcon-Davies were staying at Buchannan St. [8]

John Gielgud volunteered, but was told they were not, at that time, taking men over 35. Later the government decided that most actors were better employed entertaining the troops and workers than fighting. [9] Jack Hawkins joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1941 as a lieutenant and served with ENSA in India and the Far East. [10] George Howe also joined ENSA. [11] Her talent having finally been recognised by the critics for Miss Prism Margaret Rutherford created the part for which she is best remembered, that of Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's "Blythe Spirit", in 1941. [12] Edith Evans joined ENSA serving in Gibraltar and India and touring in Britain and Europe. [13] Peggy Ashcroft got married and spent much of the war raising her daughter. [14] Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies continued to work on the stage and spent most of 1942 playing Lady Macbeth opposite John Gielgud as Macbeth. [15]


  1. V&A Globe Theatre 1939
  2. flickr
  3. Wikipedia: World War II
  4. Hansard HC Deb 03 September 1939 vol 351 c288
  5. Wikipedia: National Registration Act 1939
  6. 1939 England and Wales Register
    112 Caunce St, Blackpool, Lancashire, England
    First NameLast Name GenderM/SDate of BirthOccupation
    EdwinPick MaleM20 May 1901Window cleaner heavy work
    BerthaPick FemaleM26 Mar 1898Unpaid Domestic Duties
    FloraWilliams FemaleM18 Mar 1918Bleach dyer
    oneperson redacted---
    MarjorieThomson (Payne) FemaleS5 Jun 1928School
    Lucy AGriffiths FemaleS24? Apr 1909Actress
    MargaretRutherford FemaleS11 May 1892Actress
  7. 1939 England and Wales Register
    Park Rd, Blackpool, Lancashire, England
    First NameLast Name GenderM/SDate of BirthOccupation
    OliveMcKenzie FemaleS29 Jan 1890?
    JaneMcKenzie FemaleM26 Nov 1851?
    MayHiles FemaleM29 Mar 1893Unpaid domestic duties
    Arthur JGielgudMaleS-? manager
    PeggyAshcroft (Edith M Hutchinson) FemaleD-Actress
    John EHawkins MaleS-Actor
    George WHowe MaleS19 Apr 1900Actor
    RogerHoward MaleS8 Jan 1883?
  8. 1939 England and Wales Register
    45 Buchanan St, Blackpool, Lancashire, England
    First NameLast Name GenderM/SDate of BirthOccupation
    WilliamRafferty MaleM9 Sep 1886Light general labourer
    EllenRafferty FemaleM6 May 1890Unpaid domestic duties
    MaryRafferty (Moss) FemaleS7 May 1921Shop assistant
    GwenFfrangcon-DaviesFemaleS25 Jan 1991Actress
    Edith MBooth FemaleW8 Feb 1888Actress
  9. Wikipedia: John Gielgud
  10. WWII Gravestones.com: Jack Hawkins
  11. Wikipedia: George Howe (actor)
  12. Wikipedia: Margaret Rutherford
  13. Wikipedia: Edith Evans
  14. Wikipedia: Peggy Ashcroft
  15. Wikipedia: Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies

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