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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee