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Leslie Banks

This article is about the English actor and director. For the African American writer, see Leslie Esdaile Banks.

Leslie Banks
File:Leslie Banks in The Most Dangerous Game.jpg
Born Leslie James Banks
(1890-06-09)9 June 1890
West Derby, Liverpool, England
Died 21 April 1952(1952-04-21) (aged 61)
Kensington, London, England[1]
Occupation Actor, director, producer
Years active 1911–1950
Spouse(s) Gwendoline Haldane Unwin (1915-1952) (his death)
Children Daphne, Virginia, and Evangeline

Leslie James Banks, CBE (9 June 1890 – 21 April 1952) was an English stage and screen actor, director, and producer now best remembered for playing gruff, menacing characters in black-and-white films of the 1930s and 1940s.

Early life and career

Leslie Banks was born in West Derby, Liverpool, Lancashire, to George and Emily (née Dalby) Banks.[2] He attended school at Glenalmond College in Scotland and later studied at Keble College, Oxford[2] with the intention of becoming a parson but decided against this.[3]

He joined Frank Benson's company and made his acting debut in October 1911 at the town hall, Brechin, playing Old Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice.[2] He then toured the United States and Canada with Henry V. Esmond and Eva Moore 1912–1913.[2] Returning to London, he appeared for the first time on the West End stage at the Vaudeville Theatre on 5 May 1914, as Lord Murdon in The Dangerous Age.[2]

During the First World War he served with the Essex Regiment[3] He received injuries that left his face partially scarred and paralysed.[4] In his acting career he would use this injury to good effect by showing the unblemished side of his face when playing comedy or romance and the scarred, paralysed side of his face when playing drama or tragedy. After the war, Banks joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He returned to London in 1921 and established himself as a leading dramatic actor and West End star known for his powerful yet restrained performances.

Working in both London and New York City, he gained prominence on both sides of the Atlantic, and it was when he was in New York that Kenneth Macgowan persuaded him to go to Hollywood and make his stage debut there in The Hounds of Zaroff in 1932.[3]

Film career

His formidable bulk and intimidating aspect served him well in his first important film role, as a diabolical Russian hunter of human prey in The Most Dangerous Game (1932). The film features Joel McCrea and Fay Wray. For the rest of his career, he divided his time between Britain and the United States and between film and theatre. Other film roles included Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Fire Over England (1937), Jamaica Inn (1939), Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944), and David Lean's Madeleine (1950). Against 'type', Banks starred in The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939), as the eccentric Inspector Anthony Slade.

His theatre roles included Eliza Comes to Stay (his American debut in 1914), Captain Hook in Peter Pan (his New York debut in 1924),[2] Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew (1937) the schoolmaster in Goodbye, Mr Chips (1938), and James Jarvis in the Kurt Weill musical Lost in the Stars (1950).

Personal life

He married Gwendoline Haldane Unwin in 1915[2] and had three daughters: Daphne, Virginia, and Evangeline.[3] Banks was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to theatre in 1950, the year of his last appearances on stage and screen.[4] He died in 1952, aged 61, from a stroke he suffered while walking.

Partial filmography


External links

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