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St. Clair Bayfield

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St. Clair Bayfield
John St. Clair Roberts

2 August 1875
Cheltenham, England
Died19 May 1967(1967-05-19) (aged 91)
OccupationStage actor
SpouseKathleen Weatherley (m. 1945–1967; his death)
PartnerFlorence Foster Jenkins (1909–1944; her death)

St. Clair Bayfield (2 August 1875 – 19 May 1967) was an English stage actor,[1] best known as the long-term companion and manager of amateur operatic soprano Florence Foster Jenkins.

Life and career[edit]

Bayfield was born John St. Clair Roberts in Cheltenham, England, the son of George Bayfield Roberts, an Oxford-educated country parson, and his wife Ida, the eldest of three illegitimate daughters of Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough, a prominent politician and Governor-General of India in the years preceding the Indian Mutiny. St. Clair's maternal great-grandfather was Lord Chief Justice of England.[2] Little is known of Bayfield's early life in England, but as a young man he sailed to New Zealand, where he served as a sailor and soldier: at his 90th birthday party, he sang some of the sea shanties from that period of his life.[citation needed] While there, he tried farming.

With a fine voice and physical presence, he became involved in amateur theatricals, leading eventually to his joining a professional company touring Australia. His diary of time spent in Melbourne is included in the "Bayfield Archive" preserved at Lincoln Center, New York. He next acted with a company headed by the impresario William Ben Greet, who abandoned his cast to penury in a remote corner of the United States. That led to the establishment of Actor's Equity, of which Bayfield was a founding member.[3] His subsequent stage career involved regular appearances on Broadway for several decades, usually in works by British playwrights. In 1909, he began a vague "common law" relationship with amateur operatic soprano Florence Foster Jenkins, seven years his senior, that lasted the remainder of her life. The couple lived for many years in an apartment on 37th Street in Manhattan, New York.[4] Bayfield joined the Ben Greet Players in a revival of Twelfth Night that took the troupe to 56 Pennsylvania towns in 65 days during the summer of 1914. Also in the group was Sydney Greenstreet.[5]

Bayfield lived with Jenkins and managed her career for 36 years.[4][6] After Jenkins' death in 1944, he married a piano teacher, Kathleen Weatherley, in 1945. They lived in Larchmont, New York, where he died in 1967.


The Actors' Equity Association bestows the annual St. Clair Bayfield Award upon an actor or actress in a non-featured role in a Shakespearean production.[7]

Theatre credits[edit]

Bayfield's credits in Broadway theatre include:[8]

Production Role Dates of Production
For Heaven's Sake, Mother! (Original, Play, Comedy) Henry Wheeler 16–20 November 1948
Hand in Glove (Original, Play, Thriller) Mr Forsythe 4 December 1944 – 6 January 1945
The Night Before Christmas (Original, Play) Endicott 10–27 April 1941
The Old Foolishness (Original, Play) The Canon 20–21 December 1940
Day in the Sun (Original, Play, Comedy) Judge Livingstone 16 May - May 1939
Jeremiah (Original, Play) Nahum 3 February – March 1939
Glorious Morning (Original, Play, Drama) Rutzstein 26 November – December 1938
Father Malachy's Miracle (Original, Play, Comedy) Robert Gillespie, Bishop of Milothian 17 November 1937 – March 1938
Field of Ermine (Original, Play) The Duke of Santa Olalla 8 February – February 1935
Judgment Day (Original, Play, Drama) Count Leonid Slatarski 12 September – December 1934
They Shall Not Die (Original, Play, Drama) Att'y General Cheney 21 February – April 1934
Criminal at Large (Original, Play, Mystery) Rawbane 10 October 1932 – February 1933
Wild Waves (Original, Play, Comedy) Whelpley 19 February – March 1932
The Lady with a Lamp (Original, Play, Drama) Dr Sutherland 19 November – November 1931
Old Man Murphy (Revival, Play, Comedy) Hopkins 14 September - October 1931
London Calling (Original, Play, Comedy) Staight 18 October - October 1930
Lady Dedlock (Original, Play, Romance, Melodrama) Sir Leicester Dedlock 31 December 1928 – February 1929
Escape (Original, Play) The Captain; The Laborer 26 October 1927 – March 1928
The Beaten Track (Original, Play) Dafydd Evans Y Beddau 8 February - February 1926
A Bit of Love (Original, Play, Drama) Trustaford 12 May - May 1925
Two By Two (Original, Play, Comedy) E. Lorrilard Price 23 February – March 1925
Lass O'Laughter (Original, Play, Comedy) Davie Nicholson 8 January - February 1925
We Moderns (Original, Play, Comedy) Sir William Wimple 11 March - March 1924
The Lady Cristilinda (Original, Play, Comedy) Father Reaney 25 December 1922 – January 1923
Bulldog Drummond (Original, Play, Melodrama) Jas. Handley 26 December 1921 – May 1922
Deburau (Original, Play, Comedy, Tragedy) A Journalist 23 December 1920 – June 1921
By Pigeon Post (Original, Play) Blondel 25 November - December 1918
The Wild Duck (Original, Play, Drama) 11 March - April 1918
As You Like It (Revival, Play, Comedy) 8-9 February 1918
The Merchant of Venice (Revival, Play, Comedy) 25-26 January 1918
Colonel Newcome (Original, Play) 10 April - May 1917
Hamlet (Revival, Play, Tragedy) Polonius 23 April 1912
Hans, the Flute Player (Original, Musical, Opera) 20 September – 26 November 1910
The King of Cadonia (Original, Musical, Comedy) Laborde 10–22 January 1910
The Debtors (Original, Play) 12 October – October 1909
The Prima Donna (Original, Musical, Comedy, Opera) Colonel Dutois 30 November 1908 – 30 January 1909
The Merchant of Venice (Revival, Play, Comedy) 4 March 1907 – (unknown)
The Two Mr Wetherbys (Original, Play, Comedy) 23 August - September 1906
Twelfth Night (Revival, Play, Comedy) 22 February – March 1904
Everyman (Original, Play) 12 October 1902 – May 1903

In the media[edit]

Bayfield’s relationship with Jenkins was the basis for the biographical drama Florence Foster Jenkins, with Hugh Grant portraying Bayfield and Meryl Streep portraying Jenkins. The film, directed by Stephen Frears, premiered in London on 12 April 2016.


  1. ^ St. Clair Bayfield papers accessed 5/28/2015
  2. ^ Florence Foster Jenkins, Nicholas Martin & Jasper Rees, Pan, 2016, p. 73
  3. ^ "Caroline McWilliams wins Bayfield Award". Equity News. February 1977. p. 84. ...St. Clair Bayfield, who died in 1967 at nearly 92 years of age, was a charter member of Equity, having joined in 1913.
  4. ^ a b Peters, Brooks, "Florence, The Nightingale? Archived 2010-03-16 at the Wayback Machine", 15 June 2006 (also appeared, but in slightly different format, in Opera News magazine)
  5. ^ Sperdakos, Paula, "Dora Mavor Moore: Before the New Play Society," Theatre Research in Canada, Vol 10, No 1, Spring 1989
  6. ^ Coronet, Dec. 1957
  7. ^ award information accessed 5/28/2015
  8. ^ IBDB

External links[edit]