Tod Slaughter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Tod Slaughter
Todsweeny.jpg
Tod Slaughter in the title role of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936).
BornNorman Carter Slaughter
(1885-03-19)19 March 1885
Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, England, UK
Died19 February 1956(1956-02-19) (aged 70)
Derby, Derbyshire, England, UK
Occupationactor
Years active1905–1956
Spouse(s)Jenny Lynn
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Tod Slaughter
Todsweeny.jpg
Tod Slaughter in the title role of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936).
BornNorman Carter Slaughter
(1885-03-19)19 March 1885
Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, England, UK
Died19 February 1956(1956-02-19) (aged 70)
Derby, Derbyshire, England, UK
Occupationactor
Years active1905–1956
Spouse(s)Jenny Lynn

Tod Slaughter (19 March 1885 – 19 February 1956) was an English actor, best known for playing over-the-top maniacs in macabre film adaptations of Victorian melodramas.

Early life[edit]

Born as Norman Carter Slaughter in Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, where he attended the Royal Grammar School. The eldest surviving son of 12 children, he made his way onto the stage in 1905 at West Hartlepool. In 1913, he became a lessee of the Hippodrome theatres at Richmond and Croydon. After a brief interruption to serve during World War I in the Royal Flying Corps, Slaughter resumed his career and returned to the stage.

Stage success[edit]

During this period, his stage name was N. Carter Slaughter and he primarily played the conventional leading man or character roles—seldom the villain. After the war, he ran the Theatre Royal, Chatham before taking over the Elephant and Castle Theatre in South London for a memorable few years from 1924 onwards that have since passed into British theatrical legend. Slaughter's company revived Victorian "blood-and-thunder" melodramas such as Maria Marten, Sweeney Todd, Jack Sheppard and The Silver King to enthusiastic audiences—not just locals but also sophisticated theatregoers from the West End who might have initially come for a cheap laugh but ended up enthralled by the power of the fare on offer. Slaughter also staged other types of production such as the annual Christmas pantomime where he would cast prominent local personalities in bit-parts for audience recognition. Despite a local protest, the Elephant and Castle Theatre was closed down in 1927, Slaughter's company vacating it several months before the end.

It was in 1925 that he adopted the stage name Tod Slaughter, but his primary roles were still character and heroic leads—not the evil-doers. He played the young hero in The Face at the Window, the poacher Tom Robinson in "It's Never Too Late To Mend", and the village idiot Tim Winterbottom in Maria Marten. He also played the title character in Sherlock Holmes and D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers. Silent footage exists of Slaughter acting on stage at the Elephant and Castle in the military melodrama "The Flag Lieutenant" in a documentary entitled "London After Dark".[1] It is said he briefly retired from acting to become a chicken farmer at the start of the 1930s, but it proved a short-lived venture and he was soon back managing his company touring the provinces and outlying London theatres with a repertoire of Victorian melodramas.

He finally found his true calling when, in 1931 at the New Theatre, London he played Long John Silver in Treasure Island during the day and the body snatcher William Hare in The Crimes Of Burke And Hare at night. Publicised as 'Mr Murder', he lapped up his new-found notoriety by boasting he committed 15 murders each day for the duration of the run. Shortly afterwards, he played Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street for the first of 2,000 times on stage. Actor and role had found each other much in the same way as Béla Lugosi and Dracula and the seal was set on Slaughter's subsequent career.

Film career[edit]

In 1934 aged 49, he began in films. Usually cast as a villain, his first film was Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn (1935) a Victorian melodrama filmed cheaply with Slaughter as the obvious bad-guy. Slaughter’s next film role was as Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936), directed and produced by George King, whose partnership with Slaughter was continued in the subsequent shockers: The Crimes of Stephen Hawke (1936); It's Never Too Late To Mend (1937); The Ticket of Leave Man (1938); The Face at the Window (1939) and Crimes at the Dark House (1940).

There were, however, some non-melodramatic roles in his career. He was a supporting player in The Song of the Road (1937) and Darby and Joan (1937). In Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror (1938), he played the head of an international gang of super-villains.

Slaughter was busy on stage during World War II, performing Jack the Ripper, Landru and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There were also one-act sketches such as The Touch of a Child.

After the war, Slaughter resumed melodramatic roles and starred in The Curse of the Wraydons (1946), in which Bruce Seton played the legendary Victorian bogeyman Spring-Heeled Jack, and The Greed of William Hart (1948) based on the murderous career of Burke and Hare. These were produced by Ambassador Films at Bushey Studios, who had made a healthy profit rereleasing Tod's 1930s films during the war years.

Later years[edit]

During the early 1950s, Slaughter appeared as the villain in two crime films King of the Underworld (1952) and Murder at Scotland Yard (1953) and he was still regularly touring the provinces and London suburbs. However, the public's appetite for melodrama seemed to have abated somewhat by this stage and he went bankrupt in 1953[2] owing to a downturn in his touring income. He continued to act in stage productions, however, such as Molière's The Gay Invalid opposite future horror star Peter Cushing, and acting as the Master of Ceremonies at an evening of old-fashioned music hall.

His last two films were each three episodes of the television series Inspector Morley cobbled together for theatrical release. A version of Spring-Heeled Jack starring Tod was one of the first live TV plays mounted by the BBC after the war.

Still performing on the stage almost to the very end, Slaughter died of coronary thrombosis. After his death following a performance of Maria Marten in Derby, his work slipped almost completely into obscurity. He was survived by his actress wife Jenny Lynn.

Critical revival[edit]

Film historians have revived interest in Slaughter's cycle of melodramatic films, placing them in a tradition of "cinema of excess" which also includes the Gainsborough Melodramas and Hammer Horrors.[3]

Filmography[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1935Maria Marten or Murder in the Red BarnWilliam Corder
1936Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet StreetSweeney Todd
1936The Crimes of Stephen HawkeStephen Hawke
1937Darby and JoanMr. Templeton
1937It's Never Too Late to MendSquire John Meadows
1937The Song of the RoadDan Lorenzo
1938The Ticket of Leave ManThe Tiger
1938Sexton Blake and the Hooded TerrorMichael Larron
1939The Face at the WindowChevalier Lucio del Gardo
1940Crimes at the Dark HouseThe False Percival Glyde
1945Bothered by a BeardSweeney Todd
1946The Curse of the WraydonsPhilip Wraydon (The Chief)
1948The Greed of William HartWilliam Hart
1952King of the UnderworldTerence Reilly
1952Murder at Scotland YardTerence Reilly
1952Murder at the GrangePatrick Reilly aka Clarence Beacham - posing as butler
1952A Ghost for SaleCaretaker
1954Puzzle Corner No. 14Sweeney Todd

References[edit]

  1. ^ It is available on YOUTUBE at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi2tTPPUNL0#.
  2. ^ BT226/5647, National Archives
  3. ^ Richards p.139-159

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]