Friday, 18 October 2013

The silent film star and a strange coincidence



Today my husband Alan and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary, and in the context of our respective one-name studies I am particularly reminded today of a strange coincidence which we came across some time ago, concerning Ivy CLOSE (1890-1968).

Ivy Lilian CLOSE was born on 15 June 1890 in Stockton on Tees, County Durham, the daughter of watch maker and jeweller John Robert CLOSE (1867-1936) and his wife Emma BLACKBURN (1868-1927).  In the 1911 census she described herself as a vocalist, the Daily Mirror awarded her the title of “Most beautiful woman in the world”, but in her 20s she became much better known as a popular actress in silent films.

My husband is studying the surname NEAME, and I am researching CLOSE.  Imagine our surprise, then, when we discovered a marriage between a NEAME and a CLOSE, neither of whom, as far as we know, was related to us.  Not only that, but it was a marriage between two people who have made a significant impact on the world of entertainment.

We discovered that Ivy CLOSE married Stuart Elwin NEAME (1885-1923) on Boxing Day 1910 at St Mary, Finchley.  In his early days, Elwin NEAME was a press and private photographer, but he later became a film director.  Elwin and Ivy had two sons, Ronald (1911-2010) and Derek (1915-1979), both of whom also became film directors and screenwriters.  Not only that, but Ronald’s son Christopher (1942-2011) followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather,  producing many successful films and TV series. 

Today the baton has been passed to a 4th generation. In a recent episode of Downton Abbey  one of the characters referred to a film starring Ivy CLOSE.  I wonder how many viewers realised that she was the great-grandmother of the series’ executive producer, Gareth NEAME (b.1967)?