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Athene Seyler

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Occupation  Actress
Children  Joan Anne Bennett
Role  Actress

Name  Athene Seyler
Years active  1909–68
Books  The craft of comedy
Athene Seyler Quotes by Athene Seyler Like Success

Born  31 May 1889 (1889-05-31) Hackney, London, England
Partner(s)  Nicholas Hannen (1922-1960)
Died  September 12, 1990, Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
Spouse  Nicholas Hannen (m. 1960–1972), James Bury Sterndale Bennett (m. 1914)
Movies  Night of the Demon, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Make Mine Mink, A Tale of Two Cities, Satan Never Sleeps
Similar People  Nicholas Hannen, Robert Asher, Hattie Jacques, Ralph Thomas, Jacques Tourneur

Black Magic (1931)

Athene Seyler, CBE (31 May 1889 – 12 September 1990) was an English actress.


Athene Seyler httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediaendd6Ath

Early life

Athene Seyler was educated at Coombe Hill School in Surrey, a progressive co-educational school which disliked petitionary prayer and whose advanced biology classes studied Darwin's On The Origin of Species. Seyler took part in an anti-blood sports demonstration, during which pupils captured the fox from the local hunt.

Athene Seyler Athene Seyler Hannen 1889 1990 Find A Grave Memorial

She was also active in the South Place Ethical Society during the 1920s, where her father Clarence H. Seyler took his family for many years to hear Moncure Conway lecture as an alternative to attending a religious Sunday service. Clarence ran a class for the study of Herbert Spencer, contributed to the South Place magazine on rationalist matters and wrote a treatise on birth control which he circulated privately among his family.


Athene Seyler Athene Seyler 1889 1990 Find A Grave Memorial

Although better known as a stage actress- she first appeared on the stage in 1909- she made her film debut in 1921, and became known for playing slightly dotty old ladies in many British films from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Athene Seyler Great Character Actors letter S

In 1933, Seyler together with Nicholas Hannen, took a company which included Hannen's daughter by his first marriage, Hermione Hannen, on a well received tour of the Far East and Australia.

Her most memorable stage credits included Mrs Malaprop in The Rivals, Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest and a double-act, with her good friend Dame Sybil Thorndike, as the murderous spinster sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Her film and television career lasted into the 1960s, and included roles in The Citadel (1938), Night of the Demon (1957) and The Avengers (1964, 1965). She was also a regular cast member in screen adaptations of Charles Dickens' novels. Although her silent film appearance in Pickwick (1921) is missing, she played the elderly fiancée in The Pickwick Papers (1952).

She virtually retired from acting after 1970 but continued making public appearances until well into the 1980s, memorably as a guest of Terry Wogan on his eponymous BBC chat show. In 1988, at the age of 99, she was the castaway on radio's Desert Island Discs. In 1990, at the age of 101, she appeared at the National Theatre, talking about her long life and career.

Athene Seyler was President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) from 1950, and a member of the Theatrical Ladies' Guild. She also wrote The Craft of Comedy.

She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1959.

Marriages and relationships

In February 1914 she married James Bury Sterndale-Bennett (1889–1941), a grandson of the composer Sir William Sterndale Bennett and had a daughter Jane Ann (1917-2015) with him.

From 1922 she met and started living with fellow actor Nicholas "Beau" Hannen (son of Sir Nicholas Hannen). Hannen was married and his wife refused a divorce. In 1928, Seyler formally changed her name to Athene Hannen. She continued to use Seyler professionally. In 1960, she and Hannen were married after his wife died.


The British National Portrait Gallery has numerous photos of Seyler.

The Australian National Portrait Gallery website has a portrait of Hannen and Seyler together.


Athene Seyler died in 1990, aged 101, and her ashes were placed in the Hannen Columbarium in St Mary's Churchyard, Wargrave.

Selected stage performances

  • Harvey
  • Watch on the Rhine
  • Lady Windermere's Fan
  • The Rivals
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Cherry Orchard
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Selected television and radio performances

  • The Iron Duchess by William Douglas-Home, BBC radio, broadcast 1966
  • The Reluctant Peer by William Douglas-Home, BBC radio, broadcast 1967
  • Publications

  • with Stephen Haggard The Craft of Comedy (1944), reprinted by Routledge, 2012
  • References

    Athene Seyler Wikipedia