Leedham Bantock

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Leedham Bantock
Harvard Theatre Collection - Leedham Bantock TCS 1.1157 - cropped.jpg
Bantock c.1918
Ernest Leedham Sutherland Bantock

(1870-05-18)18 May 1870
Died16 October 1928(1928-10-16) (aged 58)
  • Actor
  • Screenwriter
  • Dramatist
  • Director
Years active1890–1927
Laura May Peacock
(m. 1917)
RelativesSir Granville Bantock (brother)

Leedham Bantock (born Ernest Leedham Sutherland Bantock; 18 May 1870 – 16 October 1928) was a British singer, Edwardian musical comedy actor, early film director, dramatist and screenwriter. In 1912 he became the first actor to portray Father Christmas in film.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Bantock was born at 12 Granville Place in Marylebone in London.[3] He was one of eight children of Sophia Elizabeth née Ransome (1843–1909) and George Granville Bantock (1836–1913), a Scottish surgeon and gynaecologist who was at one time President of the Royal Gynaecological Society.[4] His brothers included the composer Sir Granville Bantock (1868–1946) and Claude Ronald Bantock (1875–1921), who had a successful career in musical theatre in Australia.[3][5]

Bantock's father was a remote and stern figure in his childhood and a man of strict principle in his work who challenged Joseph Lister in a famous scientific debate over surgical disinfectant and eventually proved his case at some cost to his reputation. However, Bantock's mother, "Bessie", created an affectionate atmosphere in their home, allowing her children to play cricket in the corridors and keeping a menagerie of animals in the house including snakes and a monkey. Her three sons inherited their artistic temperament from her.[6] With his brother Granville, Bantock wrote a couple of music hall songs that met with some success.[6]

Theatre career[edit]

Lawrence Rea (left), Walter Passmore, Ruth Vincent and Maud Boyd (right) in Bantock's The Belle of Brittany (1908)

A bass-baritone,[7] Bantock played Sharp in The Married Bachelor (1890) at the Adelphi Theatre[8] and Peter Poddleson in The Refugees (1891) at the Opera Comique[9] before appearing in the London companies of George Edwardes for 20 years in secondary roles in a string of musicals including Marius/Fill-up the Good in Joan of Arc (1891) at the Gaiety Theatre,[10] Harry Fitzwarren in A Gaiety Girl (1893),[11] James Cripps in An Artist's Model (1895), Arthur Cuddy in The Geisha (1896), The Emperor in San Toy (1894), Tubby Bedford in The School Girl (1903), Douglas Verity in A Country Girl (1902), Boobhamba in The Cingalee (1904) and Colonel Leyton in Lady Madcap (1906), as well as in America and Australia[12] where he played Hopkins in In Town, Bertie Boyd in The Shop Girl, Dawson in Gentleman Joe and Sir Lewis in A Gaiety Girl.[13]

Bantock also worked as both a director (including for Marie Lloyd's only appearance in musical theatre The ABC (1898))[13] and as an author and dramatist, collaborating with Howard Talbot on the books for such musical comedies as The Girl Behind the Counter (1906). He wrote the book to Talbot's music for The White Chrysanthemum (1905) and The Belle of Brittany (1908) which, like The Girl Behind the Counter, proved to be successful in Britain and abroad.[13][14] Other works on which Bantock worked as a librettist include The Three Kisses (1907) with Talbot and Percy Greenbank; A Persian Princess (1909) with Sidney Jones and Percy Greenbank, and Physical Culture (1917) with Harold Simpson.[13][14] On 1 December 1899 Bantock was initiated as a Freemason.[15]

Film career[edit]

Bantock in 1912

In 1912 Bantock became the first actor to be identified to have played Santa Claus, in a film titled Santa Claus, which he also wrote and co-directed.[1][16] From 1913 to 1915 Bantock was the Managing Director of Zenith Films Ltd,[17] for whom he worked in silent films as an actor, director and writer, writing and directing Ivanhoe (1913); directing and acting in Scrooge (1913)[18] and directing David Garrick (1913), The Shopsoiled Girl (1915), The Beggar Girl's Wedding (1915) and The Veiled Woman (1917).[19][20]


In 1917 in Barnet in Middlesex he married Gaiety Theatre chorus girl Laura May Peacock (1886-1968)[21] and with her had two sons: Paul Leedham Bantock (1921–1942) killed while serving as a Pilot Officer with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during World War II;[22] and Granville Ransome Bantock (born 1925).[23]

Later years[edit]

In his later years Bantock was the General Manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London and for which he wrote the annual pantomime,[21] including that for The Sleeping Beauty (1920), Robinson Crusoe (1922),[24] Jack and the Beanstalk (1923),[25] The Forty Thieves (1924),[26] Dick Whittington (1925)[27] and Queen of Hearts (1927).[28]

He lived in a modest terraced house at 19 Beaumont Avenue in Richmond in Surrey, where he died in 1928, aged 58, leaving just £140 10s 4d to his wife in his will.[29] By 1930 this sum was gone, causing financial hardship for his widow and sons and, on the advice of her late husband's brother Granville, after whom her youngest son was named, she put her two sons into the Actors' Orphanage at Langley Hall in order to take in lodgers. Her sons remained there for at least eight years.[21]


Film director[edit]

Bantock as Santa Claus and Margaret Favronova as Ting-a-ling in the 1912 film Santa Claus


Film actor[edit]


  1. ^ a b Washington, Richard. "Santa @ the Movies: The Timeline", KringleQuest.com, accessed 26 May 2019
  2. ^ Gifford, Denis (ed.) British Film Catalogue: Two Volume Set – The Fiction Film/The Non-Fiction Film, Routledge (2016), Google Books
  3. ^ a b 1881 England Census Record for Ernest Leedham Sutherland Bantock
  4. ^ Hadden, J. Cuthbert, 1913, Modern Musicians, Boston: Le Roy Phillips; London & Edinburgh: T. N. Foulis, pp. 42–46
  5. ^ Claude Ronald Bantock, Theatre Heritage Australia, accessed 14 April 2019
  6. ^ a b Budd, Vincent. "A Brief Introduction to the Life and Work of Sir Granville Bantock", The Bantock Society, accessed 14 April 2019
  7. ^ Leedham Bantock, Opera Scotland, accessed 14 April 2019
  8. ^ Wearing, J. P., The London Stage 1890–1899: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel, Rowman & Littlefield (2014), Google Books, p. 3
  9. ^ Wearing, p. 51
  10. ^ Wearing, p. 86
  11. ^ Cast of A Gaiety Girl (1893), British Musical Theatre at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 17 April 2019
  12. ^ Leedham Bantock, The Australian Live Performance Datsbase, accessed 17 April 2019
  13. ^ a b c d Leedham Bantock, British Musical Theatre at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 14 April 2019
  14. ^ a b Gänzl, Kurt, Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, Second edition. Three volumes. New York: Schirmer Books (2001)
  15. ^ He first joined St. John's Lodge No. 90. See Ernest Leedham Bantock, United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Registers, 1751–1921, Ancestry.com (subscription required) He later joined the Green Room Lodge No. 2957 on 6 May 1904, an actors' lodge which included George Grossmith Jr., Fred Terry and Gerald du Maurier among its members. He resigned from the lodge on 4 May 1906. See Ernest Leedham Bantock, United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Registers, 1751–1921, Ancestry.com (subscription required)
  16. ^ Wearing, J. P. The London Stage 1910–1919: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel, Rowman & Littlefield (2014), chapter 12, accessed 26 May 2019
  17. ^ Leedham Bantock, The London Project, accessed 14 April 2019
  18. ^ a b Scrooge (1913), BFI
  19. ^ a b c d e f Leedham Bantock on the British Film Institute database
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Filmography for Leedham Bantock, British Film Institute (BFI) database
  21. ^ a b c Granville Bantock and the Actors' Orphanage, The Noël Coward Society, accessed 14 April 2019
  22. ^ Paul Leedham Bantock on Find a Grave
  23. ^ England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1917 for Ernest L. S. Bantock
  24. ^ Robinson Crusoe poster (1922), Victoria and Albert Museum collection, accessed 15 April 2019
  25. ^ Jack and the Beanstalk poster (1923), Victoria and Albert Museum collection, accessed 14 April 2019
  26. ^ "The Lyceum Theatre and The Melvilles", It's Behind You pantomime website, accessed 15 April 2019
  27. ^ Dick Whittington poster (1926), Victoria and Albert Museum collection, accessed 15 April 2019
  28. ^ Queen of Hearts poster (1927), Victoria and Albert Museum collection, accessed 14 April 2019
  29. ^ England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861–1941 for Ernest L. S. Bantock

External links[edit]