Owen Ramsay Nares - Actor (1888-1943)


Photo autographed Southport, 1937

Born on 11 August 1888 at Maiden Erleigh, Berks, the only son of William Owen Nares.  He was educated at Reading School and, having contemplated a business career, was persuaded by his mother to try the stage.  He studied under Rosina Filippi, in 1908, and his first engagement was in 1909 at the Haymarket Theatre.  Before Ivor Novello came along, he was the big heart-throb of his generation both in the West End and on the screen.  His health was always delicate, which added a romantic air to his appearance and contributed considerably towards his appeal to his audiences.  The plays he appeared in tended to be very "middle-brow" and un-memorable, but he became immensely popular.   His golden period was the early 1920's when he became a true "matinée idol" and was adored by a huge number of fans.  (For years, through my childhood, women would ask me, when they heard my name, if I was related to him and even as I youngster I was not unaware of a certain look in their eyes!!)   

    

In addition to his busy stage career he appeared in over 40 films.  Many of these were silent but his stage experience meant he was very much in demand when "talkies" took off.  In some ways he was past his best by this stage and the roles he was given were really just providing support for rising stars like Jessie Matthews and Gracie Fields as well as other well-known names like Basil Rathbone, John Mills, & John Gielgud (who read one of the lessons at his memorial service).  As well as acting he did well as both manager and producer.


Owen Nares with his father, William Owen Nares,
and his eldest son, David Nares. (photo dated Nov 1919)

He married the actress, Marie Polini, in the spring of 1910 and had two sons, David Nares b.6 May 1914 and Geoffrey Nares b. 10 June 1917.  He was the author of "Myself, and Some Others" which was published in 1925.  

It was while he was on tour in Wales, on 31st July 1943, and was visiting the Shoulder of Mutton, birthplace of Mrs Siddons, that he collapsed in the very room where the great actress was born. He died half an hour later, in spite of having been in good health up to that time.

 

Plays that he starred / co-starred in:
"Robert's Wife" no details
"Old Heidelburg",  1909 at the St James' Theatre.
"Mid Channel",  1909 by Pinero, at the St James' Theatre, with Irene Vanburgh and Lyn Harding.  ON played an upholsterer.
"The Crucible", at the Comedy Theatre, with Henry Ainley and Evelyn D'Alroy.
"The Ogre",  1911 by Henry Arthur Jones at the St James' Theatre with Kate Cutler, Sydney Fairbrother and Gladys Cooper.
"Lady Windermere's Fan",  1911 by Oscar Wilde at the St James' Theatre with Marion Terry, Lillian Braithwaite and Ernest Thesiger.
"King Henry IV", at His Majesty's Theatre as Prince Henry, with Beerbohm Tree and Matheson Lang.
"Peter Ibbetson", as Peter Ibbetson, with Constance Collier.
"David Copperfield" at His Majesty's Theatre with Beerbohm Tree.
"The Great Gay Road", by Tom Gallon at the Court Theatre.
"The Blindness of Virtue", by Cosmo Hamilton at the Little Theatre.  (It was this performance that really attracted the attention of the London audiences). 
"Milestones", at the Royalty Theatre.
"Diplomacy",  1913 as Julian Beauclaire with Sir Gerald du Maurier at the Wyndham's Theatre.
"Romance",  1915 by Edward Sheldon at the Duke of York's Theatre, then the Lyric, with Doris Keane.
"Pamela",  1917-18 at the Palace Theatre with Lily Elsie, music by Frederick Norton.  (Two songs from the show were recorded in Nov 1918 and released on 78rpm (HMV 04224/5)
"Hello America",  1918 with Elsie Janis.  (Two songs from the show were recorded in Jan 1918 and released on 78rpm (HMV 434)
"The Willow Tree", with Renée Kelly.
"Mr Todd's Experiment",  1920 by Walter Hackett at the Queen's Theatre with Marion Lorne and Meggie Albanesi.
"The Charm School",  1920 at the Comedy Theatre with Keneth Kent, Meggie Albanesi and Sydney Fairbrother.
(His half-brother, Evelyn John Wickens, was his understudy for the leading role).
"Quarantine",  1922 by F. Tennessee Jesse, at the Comedy Theatre with Edna Best.
"If Winter Comes", 1923 by AJM Hutchinson, presented by Frank Curzon at the St James' Theatre with Grace Lane.
"The Little Minister",  1923 by J M Barrie, as Rev. Gavin Dishart at the Queen's Theatre with Marie Ault.
"Diplomacy",  1924 Revival at the Adelphi Theatre.
"Grounds for Divorce",  1925 at the St James' Theatre, with Lawrence Grossmith and Madge Titheradge
"The Fanatics",  1927 Dir:  Leon M Lion?
"Two White Arms",  1928 by Harold Dearden, at the Ambassador's Theatre with Nigel Bruce, Sydney Fairbrother and Marda Vanne
"The Calendar",  1929 by Edgar Wallace at the Wyndham's Theatre.
"Hold Everything",  1929 by DeSylva, Brown and Henderson, at the Palace Theatre with Dorothy Dickson, George Gee and Mamie Watson.
"When Ladies Meet",  1933 with Marie Tempest and Ann Todd.
"Double Door",  1934 at the globe then the Strand.  He played Robert Van Brett and (Dame) Sybil Thorndike played his wife, Victoria.
"Lover's Leap", 1934 by Philip Johnson. Played at the Vaudeville Theatre with Nora Swinburne, John Counsell, Ursula Jeans and Walter Hudd.
"Call It a Day", 1935 as Roger Hilton, with Marie Lohr, Fay Compton.  Dir:  Basil Dean.
"Sixteen", by Aimee and Philip Stuart, at the Criterion, with Barbara Everest, Anne Burden, Alexis France, Dora Gregory, Fabia Drake and H G Stoker.  Produced by John Fernald.
"Rebecca",  1940 as Max de Winter.
"The Petrified Forest",  1942 as Alan Squier at the Globe Theatre.  This production was on tour in Wales, in 1943,  when he died suddenly.
 
Films that he starred / co-starred in:
"His Choice", 1913 with Herbert von Herkomer, Clarissa Selwynne & May Blaney.
Dir: Herbert von Herkomer.
"Danny Donovan", 1914 with Gladys Cooper and Thomas Meighan.
Dir:  Walter Waller
"The Real Thing At Last", 1916 with Ernest Thesinger, Gladys Cooper, Edmund Gwen, Godfrey Tearle etc.    Dir:  L C McBean
"Milestones",   1916 with Isobel Elsom and Minna Grey
Dir: Thomas Bentley
"Just a Girl", 1916 with Daisy Burell, J Hastings Batson, Minna Grey & Paul England.
Dir: Alexander Butler.
"The Sorrows of Satan",  1917 with Gladys Cooper, Lionel D'Aragon, Cecil Humphreys, Winifred Delvanti,  & Minna Grey.
Dir: Alexander Butler
"One Summer's Day",  1917 with Fay Compton, Sam Livesay & Eva Westlake
Dir:  Frank Bayley
"The Labour Leader",  1917 with Fred Groves & Fay Compton
Dir:  Thomas Bentley
"Flames", 1917 with Margaret Bannerman, Edward O'Neill, Douglas Munro and Clifford Cobbe.
Dir:  Maurice Elvey
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor", 1918 with Isobel Elsom, James Lindsay & Minna Grey
Dir:  Rex Wilson
"Onward Christian Soldiers",  1918 with Isobel Elsom
"The Man Who Won",  1918 with Isobel Elsom, Annie Esmond & John Kelt
Dir:  Rex Wilson
"God Bless Our Red White and Blue",   1918 with Isobel Elsom
"The Elder Miss Blossom",  1918 with Isobel Elsom, Minna Grey and C M Hallard
Dir:  Percy Nash
"Gamblers All",  1919 with Madge Titheradge, Ruby Miller & C M Hallard
Dir:  David Aylott
"Edge o'Beyond",  1919 with Ruby Miller, Isobel Elsom, & Minna Grey
Dir:   Fred Durrant
"A Temporary Gentleman",  1920 with Madge Titheradge & Tom Reynolds
Dir:  Fred Durrant
"The Last Rose of Summer",  1920 with Daisy Burrell,  Minna Grey & Tom Reynolds
Dir:  Albert Ward
"All the Winners",  1920 with Maudie Dunham & Sam Livesay
Dir:  Geoffrey Malins
"For Her Father's Sake",  1921 with Isobel Elsom James Lindsay & Tom Reynolds
Dir:  Alexander Butler
"Brown Sugar", 1922 with Lillian Hall-Davis, Eric Lewis, Henrietta Watson etc.
Dir: Fred Paul.
"The Faithful Heart", 1922 with Lillian Hall-Davis etc
Dir: G B Samuelson.
"The Indian Love Lyrics",  1923 with Catherine Calvert and Malvina Longfellow
Dir:  Sinclair Hill
"Mirriam Rozella",  1924 with Moyna MacGill & Gertrude McCoy
Dir:  Sidney Morgan
"Young Lochinvar", 1924 with Gladys Jennings & Dick Webb
Dir:  W P Kellino.
"The Sorrows of Satan", 1926 with Adolphe Menjou & Lya De Puti
Dir:  D W Griffith
"The Sentence of Death",  1927 with Dorothy Boyd & Peter Evan Thomas
Dir:  Miles Mander
"The Marriage Business", 1927 with Estelle Brody, Marjorie Hume, Jack Rutherford etc.
Dir: Leslie S Hiscott.
"The Middle Watch",  1930 with Margaret Halstan & Hamilton Keene
Dir:  Norman Walker
"Loose Ends",  1930 with Miles Mander & Adrienne Allen
Dir:  Norman Walker
"The Woman Between",  1931 with Adrienne Allen & C M Hallard
Dir:  Miles Mander
"Aren't We All", 1931 with Gertrude Laurence & Hugh Wakefield
Dir:  Harry Lachman
"Sunshine Susie", 1931 with Renate Muller and Jack Hulbert
Dir:  Victor Saville
"Where is the Lady",  1932 with Martha Eggerth & Wendy Barrie
Dir:  Victor Hanbury & Ladislao Vadja
"The Love Contract",  1932 with Cosmo Bellew and Frank Harvey
Dir:  Herbert Selpin
"There Goes The Bride", 1932 with Jessie Matthews, Jerry Verno, & Basil Radford.
Dir:  Albert de Courville
"Frail Women",  1932 with Mary Newcombe & Miles Mander
Dir:  Maurice Elvey
"The Impassive Footman", 1932 with Betty Stockfeld, Alan Jeayes, George Curzon etc.
Dir: Basil Dean.
"Discord", 1933 with Benita Hume and Harold Huth
Dir:  Henry Edwards
"One Precious Year", 1933 with Basil Rathbone, Anne Grey, & Flora Robson
Dir:  Henry Edwards
"The Private Life of Don Juan", 1934 with Douglas Fairbanks Snr., Merle Oberon
Dir:  Alexander Korda
"Royal Cavalcade",  1935 with a cast of "thousands" incl. John Mills
Dir:  Thomas Bentley & Herbert Brenon
"I Give My Heart",  1935 with Margaret Bannerman & Arthur Margetson
Dir:   Marcel Varnel
"The Story of Papworth", 1936 with Madeleine Carroll, Mabel Constanduros, Nicholas Hannen etc
Dir: Anthony Asquith.
"Head Office", 1936 with Nancy O'Neil, Arthur Margetson, Eileen Peel, Alexis France etc.,
Dir: Melville W Brown.
"The Show Goes On", 1937 with Gracie Fields, Arthur Sinclair, John Stuart, Cyril Ritchard & Billy Merson.  
Dir:  Basil Dean.
"The Prime Minister",  1941 with John Gielgud, Diane Wynyard & Fay Compton
Dir:  Thorold Dickinson

The films were all in Black & White, and were silent up to "The Sentence of Death", in 1927.
For fuller details on all these films, (or if you are a film fanatic), try this excellent link
 

I would like to say a big Thank You to all the people who email me with
further information about plays and films in which Owen appeared.  

If you have any further information about Owen Nares' life, please email us.