Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 7 November 2009

Charles Collette (1842-1924)
English actor

Charles Collette

Charles Collette

(photo: Bertin, Brighton, circa 1880)

'Collette, Charles. - Mr. Charles Collette is the son of a solicitor, and for some time studied for the bar. Not liking the life, however, his father purchased for him, in 1861, when just nineteen, a commission in the 3rd Dragoon Guards, and after spending a year at Canterbury he was ordered out to Ahmednugger. In India he devoted himself to big game shooting, and used to enliven the station by acting with his fellow-officers in many of the old Strand burlesques, such as Fra Diavolo, The Lady of Lyons, Esmeralda, and the like. In 1866 the regiment returned to England, and whenever he could get leave, Mr. Collette used to slip off, and act with any provincial company that would have him. So successful was he on these occasions that he sold his commission in 1868, and soon afterwards appears at the Prince of Wales' Theatre (then under Miss Marie Wilton's [Mrs Squire Bancroft] management) as Charles Hampton in Tame Cats [12 December 1868], and scored his first professional success as Serjeant Jones in [a revival of] Ours. After leaving the Bancrofts, with whom he remained several yeas, he played under various managements. One of Mr. Collette's engagements during this time was in The Critic. Mr. Charles Mathews was impersonating Puff, the leading character, and one night he was prevented from appearing by a sudden attack of gout; whereupon Mr. Collette essayed the part at sight, and his success induced him to devote himself to studying parts of the Charles Mathews type, and with these he has since been closely identified. A long provincial tour as leading comedian in the Vaughan and Conway Company was followed by a series of London engagements, in all of which he played with his invariable energy and skill. In the autumn of 1890 he took the part of Peter Guzman in the Black Rover, at the Globe Theatre. Mr. Collette also gives entertainments of the [Corney] Grain and [George] Grossmith character, at which he is sometimes assisted by his daughter, Miss Mary Collette, who is also well known on the London stage as a clever young actress. Mr. Collette is married to [Blanche (Wilton)] a sister of Mrs. Bancroft.'
(Erskine Reid and Herbert Compton, The Dramatic Peerage, Raithby, Lawrence & Co Ltd, London, 1892, pp.55 and 56)

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© John Culme, 2009