The Chrissie White Tribute Page
Image copyright Elmbridge Museum
One of Britain's first film stars. Chrissie was a principal actress in the Hepworth Picture Players at the Walton Studios. Chrissie White (1895–1989) was a British film actress of the silent era. She appeared in over 180 films between 1908 and 1933. White was married to actor and film director Henry Edwards, and in the 1920s the two were regarded as one of Britain's most famous and newsworthy celebrity couples. She starred in the 1920 film "The Amazing Quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss", which as of August 2010 is missing from the BFI National Archive, and is listed as one of the British Film Institute's "75 Most Wanted" lost films.
See her IMDB entry.
London, England, UK Chrissie White was born Ada Constance White in
Chiswick, London, in 1895 – the year film was introduced by the Lumière
British actress Chrissie White was a popular child star in early British silent films. Born Ada Constance White in Chiswick, London, on 23rd May 1895, she got her start when she joined the Hepworth company in 1907 as a 12-year-old girl, when she substituted for her sister, Gwen. Chrissie's sister Rosina White also worked for Hepworth.
She was given her stage name "Chrissie" and was one of the first stars in British films. She frequently staffed shorts directed by Lewin Fitzhamon.
The blue eyed beauty of early British cinema made nearly 100 films during her career. (show more from IMDB)
Chrissie White made her first stage appearance as a child in "Bluebell in Fairyland", and at the age of 14 was engaged by Cecil M. Hepworth for Lewin Fitzhamon’s "For The Little Lady’s Sake".
The following year she was teamed with Alma Taylor, as "The Tilly Girls", a team who featured in a series of sentimental comedies in 1910 and 1911.
Watch "Tilly the Tomboy Visits the Poor" to get an idea. They can still raise a laugh today!
‘One can watch her with pleasure, irrespective of the part she is playing, because she makes herself felt as an individual and is not merely a puppet: in short, she is quite a little feast in herself.’ A contemporary critic’s opinion of Chrissie White as Tilly the Tomboy.
By 1912 Chrissie White was firmly established as Hepworth’s leading lady and the most popular British star of the time.
Chrissie was married on 20th July 1912 to Claude Whitten, a local 29 year old man whose profession was given as "Manager of a cinematograph producing company", who worked for Hepworth. Chrissie gave her age as 21, but she was actually 17. Both gave addresses in Walton on Thames. The marriage was witnessed by Frederick Hamilton McCormick-Goodheart, and Gladys McCormick-Goodheart (see the Gladys Sylvani page for a connection). The duration of Chrissie White's first marriage is not known, nor whether they had children.
The Hepworth Studios certainly seemed to be an organisation that supported families: Claude Whitten worked for Hepworth, as did his brother Norman, who married actress May Clark in 1907 and whose son was Vernon Whitten.
Chrissie White was very frequently partnered by Stewart Rome or Henry Edwards, both of the Hepworth Stock Company. Edwards also directed most of their films together. All in all they did some 22 films together.
Later on in the 1920s, White married her long-time Hepworth co-star and frequent director Henry Edwards and had a daughter Henrietta, who also became an actress.
Chrissie White was absent from the screen from 1924 until 1930, when she returned to make two talking pictures ("The Call of the Sea", 1930, and "General John Regan" (1933), filmed in Northern Ireland, both directed by Edwards, after which she definitively retired from the screen.
But the public did not forget Chrissie - watch archival footage of a rare Pathé documentary feature about their family life at their home "Gracious Pond" in Chobham, Surrey (now a listed building) during 1945/1946, together with their actress daughter Henrietta. This shows Henry Edwards as a talented photographer in his own right.
And even later on a BBC documentary was made with film of her in old age reminiscing about her silent film days. She had worked in over 180 films, shorts and features.
Chrissie White made a short record of her reminiscences in
Chrissie White remembers the Hepworth studios at Walton
I'm really got into filmmakingthrough pure cheek! My elder sister was an actress and during the summer of 1907 she was on tour with SEYMOUR Hicks when a letter came from Hepworth studios asking if she would act in a film. I wrote back to say that she was away but would I do in her place; I was only 12 years old but they accepted me and that is how I began my film career. I think the film was called The Unknown Knight. It was made up in St. George's Hill before the houses were built there, but it was never finished. Something was always going wrong - the Knights fell off the horses - or there were too many trees in the way of the camera - I don't know really what happened. The first film that was shown was about gypsies; I played in gypsy girl and the film was made in action in part with LEWIN FITZHAMON.
At first I used only to film in the school holidays. I lived in Chiswick and used to get letters from the studios saying "come if fine". O, the worry of those words! I would get up at 6.00 AM. "Is it fine, mother, is it fine?" Off I would go and perhaps it was raining by the time I got to Walton. We got about six shillings a day if we were filming, half that amount if it was wet. Alma Taylor, another young actress, and I became great friends; she lived in Sunbury and in later years I stayed there with her. When it was a wet we used to help in the processing rooms, joining up all the lengths of film. There was never any star system at Heppy's studios; everyone helped in doing what was needed at that time.
The people of Walton used to be the extra some crowd scenes in films. One of them wasPansy SEABY, whose father owned the bus to and from Walton station. It was a horse bus and we'd borrowed it or the horses on several occasions. Pansy was in a good many films, usually as an extra. I remember she was a champion swimmer and used to swim in the Thames. So did the two Faithfull brothers, Geoffrey and Stanley, they were the cameraman and film technicians from Hepworth.
Walton was such a "Heppy" place, there are always seemed to be something going on in the village. The Hepworth stock company was formed just before the war, after I had left school; I was a member, along with H plumb and Percy maintain the made a series of films called open quote hall, a" and the adventures of a policeman. Before this be used to film under several different names, but once the com pany was formed we stuck to one named as the public was beginning to know and recognise us. There was Stuart Rome, Alma Taylor, Violet Hopson, and many others too. We were all very proud of being Hepworth a picture players.
Happy was one of the best men in the film world and very clever too. He invented a tracking camera that could follow actors about an move around them so that a film had its own style, it was not just a photograph to play. He also invented by the VIVAPHONE, which was the gramophone mounted up with the camera. We used to dance and mouth the words of songs while the camera turned. When the film was shown the record was played at the same time. We called the days when we did this "VIV" days of and thought it had great fun. As you can imagine if the synchronisation was wrong when the films were projected the results would be hilariously funny, even if they were not meant to be. And
Every summer "Heppy" used to take the companyto Lulworth cove in Dorset. We made several films there. And I remember that we shot one in new piece Barry, near-by, where the beach was a very steep. I had to sit on a little rock until the tide came up to my shoulders, then fits Hammond swam out to rescue me. I was terrified of the water and never learned to swim. However, as we always did our own stunts; i.e. even jumped into 6 feet of water at sunbury for one film. And a crowd of us had to jump in, I came up on someone's head and grabbed by the side. I got the part of clearly never tomboy because I was willing to do anything. The original delete was unity more; she was a beautiful dancer and to mother thought she might get hurt so she gave up the path and I had it. Alec Taylor joined us in the telly series. We did all sorts of things, drove the fire engines, climbed letters, played tricks on people. It was always great fun and we seemed always to be laughing.
During the war(1914/1918) we made shorts for the ministry of information. They were propaganda films to make people by war bonds or save bones for salvage. Some of them are quite funny; we had a dog called Mac and protected in a lot of them. After the war Heppy bought Oatlands Lodge, which stood next to the absence park hotel; we made several films there. It had a beautiful garden and greenhouses; the company shared the fruit and vegetables, we did very well. "Heppy" had the idea of buying the field next to it to build a big studio, but the hotel people objected, so back he went to Hurst Grove and bought some land at the end where he put other buildings to house new generators. The Playhouse stands there now and is used for dances and amateur productions. The new generators meant more light and power and the films were longer and technically better.
Henry Edwards was a director of theTurner Film Company. Florence Tanner, an American film star, known as the Vitagraph girl, was his leading lady. Eventually she wanted to go back to California, and Henry Edwards was left without a leading lady. Add to that time, 1917, I was offered a contract by a London play producer and thinking about leaving films. Henry Edwards heard about this and asked me to team up with him, which I did, and we did the Edwards series of Hepworth films until the company collapsed in 1923. We were married in 1924. But we never had the money to spend on production that the Americans had and "Heppy" was not hard enough as a businessman to compete with them. And he was a wonderful artist and you have to make people happy, whether watching or working in his films, but in the end he became bankrupt and we did too, and afterwards my husband and I started our own film company. However, I shall always remember my association with Walton and Cecil Hepworth with real happiness and, for me, this was where filming began.
Mrs. Henry Edwards ( Chrissie White )1973.
Dictated using voice recognition - not checked or corrected
Thanks to Janice Healey
for certain information in this biography.
Chrissie White (1895-1989) BLOOD AND BOSH
Dir.: Hay Plumb; cast: Chrissie White, Jack Hulcup, Ruby Belasco, Alma Taylor, Harry Gilbey; orig. length: 650ft.; 35mm, 592ft., 10’ (16 fps), BFI/National Film and Television Archive.
In this truly bizarre early parody of the melodrama we can see the antecedents of the absurdist tradition in British comedy. The plot concerns a baby, the beneficiary of a will, who is kidnapped by comedy villains, chucked through a window (thus neatly extinguishing the candle on the gunpowder keg to which its father is tied), then dropped back out of the window, trampled on (by Father jumping out the window!), and finally rushed to the hospital to be re-inflated. ("If the child does not explode in thirty seconds,” the surgeon gravely diagnoses, "it will survive!”)
There are gags aplenty in the intertitles, including some early spoofing of the latest novelty, the Feature Film: a title announces that after Part 1 there will be a 30-minute interval to change spools before Part 2. There are also mocking references to popular works of the time, such as The Light that Failed (cited as the villains remove the coins from the gas meter to foil the baby’s operation). There are some humorous trick effects, and that ever-popular visual joke, rapid cross-cutting between scenes in which absolutely nothing is happening.
The director Edward Hay Plumb (1883-1960) was an actor in films from 1910, and from 1912 to 1915 was one of Britain’s most prolific directors. He returned to activity as actor throughout the 1930s. Hepworth star Chrissie White enters gamely into the spirit of this macabre early parody thriller.
Acknowledgement: Hepworthfilm.org is grateful to acknowledge that the Blood and Bosh text above is by Bryony Dixon, BFI, for the Pordenone catalogue. Thanks to Bryony for permission to reproduce it here.
See the Chrissie White Blockbuster Filmography with script synopsis included.
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