Fay Compton (September 18, 1894 - December 12, 1978) was a British actress from a notable acting lineage; her father was actor/manager Edward Compton; her mother, Virginia Bateman, was a distinguished member of the profession, as were her sister, the actress Viola Compton, and her uncles and aunts. Her grandfather was 19th-century theatrical luminary, Henry Compton. The novelist Compton Mackenzie, was her brother.
Fay Compton was christened Virginia Lilian Emeline Mackenzie Compton in London, England on September 18, 1894. Compton made her first professional appearances in between 1911 and 1913 with The Follies under the leadership of H.G.Pelissier, her future husband. She made her mark in the several plays of J. M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame) introducing him to London audiences, notably in the title role of Mary Rose in 1920. In 1926, she published reminiscences entitled Rosemary: Some remembrances.
Active in the classics as well as contemporary material, Compton had the distinction of playing Ophelia opposite two of the most celebrated Hamlets, John Barrymore and John Gielgud. In 1962 she appeared as "Marya" in Sir Laurence Olivier's production of Uncle Vanya at Chichester Festival Theatre.
Compton's film work is not as well known or as highly regarded as her stage appearances, but she managed to squeeze many solvent screen roles in more than forty movies between 1914 and 1970. Her most popular performances in films are Odd Man Out (1947), Laughter in Paradise (1951) Orson Welles' Othello (1952) and The Haunting (1963).
In addition to her resume, she led a successful career in the radio, television and gramophone recordings. Compton is the mother of British director Anthony Pelissier, whose most significant films were H.G. Wells' The History of Mr. Polly (1949), D.H. Lawrence's The Rocking Horse Winner (1950) and Somerset Maugham's Encore (1952).
She was married four times:
H.G.Pelissier (1874-1913); (one son Anthony Pelissier) Lauri de Frece (1880-1921) Leon Quartermaine Ralph Michael (1907-1994) Her granddaughter is the British actress Tracy Reed.
Distinguished figures such as Alec Guinness, John Le Mesurier, Jan Sterling, Sally Gray, Joe Mitcheson and Elton Hayes, developed their acting career in her Fay Compton School of Dramatic Arts.
One of her last major roles was as Aunt Ann in the BBC's 1967 television adaptation of The Forsyte Saga.
Fay Compton died on December 12, 1978, in London, aged 84.