Clemence Dane

Definition

Theater

  • (Winifred Ashton; 1888 - 1965) British playwright and novelist.She started acting under the stage name Diana Cortis in 1913, andpublished her first play, A Bill of Divorcement, in 1921.This sensitive study of a woman's fear of hereditary madness receivedinstant acclaim, and led Dane to turn to writing full time. Laterworks include Will Shakespeare (1921), Naboth's Vineyard(1926), and Wild Decembers (1932), a portrayal of the Brontës.However, none matched the success of her first play. She took herpseudonym from the name of her favourite church, St Clement Danesin London's Strand.

    Among her large circle of theatrical acquaintances, Dane was known for her eccentric and unworldly manner. Noël Coward, for example, is said to have used her as the model for the absurd medium Mme Arcati in Blithe Spirit. Dane's essential innocence was especially obvious in her use of language. As her friend Arthur Marshall recalled:

    When wishing to describe herself as being full of life and creative energy, she chose, not really very wisely, the word 'randy'. To hear a large and imposing woman of fifty announcing to a roomful of actors that she felt randy was really something. She never cottoned on to the fact that the name 'John Thomas' had a hidden significance, and she was heard one day expatiating about the different sides to a person's nature: "Yes, every man has threeJohn Thomases - the John Thomas he keeps to himself, the John Thomas he shares with his friends, and the John Thomas he shows to the world."

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