Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 28 November 2009

Alma Murray (1854/56-1945)
English actress

Alma Murray

Alma Murray

(photo: New School of Photography, London, early 1870s)

'MURRAY, ALMA, born in London, November 21, 1856 [sic], and made her first appearance on any stage in 1869, at the Olympic Theatre, London, as Saccharissa, in W.S. Gilbert's Princess. From 1869 to 1875 she played various small parts at London theatres, viz. the Olympic, Royalty, Adelphi, and Drury Lane. From August 1875 to April 1877 she was engaged in the provinces, playing "juvenile lead" characters, such, for example, as Rose Cudlip (Forgiven), Lottie (Two Roses, Kate Garston (Lancashire Lass), Constance Howard (False Shame), Clara Douglas (Money, Gertrude (Little Treasure, &c., &c. In September 1877 Miss Murray reappeared in London at Drury Lane Theatre as Alice Bridgenorth, first performance of England in the Days of Charles II., by W.G. Wills, "rendering the character thoroughly girlish and attractive, and displaying much refinement" (Sunday Times, September 30, 1877).
'From October 1877 to February 1878 Miss Murray was engaged at the Adelphi, appearing as Eliza (After Dark), and Edith Burrowes (Formosa). During a part of 1879 she played in the provinces the part of Esther Eccles in Caste; and in June 1879, Julie de Mortemar in a revival of Richelieu by Mr. [Henry] Irving at the Lyceum Theatre, where she is now (October 1879) engaged.''
(Charles E. Pascoe, editor, The Dramatic List, David Bogue, London, 1880, pp.267 and 268)

Alma Murray


Alma Murray

(photo: W.H. Gilbert Tate, London, early 1870s)

'Murray, Alma. (Mrs. Alfred Forman.) - Miss Alma Murray, whom Robert Browning once designated "a woman of genius; the poetic actress without rival," was born in London, her father being the late [Henry] Leigh Murray [died 17 January 1870], who was the finest "stage lover" that ever trod the boards, whilst her aunt, Mrs. Gaston Murray [died 15 January 1891], was well known as a most finished actress. Miss Alma Murray made her first appearance at the Olympic Theatre [London] so far back as [1869]. Since then she has been the heroine of a long series of successes, many really culminating in triumphs, and has appeared in a range of characters more varied and exacting than that which falls to the lot of most actresses. She has undertaken tragedy, comedy, comedy drama, romantic play, and melodrama, and sustained such historical characters as Juliet, Portia, and Titania, in Shakespeare; Mildred, in Browning's drama, Julie de Mortemar, in Lytton's play; Miss Hardcastle, in Goldsmith's comedy; Grace Harkaway, in Boucicault's romantic play; Esther Eccles, in Robertson's light comedy; and Pauline, in melodrama. Gifted by nature with every attribute for success, she began the study of her profession when quite a child - at an age, in fact, when most girls are disporting themselves in the nursery. At sixteen she had mastered all the technicalities of her art. Her greatest triumph, both mental and physical, was her impersonation of [Shelley's] Beatrice Cenci - the longest and most arduous character in dramatic literature. In 1887 she played Rachel McCreery in Held by the Enemy at the Princess's [Theatre, London], evincing the greatest powers of sympathetic and impassioned acting. In the autumn of that year she appeared at Drury Lane in Pleasure. She then transferred her services, first to the Globe, and later to the Olympic Theatre, and in 1888 appeared in several matinées. In 1889 she accepted an engagement at the Adelphi [Theatre, London], in London Day by Day, and in 1891, after a temporary absence from the stage, reappeared at the Vaudeville [Theatre, London], and later at Toole's [Theatre, London], in The Sequel, a one-act tragedy. Miss Alma Murray is married to Mr. Alfred Forman, and lives at West Kensington [in London].'
(Erskine Reid and Herbert Compton, The Dramatic Peerage, Raithby, Lawrence & Co Ltd, London, 1892, pp.159 and 160)

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For photographs of Alma Murray taken by Bassano of London in 1915, see the National Portrait Gallery, London.

For further details of Alma Murray's long career, see Who's Who in the Theatre, 9th edition, London, 1939, p.1137.

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© John Culme, 2009