Frank Thornton as Major Murgatroyd in Patience

Frank Thornton (1877-83, 1891-92)

[Born 1845, died 18 Dec 1918]

Frank Thornton began his career as a performer giving evening entertainments in the London suburbs while working a day job in a merchant's office in the city. His first appearance on stage was as the Foreman of the Jury in a non-D'Oyly Carte production of Trial by Jury at the Aquarium.

He joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Opera Comique, appearing in the original production of The Sorcerer (November 1877-May 1878) as "the oldest inhabitant" of the village of Ploverleigh. During the first run of H.M.S. Pinafore (May 1878-February 1880) Thornton understudied George Grossmith as Sir Joseph Porter and Richard Temple as Dick Deadeye. He made the occasional substitution for Temple and also appeared briefly in two companion pieces:as General Deelah in Cups and Saucers, and as Pennyfather in After All!. From February 1880 to April 1881 he played Joseph in the curtain raiser In the Sulks. He also filled in for a time for Grossmith as Major General Stanley (April 1880) and for George Temple as Samuel (January 1881) in The Pirates of Penzance.

During the first production of Patience at the Opera Comique and the Savoy (April 1881-October 1882) Thornton created the small part of Major Murgatroyd, appeared as the title character, Samuel Crow, in the curtain raiser Uncle Samuel (May-October 1881), and filled in for George Grossmith as Reginald Bunthorne (March 1882).

When Iolanthe opened at the Savoy in November 1882, Thornton was still Grossmith's understudy, but in February 1883 he went on tour with Mr. D'Oyly Carte's No. 1 "Iolanthe" Company in the dual capacity of Lord Chancellor and stage manager. The tour ended on December 8, 1883.

Thornton then left the Company and, in February and March 1884, was in New York to stage manage the first American performances of Princess Ida, produced with D'Oyly Carte authorization at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. He subsequently returned to England, obtained the Australian rights to the farce The Private Secretary, and staged it in Sydney in July 1885. His tour of Australia lasted fifteen months, during which time he appeared as John Wellington Wells in the first Australian production of The Sorcerer (Theatre Royal, Melbourne, May 1886) and as the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury. He also stage managed and played a part in a successful Australian tour of Cellier's Dorothy later that year. Thornton had another tour of Australia from 1888 to 1890.

In June 1891 he returned to the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and the Savoy to create the part of Pyjama, the Grand Vizier, in The Nautch Girl. After The Nautch Girl closed in January 1892, Thornton toured from March to July 1892 as Bedford Rowe in The Vicar of Bray with D'Oyly Carte Opera Company "D." He left the D'Oyly Carte for the last time in July 1892.

Frank Thornton later appeared in London in La Rosiere (Shaftesbury, 1893) and The Sin of St. Hulda (Shaftesbury, 1896), and produced Facing the Music (Strand, 1900). An F. Thornton, possibly Frank, appeared in The White Man (Lyceum, 1910).

Page created August 27, 2001 © 2001 David Stone