Rudolf Wilhelm Besier (2 July 1878 – 16 June 1942) was a Dutch-English dramatist and translator, who is best known for his play The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1930).
Besier was born in Blitar, East Java (Dutch East Indies, in 1878 as the son of an English mother, Margaret Ann Collinson, and the Dutch soldier Rudolf Wilhelm Besier, who died 6 months before he was born and after whom he was named. He had some limited success early in his career in England, which began with The Virgin Goddess (1906). Then followed a series of plays, mainly dramas, but also including satires and comedies. In 1912 he collaborated with H. G. Wells to convert Wells's Kipps into a play; he also worked with Hugh Walpole on Robin's Father (1918). Secrets (1922) was written with May Edginton (1883-1957).
Besier's only major success came with The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1930), based on Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning's courtship. After being rejected by two London producers, it premiered at the Malvern Festival of 1930, produced by Sir Barry Jackson. Besier could not interest American producers, 27 of whom rejected his play, but the actress Katharine Cornell took a personal interest in it and had it staged in Cleveland in 1931, and then in New York. It was revived and produced in many countries, and was made into two films and a musical.
Rudolf Besier died in Surrey in 1942, aged 63.
Selected list of works
- The Virgin Goddess (1906)
- Don, 1908 (prod. 1909)
- Olive Latimer's Husband, 1909 (prod. 1910)
- The Foolish Virgin (prod. 1910-11)
- Lady Patricia, 1911 (prod. 1912)
- Kipps (1912; with H. G. Wells, based on his book)
- Her Country (prod. 1918)
- Robin's Father (1918; with Hugh Walpole)
- Secrets, 1922 (with May Edginton; prod. 1922-23; filmed 1924, 1933)
- A Lesson in Love, 1922 (prod, 1923)
- Prude's Fall (filmed 1924)
- 1930: The Barretts of Wimpole Street (produced 1930, Malvern; 1931, Cleveland; Broadway; revived 1935, 1945; filmed 1934, 1957); the ultimate basis of the 1964 musical Robert and Elizabeth)
- Rudolf Besier on Internet Movie Database
- Rudolf Besier at the Internet Broadway Database
- Playwrights and Their Stage Works