Fay Compton

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Fay Compton
Fay Compton.jpg
Born Virginia Lilian Emmeline Compton-Mackenzie
(1894-09-18)18 September 1894
West Kensington, London, England
Died 12 December 1978(1978-12-12) (aged 84)
London, England
Occupation Actress
Years active 1933–1977

Virginia Lilian Emmeline Compton-Mackenzie, CBE (/ˈkʌmptən/; 18 September 1894 – 12 December 1978), known professionally as Fay Compton, was an English actress from a notable lineage of actors; her father was actor/manager Edward Compton; her mother Virginia Bateman was a distinguished member of the profession, as were her elder sister, the actress Viola Compton, and her uncles and aunts. Her grandfather was the 19th century theatrical luminary Henry Compton. Author Compton Mackenzie was her elder brother.


Compton was born in West Kensington, London, England. She made her first professional appearances between 1911 and 1913 with The Follies under the leadership of H. G. Pelissier, her future first husband, whom she married as a teenager. She made her mark in the several plays of J. M. Barrie, introducing him to London audiences, notably in the title role of Mary Rose in 1920. In 1926, she published a volume of reminiscences entitled Rosemary: some remembrances.

Active in the classics as well as contemporary material, Compton had the distinction of playing Ophelia opposite two of the most celebrated Hamlets, John Barrymore and John Gielgud. In 1962, she appeared as Marya in Laurence Olivier's production of Uncle Vanya at Chichester Festival Theatre. This production was filmed.[citation needed]

Film and television[edit]

Compton's film work is not as well known as her stage appearances. She appeared in more than 40 films between 1914 and 1970. Her most popular performances in films are Odd Man Out (1947), Laughter in Paradise (1951), Orson Welles' Othello (1952), The Haunting (1963) and I Start Counting (1969).

Among her television performances, she appeared in 1965 with Michael Hordern in the television play Land of My Dreams by Clive Exton. One of her last major roles was as Aunt Ann in the BBC's 1967 television adaptation of The Forsyte Saga.

Personal life[edit]

Fay Compton was married four times:

  1. (1911): H.G. Pelissier. He died two years later, aged 39.[1] (one son: Anthony Pelissier (1912–1988); granddaughter Tracy Reed (1942–2012)).
  2. (1914): Lauri de Frece, an actor and comedian (Best Man at Jerome Kern's 1910 wedding), died 1921.[1]
  3. (1922): Leon Quartermaine, an actor who had appeared with her in 1921, in Barrie's Quality Street. They divorced in 1942.[1]
  4. Ralph Michael, real name Ralph Champion Shotter, an actor. They married in 1942 and divorced in 1946.[1][2]

She was awarded the CBE in 1975.


Fay Compton died on 12 December 1978 in London at the age of 84.


  • Rosemary: some remembrances (1926), introduction by Compton Mackenzie



  1. ^ a b c d Trewin, J.C. (rev. Reynolds, K.D). "Compton, Fay". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online edition. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  2. ^ UK Civil Marriage Indexes: 1942q3 Ralph C. Shotter married Virginia L. de Frece. Maidstone v.2A p.2922

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