Mervyn "Butch" Blake, 90, thought last summer to be the oldest working actor in Canada, is still recovering from a July fall that prevented him from making a career-farewell appearance in the Stratford Festival's Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Blake's biographer, Audrey M. Ashley, told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 17) that Blake is settling into a Stratford area nursing home and is "determined to be up and walking in time for the booksigning" of the new biography, "With Love From Butch," to be released June 1, 1999 in conjunction with the festival's 1999 season opening.
Ashley said Blake fell and broke his hip July 24, the day before the dress rehearsal for Two Gentlemen of Verona. He damaged his back and is still not able to walk, Ashley said. Blake is in physical therapy.
His role as the Host in Two Gentlemen would have been his last at Stratford after 41 consecutive seasons, and although he had planned to perform it in a wheelchair even before the accident, he did not go on in the part.
Blake was born of English parents and raised in India. At 28, he moved to England performed in the repertory system around the country before working in the Shakespeare Memorial Company (which became the Royal Shakespeare Company) in Stratford-on-Avon. His friends and colleagues there were Vivien Leigh, Ralph Richardson, Michael Redgrave and Laurence Olivier. In 1957, he moved to Canada and began working at Tyrone Guthrie's Stratford Festival in southern Ontario. His first season was also the first season for the permanent Festival Theatre (previously, the troupe performed in a tent). He performed there for 41 consecutive seasons; 1998 would have been his 42nd season.
Ashley said Blake and his wife, actress Christine Blake, will likely move to Toronto next year. Blake turns 91 Nov. 30.
Ashley said "With Love From Butch: Scenes From an Actor's Life" was so titled (by Blake) because he loved his work, and approached all of it with a sense of love and passion.
-- By Kenneth Jones