Frederick Kerr

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Frederick Kerr
Frederick Grinham Keen

(1858-10-11)11 October 1858
London, UK
Died3 May 1933(1933-05-03) (aged 74)
London, UK
Resting placeGolders Green Crematorium
OccupationActor/theatrical manager
Years active1882–1933
Spouse(s)Lucy Dowson

Frederick Kerr (born Frederick Grinham Keen, 11 October 1858 – 3 May 1933) was an English actor who appeared on stage in both London and New York and in British and American films; he also worked as a major theatrical manager in London.

Early life[edit]

Frederick Kerr was born Frederick Grinham Keen on 11 October 1858 in London, the elder son of Grinham Keen, a solicitor. He was educated at Charterhouse School and Caius College, Cambridge. After graduating from Cambridge in 1880, he enrolled at the Inner Temple with the intention of becoming a barrister, but left shortly afterwards to pursue a career as an actor.[1][2]

Theatre career[edit]

He went to New York City in 1880 and worked as a sketch artist, when sheer chance turned him into an actor. He was living in a boarding house on 7th Avenue, where a number of theatrical people also lived, among them Henry Miller, who eventually became his manager. Osmond Tearle, an actor living there, heard from his own producer that an Englishman was needed for a production of The School for Scandal. Tearle recruited Frederick, who got the part in January 1882 (which is also likely the moment he took the stage surname of "Kerr"). He appeared in several more plays in New York City that year, but left for Britain to appear in a London play in December 1882, after which he joined the company at the Royal Court Theatre managed by John Clayton and Arthur Cecil. Over the next fifty years, he travelled back and forth across the Atlantic several times for theatrical work both in New York City and in London.[2][3]

Kerr became actor-manager of the Vaudeville Theatre in London in 1895[4] and later managed the Royal Court Theatre.[5] He starred in Public Opinion at Wyndham's Theatre in 1905 and also as the titular pirate in George Bernard Shaw's Captain Brassbound's Conversion at the Court Theatre in 1906.[6]

Film career[edit]

In addition to his stage career, Kerr also appeared in 19 films between 1916 and 1933. He is best known as the old Baron Frankenstein in Frankenstein (1931).


Year Title Role Notes
1916 The Real Thing at Last Murdered Short
1916 The Lifeguardsman Premier
1918 Victory and Peace Sir Richard Arkwright
1919 12.10 Dr. Wrightman
1930 The Lady of Scandal Lord Trench
1930 Raffles Lord Harry Melrose
1930 The Devil to Pay! Lord Leland
1931 Born to Love Lord Ponsonby
1931 Always Goodbye Sir George Boomer
1931 Waterloo Bridge Major Wetherby
1931 Friends and Lovers General Thomas Armstrong
1931 Honor of the Family Paul Barony
1931 Frankenstein Baron Frankenstein
1932 Lovers Courageous Admiral
1932 Beauty and the Boss Count Von Tolheim
1932 But the Flesh Is Weak Duke of Hampshire
1932 The Midshipmaid Sir Percy Newbiggin
1933 Lord of the Manor Sir Henry Bovey
1933 The Man from Toronto Bunston (final film role)

Writing career[edit]

His memoirs were published in 1930 under the title Recollections of a Defective Memory.[4][7]

Personal life and death[edit]

Kerr's wife was Lucy Dowson — they had one son, Geoffrey Kerr, who followed in his father's theatrical footsteps. His grandson was actor John Kerr.

Kerr was a heavy smoker and suffered from obesity in his later years. He died from lung cancer in London on 3 May 1933 at the age of 74. His interment was at Golders Green Crematorium.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "FRED—THE KERRS—GEOFFREY" New York Times Drama/Music/Fashion/Screen, November 7, 1920, page 88 (available online at the New York Times archive
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Harris, Frank; Gallagher, John F. (1991). My Life and Loves. Grove Press. p. 815.
  5. ^ Lowndes, Marie Belloc; Lowndes, Susan (1971). Diaries and Letters of Marie Belloc Lowndes, 1911–1947. Chatto & Windus.
  6. ^ Shaw, Bernard; Wells, H. G (1995). Laurence, Dan H. (ed.). Selected Correspondence of Bernard Shaw. Smith, J. Percy. University of Toronto Press. p. 41.
  7. ^ Kerr, Frederick (1930). Recollections of a Defective Memory. T. Butterworth. Retrieved 5 October 2008.

External links[edit]