Eleanor Daniels ~ Passing of a Grand Old Lady
Friday 18th March  saw the passing of Wales's, and most likely Britain's, oldest living actress. Eleanor Daniels, who was 107 years old this year, passed away at the 18th Century home she shared with friends in Connecticut, U.S.A.
Eleanor, daughter of a Llanelli hay merchant, was born in 1886 and achieved her first success in a local Eisteddfod at the age of 13. She entered the teaching profession and continued her success as a reciteur, winning first prize in no less than three National Eisteddfodau and numerous other "chairs", medals, cups and prizes.
In 1913 she was tempted to transfer her allegiance to the stage and, after a spell at Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree's acting Academy, became part of a movement towards a National Welsh Drama. She appeared in a touring production of Little Miss Llewelyn, in The Jones at the Strand Theatre and also in The Mark of Cain. In 1914 she toured to the U.S.A. with the Welsh Players to perform J, 0. Francis's prize-winning play Change. Eleanor's excellent notices throughout the tour ensured her return to the U.S.A..
For a number of years she appeared in the productions of the well known Broadway firm of Comstock and Gest. She appeared, among other plays, in Kitty McKay, Loyalty, Heart of the Heather, and with Richard Bennett in Zach. A spell in musical comedy followed: she sang and danced in Kitty Darling and appeared in Lassies and La La Lucille. Eleanor also appeared with Florence Reed in Ashes and with Jeanne Eagels in Rain.
Eleanor also appeared in a number of silent film productions in New York between 1914 and the mid
twenties but is to be remembered for her appearance in If Winter Comes, with Percy Marmont and Bebe Daniels.
In 1930 Eleanor was awarded Gorsedd Honours in recognition of her services to the Drama. In later life she turned her skills to teaching elocution.
The dramatic, prize-winning recitations of her youth led her to success in both dramatic and, surprisingly, comic productions on Broadway and touring the length and breadth of the U.S.A. "In an interview four years ago , Eleanor remembered her theatre days with great fondness. "I was an actress" she exclaimed proudly. "I started acting when I could talk". At Tree's Academy, where she won the Gold medal, her instinctive, dramatic, vocal ability led her to be cited as a model for the other students. This was her cue to leave: "After all" she said "why should I teach what I was paying to learn!". Like many performers she suffered dreadfully from stage-fright. "I used to skip rope to get it out of my mind, but it gripped me. But when I placed my two feet on the stage, everything became fine. Only the stage was real. The stage is the most important of all. Its message is carried to the people.