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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions