British actor David Tree was a promising talent who came from prime theatre stock as the son of drama critic Alan Leonard Romaine Parsons and stage actress Viola Tree. His mother, in turn, was the daughter of one of England’s most heralded classical stage actors of the late 19th century and early 20th century, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, and his actress/wife who, as Helen Maude Holt, billed herself as Lady Tree. His younger sister, Virginia (1917-2003) would grow up to become the Marchioness of Bath. Born on July 15, 1915, Tree took his first acting bow at age six alongside his mother with a small role in “The Tempest.” Educated at Eton, he gained repertory experience at the Old Vic, the Playhouse and the Oxford theatre companies, among others, and attained good notices for his portrayals of Ferdinand in “The Tempest” and Feste in “Twelfth Night.” He began his film career in 1937 with Knight Without Armor (1937) and quickly found a future with major parts in The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1937) and Drums (1938). Pygmalion (1938) proved to be his star-in-making role as the ever-dapper Freddy Eynsford-Hill, the suitor who briefly comes between Wendy Hiller’s Eliza Doolittle and Leslie Howard’s Professor Henry Higgins. His mother had a minor part in the film as well. Progressing beautifully, he played a co-lead in French Without Tears (1940), a U.S. film with Ray Milland (replacing a then untested Rex Harrison who had played the lead earlier on stage). Tree displayed a strong, stalwart gait in war films as well, with a top role in Clouds Over Europe (1939). With WWII approaching and following his work in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) and Major Barbara (1941), he left to serve his country in the Royal Artillery. Tragedy occurred when he lost his arm during duty. Following his discharge, Tree abandoned acting and retired to become a farmer. Although he was seen on stage, including a role in “Billy Budd” in 1951, he was little heard from until his director/friend Nicolas Roeg persuaded him to take a role in Don’t Look Now (1973) after more than 30 years. It was to be his one and only reappearance.
Comedy, Drama, Romance