Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Gilbert Wakefield

Gilbert Wakefield (b. Sandgate, Kent, 23 April 1892; d. London, 4 July 1963)

Gilbert Edward Wakefield was the youngest son of the Reverend Henry Russell Wakefield (1854-1933), after 1911, the Bishop of Birmingham, and his wife Frances Sophia, nee Dallaway (1856-1919), Gilbert had one sister and two brothers, one of whom was H. Russell Wakefield (1888-1964), the ghost story writer. His father also published a number of books and pamphlets on religious topics.

Gilbert was educated at Harrow, and at University College, Oxford. He served in the war, and was wounded in France, and afterwards worked in the Intelligence Department at the War Office. In 1919 he was called to the bar and became a barrister for nearly ten years, though his interests clearly lay with the theatre. In 1920 he married the stage and (later) film actress Isabel Jeans (1891-1985). Jeans had previously been married to actor Claude Rains from 1913-1915. The couple had no children.

Gilbert authored a number of plays (see the list, current up to 1938, at right). Only one of the plays appeared in book form, Room for Two (1938), and it constitutes Gilbert's only book. It is a farce about a female impersonator. Gilbert's best known work was probably the play "Counsel's Opinion", first produced in 1931. It was made into a film of the same title in 1933 (now considered a lost film), and remade as The Divorce of Lady X (1938), starring Laurence Olivier in the lead role. As a 1930s romantic comedy, it is well-done. A remake as Counsel's Opinon came out in 1949. Another of Gilbert's plays, Room for Two, was filmed in 1940.

Gilbert had been the dramatic critic for the Saturday Review from 1930-1932.  He also worked for a while with London Film Productions as a scenario writer. In person, he was self-deprecating, and having rebelled against his church-upbringing, he held a respect for truth and a contempt for sham. Often in ill-health, he died in hospital at the age of 71. 

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