Thursday, June 8, 2017

Born Today June 8: Charles Reade


English novelist and playwright Charles Reade was born on this date in Ipsden, England (located in Oxfordshire).  When at university age, he studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, earning a B.A. in 1835.  Immediately following this, he became a fellow of his college.  He subsequently became dean of arts and vice-president of the college, all the while studying the law at the same time.  In 1847 he took a degree of D.C.L. (a legal degree) and was then called to the bar in 1843.  Though he kept his fellowship at Magdalen College for the remainder of his life, he did not live in Oxford; his practice at the bar necessitated that he live in the environs of London.  When Reade began to write, he started writing for the stage, though he did also get into writing novels, he always preferred to write for the live action of the theater.  Reade's works were wildly popular in his lifetime, and he was one of the highest paid writers of his time, but was considered to be a writer of "indecent pulp" by critics and libraries.  He also had obvious character flaws in his private life as well.  He disowned his adopted daughter when she ran away with an actor--someone she likely would never had met if not for her father--when she was 16 years of age.  The relationship quickly dissolved, but he refused to ever acknowledge her again.  She herself became a stage actress, acting in stage adaptation of one her father's novels hundreds of times, but eventually wound up destitute and living in a workhouse, which is how her life ended.  By the early twentieth century his work was falling seriously out of fashion;  and almost all of the films made from his work were made during the silent era, with only three made in the 1930's and none after 1937. The first film was the short Peg Woffington (1910), an Edison film, directed by Edwin S. Porter.  In all, 21 films were made from his work between 1910 and 1922, with the last of these being a kind of "mash-up"--Tense Moments From Great Plays was a film from the United Kingdom.  The first sound film using his writing as source material came in 1931 with The Lyons Mail.  The last film made from his work (so far...) is one of my personal favorite Tod Slaughter films; It's Never Too Late To Mend (1937), which is based on his novel of the same name (though it had long been adapted for the stage); it remains one Reade's only real work of social commentary.  Reade died in London on the 11th of April 1884 almost one month to the day from his 70th birthday.  He is buried in St. Mary Churchyard in Willesden, which is in the great London area.  On his burial monument he had all of his life accomplishments listed, making sure that "dramatist" was listed first.

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