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MS 509

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MS 509


Alec Clunes archive



Administrative / Biographical history

Clunes, Alec, (1912-1970)

Alexander ‘Alec’ Sheriff de Moro Clunes was an actor, theatre manager, writer and antiquarian bookseller.

The son of Alexander Sherriff Clunes, actor, and his wife, Georgina Ada Sumner, actress he was born into an acting family. However he originally worked in advertising and journalism and kept his acting talent to his leisure time, working with a number of leading amateur groups. In 1934, he gave up his job to pursue acting and began touring with Sir P. Ben Greet and later in the same year joined the Old Vic Company. Playing increasingly prominent roles in both classic and contemporary plays, by 1939 he was one of the leaders of the company at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford upon Avon, playing Petruchio, Richmond, Iago, Benedick, and Coriolanus. In 1940 George Bernard Shaw gave him the part of Godfrey Kneller in ‘In Good King Charles's Golden Days’ at the New Theatre in London.

In May 1942 the Arts Theatre Group of Actors was founded and until 1953 Clunes served as manager/director, and actor of the Arts Theatre in Great Newport Street, London.

Clunes became a leading member of the theatrical profession in the mid-twentieth century and his time at the Arts Theatre Club was characterised by his readiness to help high-aspiring new dramatists.

Clunes also had a variety of other interests. He collected prints and drawings, owned and ran a bookshop, and in 1964 he published ‘The British Theatre’.

In 1956 Clunes married Daphne Acott, with whom he had one son (the actor Martin Clunes) and one daughter. An earlier marriage, in 1949, to Stella Richman (1922–2002), had been dissolved in 1954. Clunes died in London on 13 March 1970.



Extent & medium

[3 series]

Content description

The papers mainly reflect Clunes’s adult, professional life, covering his acting career and management of the Arts Theatre, London. The material ranges from photographs, press cuttings and other ephemera, to correspondences and official papers and documents.

They offer a valuable insight into the mid-twentieth century theatre world and include correspondence between Clunes and a variety of other prominent actors or performers of the day.

In addition there are a number of files of personal papers, which are mostly financial or administrative in nature. There is very little in the way of family papers and his childhood and upbringing is not reflected in the collection, with the exception of some early photographs.
In general the material has been organised according to the nature of the papers and researchers looking for material on a specific play, for example, should search across the collection as there is overlap between the series and the files as Clunes took on a dual role of actor and theatre manager/director


The papers were collected by Alec Clunes during his life.
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