Joseph Grimaldi

Joseph Grimaldi (18 December 1778 – 31 May 1837) was an English actor, comedian and dancer who, apart from his popular stage roles, became best known for his development of the modern day white-face clown. He popularised the role of Clown in many Pantomimes and Harlequinades of the early 1800s, notably at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden theatres.

Born in London to an entertainer father, Grimaldi began to perform as a small child, making his stage debut at Drury Lane in 1780. He became successful at the Sadler's Wells Theatre the following year; his first major role was as Little Clown in the pantomime The Triumph of Mirth; or, Harlequin's Wedding in 1781, in which he starred alongside his father. After he left school, he appeared in various low-budget productions and became a sought-after child performer. He took leading parts in Valentine and Orson (1794) and The Talisman; or, Harlequin Made Happy (1796), the latter of which brought him wider recognition.

Towards the end of the 1790s, Grimaldi starred in Robinson Crusoe, which confirmed him as a key Christmas pantomime performer. Many pantomimes followed, but his career at Drury Lane was becoming turbulent, and he left the theatre for good in 1806. In his new association with the Covent Garden theatre, in the same year he appeared in perhaps his best known clown role in Mother Goose. Grimaldi's residencies at Covent Garden and Sadler's Wells ran simultaneously, and he became known as London's leading clown and enjoyed many successes at both theatres. His success in London led to a demand for him to appear in provincial theatres throughout England, and his tours became both popular and lucrative.

Grimaldi's association with Sadler's Wells came to an end in 1820, chiefly as a result of his deteriorating relationship with the theatre's management. His health declined rapidly, and he retired in 1823. He appeared occasionally on stage during the early 1830s, but his act was restricted by his worsening physical disabilities. By the mid-1830s, Grimaldi was living in relative obscurity and spent the last few years of his life as a depressed alcoholic living in poverty. Grimaldi outlived both his wife and his actor son, Joseph, dying at home in Islington in 1837, aged 59.

Read more about Joseph GrimaldiLast Years, Death and Legacy, Notes and References

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Circus Clown - Notable Clowns - Historical - Joseph Grimaldi
... Joseph Grimaldi was among the greatest English pantomime clowns ... His father was Giuseppi Grimaldi (died 1788), an Italian dancing master and pantomimist ... Joseph's stage debut was at 3 years old in a dance at Sadler's Wells, London's famous variety theatre ...

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