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.
Bantock was born at 12 Granville Place in Marylebone in London. 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. 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.
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. With his brother Granville, Bantock wrote a couple of music hall songs that met with some success.
A bass-baritone, Bantock played Sharp in The Married Bachelor (1890) at the Adelphi Theatre and Peter Poddleson in The Refugees (1891) at the Opera Comique 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, Harry Fitzwarren in A Gaiety Girl (1893), 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 where he played Hopkins in In Town, Bertie Boyd in The Shop Girl, Dawson in Gentleman Joe and Sir Lewis in A Gaiety Girl.
Bantock also worked as both a director (including for Marie Lloyd's only appearance in musical theatre The ABC (1898)) 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. 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. On 1 December 1899 Bantock was initiated as a Freemason.
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. From 1913 to 1915 Bantock was the Managing Director of Zenith Films Ltd, for whom he worked in silent films as an actor, director and writer, writing and directing Ivanhoe (1913); directing and acting in Scrooge (1913) and directing David Garrick (1913), The Shopsoiled Girl (1915), The Beggar Girl's Wedding (1915) and The Veiled Woman (1917).
In 1917 in Barnet in Middlesex he married Gaiety Theatre chorus girl Laura May Peacock (1886-1968) 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; and Granville Ransome Bantock (born 1925).
In his later years Bantock was the General Manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London and for which he wrote the annual pantomime, including that for The Sleeping Beauty (1920), Robinson Crusoe (1922), Jack and the Beanstalk (1923), The Forty Thieves (1924), Dick Whittington (1925) and Queen of Hearts (1927).
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. 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.
- Seymour Hicks and Ellaline Terriss (1913)
- Ivanhoe (1913) starring Lauderdale Maitland as Ivanhoe
- Scrooge (1913) starring Seymour Hicks and Ellaline Terriss
- David Garrick (1913) starring Seymour Hicks and Ellaline Terriss
- A Motorcycle Elopement (1914)
- Always Tell Your Wife (1914)
- A Patriotic English Girl (1914)
- Kismet (1914) - film of the 1911 play starring Oscar Asche and Lily Brayton
- From Flower Girl to Red Cross Nurse (1915)
- A Prehistoric Love Story (1915) starring Hicks and Terriss
- A Daughter of England (1915)
- The Beggar Girl's Wedding (1915)
- The Girl of My Heart (1915)
- The Girl Who Took the Wrong Turning (1915)
- The Shopsoiled Girl (1915)
- The Veiled Woman (1917)
- Mephisto (1912), directed by Alfred de Manby and F. Martin Thornton
- Santa Claus (1912), directed by Walter R. Booth, R. H. Callum and Thornton
- Ivanhoe (1913), also directed by Bantock
- The Tempter (1913), directed by Callum and Thornton
- Santa Claus (1912), directed by Walter R. Booth, Callum and Thornton
- Scrooge (1913), also directed by Bantock
- The Tempter (1913), directed by Callum and Thornton
- Washington, Richard. "Santa @ the Movies: The Timeline", KringleQuest.com, accessed 26 May 2019
- Gifford, Denis (ed.) British Film Catalogue: Two Volume Set – The Fiction Film/The Non-Fiction Film, Routledge (2016), Google Books
- 1881 England Census Record for Ernest Leedham Sutherland Bantock
- Hadden, J. Cuthbert, 1913, Modern Musicians, Boston: Le Roy Phillips; London & Edinburgh: T. N. Foulis, pp. 42–46
- Claude Ronald Bantock, Theatre Heritage Australia, accessed 14 April 2019
- Budd, Vincent. "A Brief Introduction to the Life and Work of Sir Granville Bantock", The Bantock Society, accessed 14 April 2019
- Leedham Bantock, Opera Scotland, accessed 14 April 2019
- Wearing, J. P., The London Stage 1890–1899: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel, Rowman & Littlefield (2014), Google Books, p. 3
- Wearing, p. 51
- Wearing, p. 86
- Cast of A Gaiety Girl (1893), British Musical Theatre at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 17 April 2019
- Leedham Bantock, The Australian Live Performance Datsbase, accessed 17 April 2019
- Leedham Bantock, British Musical Theatre at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 14 April 2019
- Gänzl, Kurt, Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, Second edition. Three volumes. New York: Schirmer Books (2001)
- 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)
- Wearing, J. P. The London Stage 1910–1919: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel, Rowman & Littlefield (2014), chapter 12, accessed 26 May 2019
- Leedham Bantock, The London Project, accessed 14 April 2019
- Scrooge (1913), BFI
- Leedham Bantock on the British Film Institute database
- Filmography for Leedham Bantock, British Film Institute (BFI) database
- Granville Bantock and the Actors' Orphanage, The Noël Coward Society, accessed 14 April 2019
- Paul Leedham Bantock on Find a Grave
- England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1917 for Ernest L. S. Bantock
- Robinson Crusoe poster (1922), Victoria and Albert Museum collection, accessed 15 April 2019
- Jack and the Beanstalk poster (1923), Victoria and Albert Museum collection, accessed 14 April 2019
- "The Lyceum Theatre and The Melvilles", It's Behind You pantomime website, accessed 15 April 2019
- Dick Whittington poster (1926), Victoria and Albert Museum collection, accessed 15 April 2019
- Queen of Hearts poster (1927), Victoria and Albert Museum collection, accessed 14 April 2019
- England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861–1941 for Ernest L. S. Bantock