One of the great character actors of the English and American stage, George Arliss began his career in the late 1880s in the English provincial theater. He was signed by the English producer J.A. Cave who brought Arliss to the West End where for ten years he honed his craft, particularly the muscular control of his extraordinarily mobile face, his hand gestures, and his comic timing in dialogue. His first hit role was in 1900's "Mr. & Mrs Daventry." In 1901 he premiered on Broadway creating a sensation in "The Second Mrs. Tanquery."
For twenty-two years Arliss strode the American stage in a series of successes, including "The Darling of the Gods," "The Devil," and "Disraeli." He specialized in the 1910s in plays featuring peculiar central characters, contributing the repertoire with his own composition, "Hamilton." He was a capable dramatic writer and enjoyed collaborating with other authors. Six of his compositions went into production during his lifetime. In 1924, he reconquered the English stage in "The Green Goddess" and when he returned to the United States he brought with him a copy of Galsworthy's "Old English," his next major hit.
When sound came to the movies, Arliss moved into film. His later years were spent playing brilliant, difficult, sometimes sinister older men in historical dramas. He was Voltaire, Cardinal Richilieu, Mayer Rothschild, the Duke of Wellington, "the Millionaire," and "His Lordship." He also reprised many roles of his latter stage career on film. David S. Shields/ALS