The Pont Street entry in the Chelsea Directory, 1896
Name:Sir George Alexander
Dates:1858 - 1918
Address: 57 Pont Street, SW1
Dates at address:1896 - 1918
Born George Alexander Gibb Samson he was the son of travelling salesman William Samson. William loathed theatre and wanted Alexander to succeed in business. As a compromise Alexander considered medicine but was apprenticed to a London drapery firm. Here he joined an amateur group, soon appearing in benefit performances. He married Florence Theleur in 1882, who went on to help him in his managerial work.
Alexander made his debut in 1879 at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, later appearing with various touring companies. Henry Irving discovered him in 1881, hiring him to play Caleb Deecie in The Two Roses. He performed for Irving until 1889, gaining vital experience but chafing under his harsh regime. In 1890 Alexander leased the Avenue Theatre and managed his first play, Dr Bill, moving to the St James Theatre in 1891. Here he began a hugely profitable career producing plays, insisting on realistic staging, highest quality acting and a range of genres. His greatest successes were his productions of Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, helping Wilde make certain alterations to the script, and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Despite being Wilde’s neighbour and having made a fortune on his plays, Alexander still showed his ruthlessness after Wilde’s imprisonment. Alexander blacked-out Wilde’s name from billboards advertising his plays and bought out his acting rights. However, he did pay Wilde a voluntary sum on his release and bequeathed the rights to his son, Vyvyan Holland.
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