The late lady Angela Lansbury’s great uncle was born in Irvine
TRIBUTES have been paid to acclaimed actress Angela Lansbury following her recent death, but few have heard of her connection to Irvine.
The North Ayrshire Heritage revealed in a report last week that her uncle, Shakespearean silent film actor Robert Bruce Mantell, was born in the town
The Heritage team revealed: “Robert was born in the town’s Wheatsheaf Tavern in 1854. The inn was rented by his parents and was next door to the old Tolbooth, roughly where Mum’s chippy is today.
“Mantel was not only born in Wheatsheaf, but also claims that it was there that he was “discovered” at the age of about four by none other than the famous showman PT Barnum.
“Barnum was apparently visiting Irvine with General Tom Thumb and stayed the night at the inn when he noticed young Robert looking fearfully at the diminutive ‘General.’
“Barnum allegedly sat the boy on his lap and said, ‘Someday, my boy, you’re going to be a great showman, too.’
In 1876, he made his debut on the professional stage. then toured the UK appearing in condensed productions of Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and Richard III.
It was during a performance in Liverpool that he caught the eye of the famous Polish Shakespearean actress Helena Majeska.
She was impressed by his appearance and persuaded him to go to America again, which he did, and this time was successful. He has become a successful Shakespearean actor, touring the US and UK and has recently appeared in silent films including Under the Red Coat, The Spider and the Fly and The Green Eyed Beast.
Mantell was married four times and had three sons and one daughter. He died at his home in New Jersey in 1928 at the age of 74, and we now say goodbye to his niece, Dame Angela.
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