Obituary: Daphne Rye

Daphne Rye, actress, director and casting director, born 1916, married Roland Culver (two sons; marriage dissolved), John Janvrin (marriage dissolved), Sam Ainley (deceased), died 10 November 1992.

DAPHNE RYE had many claims to fame in the theatrical world. In the 1930s she began her vivid, much-married life as assistant stage manager playing small parts at the small Theatre Royal, Margate. At 22 she married Roland Culver, the distinguished leading actor. She was to be a vital part of the all-powerful HM Tennent organisation in Shaftesbury Avenue living a star-studded life as London's most influential casting director - she discovered Richard Burton when he was 17. She became friend and confidante of her boss, Hugh 'Binkie' Beaumont, and was involved with the lives of many in a gilded theatre world. She eloped in the mid- 1950s to live in Spain.

Rye adored people and had great powers of attraction. She was the best company with her throaty but somehow silvery, wicked mocking laugh. As a young actress at the Arts Theatre Club with her sensual presence and small piquant looks, she was always especially fetching in her 'shades' - dark red-framed glasses in the mid-Thirties before such things became fashionable film and rock-star accessories.

In Europe with ENSA after the Normandy landings she stage- managed plays for the forces with stars including Ivor Novello and Diana Wynyard. Then, as a West End assistant stage manager, her drop-in after-matinee back-stage tea parties became well-known. She had a special gift for judging people, their acting abilities and their other possibilities.

Beaumont spotted her. She became essential to him as a casting director of exceptional taste and insight. She was a quick, imaginative cook and gave splendid parties in her various homes, all furnished with her individual taste. The purpose was always to introduce people: producers and directors from home and abroad, Americans and Australians met likely young talents.

She directed some new plays for Tennents at the old Lyric, Hammersmith, also several UK tours, especially Margaret Lockwood and Peter Graves in Private Lives, and then Robert Morley in his own play and greatest success Edward, My Son (1948) in Australia. She also directed another Morley vehicle, The Little Hut, this time in South Africa with Robert Flemyng. Of her two Culver sons, Michael is well- known on television and the multi-talented Robin lives in the West Country. Her second husband was the handsome John Janvrin MD. She changed his life and guided him towards a much-valued and appreciated theatrical practice in Hans Place.

She changed many lives. She often went around the country looking for talent in the repertory companies. Emlyn Williams was casting his newest Welsh play at the Sandringham Hotel, Cardiff. First among equals was Richard Burton. He was put under contract to Tennents and became one of Daphne Rye's many lodgers. Three other talents found in Cardiff were Stanley Baker, the bubbly character actress Jessie Evans and the handsome Richard Leech, a qualified doctor with theatrical hopes. Her house in Pelham Crescent, south Kensington, had several bedrooms, much laughter and many parties.

Her London life seemed safe, glamorous, busy, useful, happy and full of friends. She had met a younger man who she met some years earlier when he was an ASM playing a small part in one of HM Tennent's All Star productions. He was Sam Ainley, sometime actor, all-time charmer to women, soldier of fortune and of the French Foreign Legion. He was one of the actor Henry Ainley's many children. She fell desperately in love for the last time. Nothing would ever be the same. They eloped to Spain by car. Her specially collected English furniture followed by sea. Daphne always had a weight problem. Now happy with Sam in Majorca with ease and comfort, release from theatre tensions and the telephone she blossomed vastly; those tiny feet, slim ankles and elegant legs supported an ever-increasingly heavy body. When she left Tennents, Richard Clowes, a witty publicity man, said it was the only known case of the sinking ship leaving the rats. Borrowing from JM Barrie's Mary Rose, another wit said: 'My dear, she is the Island that Likes to be Visited.'

But there was nothing of the innocent Mary Rose in her character until the end. She was unsentimental, sharply outspoken, and critical of people however rich or grand or important they may have thought themselves. Her villa at Camp de Mar became the most glamorous pensione in Europe, visited by old friends and stars.

In a few years the island became overcrowded. She and Sam moved into Palma and opened a restaurant. It seemed popular but loud and difficult rows took place inflamed by alcohol. Daphne feared for her life when Sam waved a carving knife, then tried to strangle her parrot - 'rather the bird than me', she said, as she flew back to England. Her old friends became shareholders in a Chelsea restaurant, inevitably called 'Daphne's'. It was an instant hit. It stayed open late, was packed with after-theatre diners. The food was original and excellent. To the horror and fury of her old friends, Sam Ainley reappeared and Daphne welcomed him. She sold the restaurant, the backers got their money back, the lovers returned to Spain, this time to San Pedro de Alcantara, a few miles from fashionable Marbella. Finally they married, opened new restaurants, living with the noisy parrot and about 30 cats, maybe more. The restaurants failed. Daphne had a great new idea and opened a Book-Bar. There expatriate Brits would meet to exchange books and gossip and enjoy the first drink (or drinks) of the day. It prospered but business fell off when too many customers were insulted by the proprietor. Sam died. Daphne was distraught, moved to other houses with what was left of her original English furniture plus her parrot and her cats. She ended her days well-attended in a peaceful Spanish nursing home.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate