Herbert Beerbohm Tree

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Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree (17 December 1852 – 2 July 1917) was an English actor and theatre manager.

Tree began performing in the 1870s. By 1887, he was managing the Haymarket Theatre, winning praise for adventurous programming and lavish productions, and starring in many of its productions. In 1899, he helped fund the rebuilding, and became manager, of His Majesty's Theatre. Again, he promoted a mix of Shakespeare and classic plays with new works and adaptations of popular novels, giving them spectacular productions in this large house, and often playing leading roles. His wife, actress Helen Maud Holt, often played opposite him and assisted him with management of the theatres.

Although Tree was regarded as a versatile and skilled actor, particularly in character roles, by his later years, his technique was seen as mannered and old fashioned. He founded the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1904 and was knighted, for his contributions to theatre, in 1909. His famous family includes his siblings, explorer Julius Beerbohm, author Constance Beerbohm and caricaturist Max Beerbohm. His daughters were the actresses Viola and Felicity and poet Iris, and his illegitimate children included film director Carol Reed. A grandson was the actor Oliver Reed.

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Early life and career

Born in Kensington, London as Herbert Draper Beerbohm, Tree was the second son and second child of Julius Ewald Edward Beerbohm (1810–1892), of Dutch, Lithuanian, and German origin, who had come to England in about 1830 and set up as a prosperous corn merchant. He married an Englishwoman, Constantia Draper, and the couple had four children.[1] His younger brother was the author and explorer Julius Beerbohm, and his sister was author Constance Beerbohm. A younger half-brother was the parodist and caricaturist Max Beerbohm from his father's second marriage.[2] Max jokingly claimed that Herbert added the "Tree" to his name because it was easier for audiences than shouting "Beerbohm! Beerbohm!" at curtain calls. The latter part of his surname, "bohm", is north German dialect for "tree".[3]

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