Vesey O'Davoren

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Vesey O'Davoren
Vesey Alfred Davoren 1916 (cropped).jpg
Davoren in 1916 by John Morley
Vesey Alfred Davoren

(1888-12-08)8 December 1888
Died30 May 1989(1989-05-30) (aged 100)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationSoldier, film actor
(m. 1916; death 1963)

Vesey O'Davoren (born Vesey Alfred Davoren; 8 December 1888[1] – 30 May 1989) was a British soldier who served in the Suffolk Regiment during World War I and later worked as a film actor and stage actor in California.

Early life

Vesey Alfred Davoren was born to Vesey Henry William and Edith Ann (née Hoyte) Davoren. His father was a major in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was Mayor of Bury St Edmunds 1911–1912.[2][3] His mother was president of the local branch of the League of Pity.[4] Reportedly, Davoren was a descendent of the Duke of Wellington on his mother's side.[5][6] He claimed descent from two English Prime Ministers, William Pitt (1708–1778) and "Iron Duke" Arthur Wellesley (1769–1852), and said he stemmed from a family of medieval Irish scholars.[7]

He spent his early childhood in India, later attending St. Paul's school in London and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.[8]

As a youth Davoren performed in plays at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.[1]

World War I

During World War I, Davoren served in the British Army with the 7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, under the command of Colonel Charles Douglas Parry Crooke.[9]

In October 1915, his company (B) was massacred[10] in action around the Hohenzollern Redoubt, just after the Battle of Loos. (See Actions of the Hohenzollern Redoubt#British attacks 13–19 October 1915.) An entry in the 7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment's War Diary[11][non-primary source needed] on 13 October 1915, states that Davoren "was wounded [shot in foot and then side] in the action on the Hohenzollern Redoubt on 11 October, but continued to lead his Company until killed by a shot from a machine gun". Davoren was rescued, carried for 2 miles (3.2 km), by Sergeant-Major Martin.[12] Davoren was the only one of the 10 officers of B Company, 7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, to survive that day, despite having been reported killed.[13]

Following a mustard gas attack, Davoren lost his voice and was told he had six months to live should he live in a dry climate.[1] In order to save his voice, he decided to move to California.[14]


Davoren began his stage career in London in 1909.[8]

In February 1920, the New York Herald reported that Davoren, one of "three of the most promising young actors of the British film world" (along with John Gliddon and Elliot Gordon) had set sail from Britain to New York,[15] and he arrived in Hollywood, California later than same year.[5][7]

He acted in silent films during the seven years it took for his voice to recover from his wartime injury.[1] In 1927, he made his first American film appearance in Arthur Varney's Winds of the Pampas.[16] During this period he also directed plays including a Hollywood Bowl production of The Pied Piper.[1]

By 1930 he had played leading roles in the British and American stage productions of A School for Scandal (as Sir Benjamin Backbite in 1922)[17] and Cyril Harcourt's A Pair of Silk Stockings and along with central roles in musical comedies in Dublin and London.[18]

Davoren's early film and stage career overlapped. In the spring of 1930, he played an elderly man in the play Rope's End while simultaneously playing a younger man in the film So This Is London, saying that he "spent one-half of the day getting my whiskers on and off". His versatility almost cost him the role of Professor Deming in the September 1930 stage production of The Poor Nut when its casting director initially did not believe that the clean-shaven Davoren could be the same actor he remembered from Rope's End.[19]

In June 1934, The Los Angeles Times reported Davoren to be one of four "well-known actors" to be principals in the cast of the stage play The People, Inc.[20]

He went on to have a large number of roles in sound films.[1]

Personal life

Life mask of Davoren by his wife Ivy de Verley, circa 1920

Davoren married portrait artist Ivy de Verley on 15 January 1916.[21] He modelled for some of his wife's death masks.[22] According to de Verley, she developed the style after her husband asked her to create his death mask after being told he had a short time to live following exposure to poison gas.[22]

In 1922 O'Davoren and his wife commissioned a 2,500 square foot house and studio in West Hollywood, California, in Hollywood's Sunset Strip, near Beverly Boulevard and Sunset Las Palmas Studios, at 2049 North Las Palmas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90068. As of 2018, the house still stands.[23]

In 1937 in his backyard, Davoren built several boats, including a 24 foot (7.3 m) cabin cruiser.[24]

He was the founder and commodore of the Topanga Yacht Club, Topanga, California, and was given the honorific sobriquet of "Captain".[7] Despite the prominent involvement of William Randolph Hearst and the purchase of 1,800 acres (730 ha), the planned yacht harbor never materialized.[25]

Davoren died, aged 100, on 30 May 1989 in Los Angeles.[1]


He appeared in 64 films between 1927 and 1957, mostly uncredited. Unless otherwise noted, the entries on this list come from the following three sources:[16][26][27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lombardi, Fred (14 June 1989). "Obituaries". Variety. 335 (9). pp. 93–94. ProQuest 1286134366.
  2. ^ "Clare Genealogy: The O'Davorens of Cahermacnaughten, Burren, Co. Clare: Part II: Genealogical: O'Davoren Pedigree, circa 1754; Later O'Davorens". Clare County Library. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  3. ^ List taken from 1947 Bury Borough Council yearbook
  4. ^ Bury Free Press, 30 October 1915.
  5. ^ a b "English Movie Actors Coming to America to Do Work: Lady Duff Cooper May Do Films in California". New York Sun and The New York Herald. 15 February 1920. p. 1 – via Chronicling America.
  6. ^ "Prominent Descendants of Royalty Prove an Old Adage: "Blood Will Tell"". The Los Angeles Times. 27 July 1930. p. 116. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Capra, Pablo (9 August 2021). "Topanga History: The Topanga Yacht Club". The Malibu Times. In 1924, the Los Angeles Athletic Club bought Topanga Beach with the intention of building a yacht harbor.To promote the cause, British actor Captain Vesey O’Davoren (1888-1989) founded the Topanga Yacht Club in 1928.
  8. ^ a b "Two Actors Add Greatly To 'Amber', 7 Dec 1926, 16 - The Pasadena Post at". Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  9. ^ Davoren's army record from The London Gazette provides: 25 August 1914, General List, OTC Cadets and ex-Cadets, to be temporary 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry; 16 April 1915, temporary Lieutenant; 30 October 1916, temporary Lieutenant; 13 June 1917, temporary Lieutenant; 15 October 1917, temporary Lieutenant, from Suffolk Regiment; 2 February 1918, 'temporary Lieutenant Labour Corps, to be transferred to General List for duty as Assistant Area Gas Officer and to be acting Captain whilst so employed'; 13 May 1919, Lieutenant (acting Captain) 'whilst employed as a Brigade Education Officer'; 3 September 1919, 'temporary Lieutenant V A Davoren relinquishes his commission on account of ill health, 4 September 1919, and is granted the rank of Captain'.
  10. ^ Memorial: Vere Fortrey Currey Imperial War Museum. "The Hairpin". Suffolk Regiment. 13 October 2015.
  11. ^ Suffolk Regiment's War Diary, Suffolk Record Office in Bury St Edmunds.
  12. ^ 'The Gallant 7th Suffolks.'/ 'Charge for the Hohenzollern Redoubt.'/ 'Lieut. Vesey A. Davoren wounded.'/ 'Heroic Rescue by Bury NCO.', Bury Free Press, 30 October 1915.
  13. ^ "Lieutenant Vesey Alfred Davoren. The Suffolk Regiment. Reference: WO 339/11510". National Archives.
  14. ^ Screen International Film and TV Year Book. 45. Screen International, King Publications. 1990. p. 22.
  15. ^ "'Fed up' with the Methods of English Producers". New York Herald. 15 February 1920. p. 23. Retrieved 3 December 2021 – via To use their own words, they are ‘fed up’ with the unenterprising methods of the film companies’ over here. They declare that the British impressarios are parsimonious and lacking in imagination: that talent is at a discount. These three are Capt. Vesey O’Davoren, John Gliddon and Elliott Gordon. Note that this is the Gliddon who by 1933 was an agent whose clients included Vivien Leigh: see Taylor, John Russell. (1984) Vivien Leigh. London: Elm Tree Books. ISBN 0-241-11333-4, page 38; Edwards, Anne. (1978) Vivien Leigh, A Biography. London: Coronet Books. ISBN 0-340-23024-X (page 30-43); Capua, Michelangelo.(2003) Vivien Leigh: A Biography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-1497-0, page 8.
  16. ^ a b c "Vesey O'Davoren". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  17. ^ "22 Jan 1922, 54 - The Los Angeles Times at". Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  18. ^ "21 Mar 1930, 13 - Los Angeles Evening Post-Record at". Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  19. ^ "Young Actor Fooled Caster in Aged Role, 13 Sep 1930, 10 - Los Angeles Evening Express at". Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  20. ^ "Noted Players Will Appear in 'People, Inc.', 20 Jun 1934, 10 - The Los Angeles Times at". Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  21. ^ "Mrs. Vesey Davoren". The Tatler: An Illustrated Journal of Society, the Drama, and Sport. 59. United Kingdom: n.p. 26 January 1916. p. 26.
  22. ^ a b "People Talked About". Carmel Pine Cone. 13 April 1934. p. 9 – via Internet Archive.
  23. ^ Gluck, Marissa (2 February 2009). "Rent Check: 1920's Hollywood Hills Guest House". LA Curbed. Is it just us, or does the rent on this 1922 Hollywood one-bedroom, one bath two-story Spanish style house seem kind of reasonable? The house was originally built for actress [sic] Vessey [sic] O'Davoren, who the listing claims was in 'London by Night' and 'Hounds [sic] of the Baskervilles'. (Although IMDB begs to differ.) The two-story house, which is roughly 800 square feet [sic], features hardwood floors, refrigerator and dishwasher, and a one car garage. The real estate agents are asking $1,800 per month [$6,046 per month in 2018] for a one-year lease. It was for sale in 2017/2018 for $1,499,000.
  24. ^ "Cruiser requires bridge builder". The Los Angeles Times. 1 September 1937. p. 28. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  25. ^ Capra, Pablo (4 October 2019). "Topanga Yacht Harbor Planned at Cooper's Camp". The Malibu Times.
  26. ^ "Vesey O'Davoren". British Film Institute. Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  27. ^ a b Goble, Alan, ed. (1999). The complete index to literary sources in film. London: De Gruyter, Bowker-Saur. p. 149. ISBN 978-3-11-095194-3. OCLC 868959494.
  28. ^ Gevinson, Alan, Editor (1997) Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960 American Film Institute, University of California Press, page 1351.
  29. ^ Full cast and crew Dracula's Daughter
  30. ^ "30 Mar 1940". The Austin American at 30 March 1940. p. 9. Retrieved 3 December 2021 – via
  31. ^ Uncredited role in The Little Princess (1939) starring Shirley Temple in her first Technicolor film, via YouTube
  32. ^ Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960, edited by Alan Gevinson, American Film Institute, University of California Press, 1997, page 1351.
  33. ^ Warren, Bill. (2009) Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, page 726.

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