Mrs Patrick Campbell (1865-1940)
Adapted by J. B. Fagan from the Novel of Robert Hichens.
Produced at St. James's Theatre, December 9th, 1911.
The stage version of "Bella Donna" varies from the novel principally in the omission of certain facts which lead up to the chief events. The adapter was probably right in assuming that practically everybody had read the book, and that if they hadn't, it was their misfortune, for they should have done so.
In the play the action opened in the consulting room of Dr. Meyer Isaacson. Mrs. Chepstow, who was divorced by her husband, and who had ruined many men, called upon him, and he learned that she was going to Egypt with the Hon. Nigel Armine. Armine called immediately afterwards, but would not listen to Isaacson' s warning. Hearing that Armine was the heir to a considerable amount of property, Mrs. Chepstow fascinated him into marrying her.
In Egypt the news came that Armine's brother's wife had presented him with twins, and this fact threw Armine's expectations to the ground. Had his brother died childless he would have inherited the property. Hearing this, Mrs. Chepstow had no further use for the Hon. Nigel Armine! She tried her wiles and fascinations on her husband's friend, Baroudie, a wealthy Turkish financier, but Baroudie was taking no risks, and objected to be mixed up in a scandal where his friend's wife was concerned. Before he listened to her, her husband must be dead, and he gave her the poison, with full instructions as to its use, that would effect that end.
The poison was slowly doing its work when Dr. Isaacson arrived upon the scene. He boarded the dahabeah and insisted upon seeing Armine. He had arrived only just in time to save him.
Several weeks later Isaacson told his now fully recovered friend the facts, and Mrs. Armine could not contradict him. Spurned by her husband, she sought Baroudie, who, hearing she had faliled to poison her husband, threw her over as he would a stray dog, and she was left to go out into the desert alone.
"Bella Donna" is certainly one of the successes of the season. It is admirably cast and well staged. Sir George Alexander gave a thoughtful and careful study of Dr. Meyer Isaacson. His black hair and moustache altered his appearance considerably, and they gave to the character a sense of strength and set purpose that added greatly to its value. Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Mrs. Chepstow played the part as only she could. While we experienced a sense of loathing for the woman she portrayed, we were filled with admiration for the actress who played it. Interesting performances were also given by Mr. Charles Maude, Mr. Charles Bryant, Mr. Shiel Barry and Miss Mary Gray.
Playgoer and Society Illustrated, Vol 5 No 29, January 1912.
Movie Credits (source www.imdb.com)
1930 - The Dancers [Aunt Emily]
1934 - Riptide [Aunt Hetty]
1934 - One More River [Lady Mont]
1934 - Outcast Lady [Lady Eve]
1935 - Crime and Punishment [Pawnbroker]