Royston with Gina Palerme in Bric-a-Brac, 1915
5 April 1899|
Mill Hill, London, England, UK
|Died||7 October 1976
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England, UK
Roy Royston (5 April 1899 – 7 October 1976), whose original name was Roy Charles Crowden, was an English actor who appeared in a large number of films between 1912 and 1966, beginning as a child actor. Most of his films were silents made before the First World War, during the last year of which he served as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps and was awarded the Military Cross.
He later developed a career in musical theatre, and his swan song was an appearance as an elderly clergyman in a Hammer Horror film of 1966.
Born at Mill Hill, North London, Roy Charles Crowden took the stage name of "Roy Royston" while still a boy. He was educated at Lynton College and also privately and first appeared on the stage on 19 December 1910 in a revival of Maurice Maeterlinck's play The Blue Bird at the Haymarket Theatre.
Between 1912 and 1914 Royston was the child star of a large number of silent films, most made by Lewis Fitzhamon. His younger brother also became an actor and took the stage name of Gerald Royston.
Under his real name of Roy Crowden, in the later stages of the First World War he was commissioned into the British Army as a temporary second lieutenant and joined the Royal Flying Corps. In June 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross, the citation reading –
T./2nd Lt. Roy Charles Crowden, Gen. List and R.F.C. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations. Observing a column of enemy troops marching along a road, he descended to a very low altitude, bombed them, and threw the column into complete confusion. Later on the same day, he attacked and caused heavy casualties to enemy infantry who were advancing across country. On another occasion he attacked one of six enemy scouts and destroyed it. He showed great determination and a splendid offensive spirit.
After the war Royston briefly resumed his early career in silent films, playing leading roles in Mr. Wu (1919) and The Magistrate (1921), but he then turned his attention to the possibilities of musical theatre. From February to April 1923 he appeared in The Cousin from Nowhere at the Prince's Theatre, London, in which he did well enough to be cast as one of two leading men in C.B. Cochran's London production of the hit Broadway musical Little Nellie Kelly, which had a long run at the New Oxford Theatre between July 1923 and February 1924. In the show Royston played the part of New York millionaire and man about town Jack Lloyd, who is hot in pursuit of Nellie but is pipped at the post by an Irish-American labourer.
Having played an American in London, Royston moved to Broadway. In May 1924 he opened at the Jolson Theatre, New York, playing Jerry in Peg o' My Dreams, and in August at the Shubert, as Brian Valcourt in Marjorie. From August 1925 he appeared in the romance June Days as Austin Bevans, a young man who inherits a school for girls and experiments with his theory that girls need to learn nothing except charm.
On 8 October 1928 Royston opened in Ups-a-Daisy at the Shubert, playing Roy Lindbrooke, an adventurous young author. Also in the cast was Bob Hope, as a butler. Ups-a-Daisy ran for 64 performances.
In 1930 Royston starred opposite Lillian Hall-Davis in Michael Balcon's British musical film Just for a Song, and in 1935 he appeared on screen again in the comedy The Big Splash. He became part of a regular company with Leslie Henson, Richard Hearne, Louise Brown and Fred Emney. Following a leading part in Going Greek (1937), in 1938 Royston starred in Douglas Furber's Running Riot as a film stunt man in love with an out-of-work actress. The Sketch commented
Our Grecians of last year are "RUNNING RIOT" this year. Whither? Well, to film studios, Chinatown, and so forth ... Mr. Roy Royston is there as usual to put sentiment in the story, which he can do with a nice show of masculine vigour.
During the Second World War Royston again reverted to the name of Crowden and served in the Balloon Branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. On 1 March 1942 he was promoted from Flying Officer to temporary Flight Lieutenant. He returned to the theatre in 1943.
Royston married firstly Laura Marguerite Gould, but this marriage was dissolved after his wife petitioned for divorce. He married secondly Dorothy Evelyn Taylor.
- John Holmstrom, 'Roy Royston' in The moving picture boy: an international encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995 (1996), pp. 13–14
- John Parker, 'Royston, Roy (Roy Crowden)' in Who's who in the Theatre vol. 13 (1961), p. 1003
- London Gazette, issue 30761 dated 21 June 1918 (Supplement), p. 7407
- Kurt Gänzl, The British Musical Theatre: 1915–1984 (1986), p. 487: "The war saw Roy Royston back in the air force where he had won the MC in the First War, and when he returned to the theatre in 1943 it was as Squadron Leader Royston."
- 'Theatres' (classified advertising) in The Times, issue 43380 dated 29 June 1923, p. 12, col. D
- The Stage Year Book 1921—1925 (Carson & Comerford, Ltd., 1925) p. 172
- "Little Nellie Kelly" in Thomas Hischak, The Oxford Companion to the American Musical (Oxford University Press, 2009; Oxford Reference Online, accessed 24 January 2012 (subscription required)
- Thomas S. Hischak, Broadway plays and musicals: descriptions and essential facts of more than 14,000 shows through 2007 (2009), p. 235
- Gerald Bordman, Richard Norton, American Musical Theatre: a Chronicle (Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 498
- Rachael Low, The History of British Film, vol. 7 (Routledge, 2005) p. 339
- David R. Sutton, A Chorus of Raspberries: British film comedy 1929–1939 (University of Exeter Press, 2000), p. 248
- Harry Stone, The Century of Musical Comedy and Revue (2009), p. 93
- The Sketch: A journal of art and actuality, vol. 183, issue 2381 (1938)
- London Gazette, issue 35503 dated 27 March 1942, p. 1391
- John Holmstrom, The Moving Picture Boy: An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995, Norwich, Michael Russell, 1996, p. 13.