Morgan le Fay On Screen: Rosemary Theby
Perhaps the first actress to play Morgan le Fay onscreen (if she wasn’t and someone knows of an even earlier portrayal, please let me know!) was Rosemary Theby (1892-1973). Theby made her film debut in 1911 with Vitagraph and the following year played Celia in a silent film version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. She was a successful star of silent cinema, playing German spy Miss Corintee in D. W. Griffith’s The Great Love (1918), starring in an early film version of Kismet (1920), and appearing opposite Harry Houdini in his second feature for Famous Players-Lasky, Terror Island (1920).
She starred as Queen Morgan le Fay in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1921) opposite her husband Harry Myers (now best known as the drunken millionaire in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights) in the title role. Theby’s Morgan was described as “a regal vamp” and she garnered praise for her performance: “Rosemary Theby is well cast as the heavy, Queen Morgan le Faye, and she handles the part beautifully.”
During the Depression, Theby and her husband fell on hard times, and were helped out by friends such as Oliver Hardy, who had played minor roles in some of Theby’s films earlier in his career. Theby had a successful role as Ma Snavely in W. C. Fields’ Mack Sennett-produced two-reeler The Fatal Glass of Beer (1933), but after Myers died of pneumonia in 1938, Theby retired and married Truitt Hughes, to whom she remained married for the rest of her life. She died on June 10, 1973, at the Virgil Convalescent Center, Los Angeles, at the age of 81.