Lilian Braithwaite

Lilian Braithwaite in the 1910s
Lilian Braithwaite & Noël Coward

Dame Florence Lilian Braithwaite DBE (9 March 1873 – 17 September 1948), known as Lilian Braithwaite, was an English actress, primarily of the stage.


She was the daughter of a clergyman, and born in Ramsgate, Kent. She was educated at Croydon High School, and married actor-manager Gerald Lawrence, first acting with amateur companies. Her first professional London appearance was in As You Like It in 1900. She appeared in the 1927 Alfred Hitchcock film Downhill.

Her greatest triumph was as the alcoholic mother in Noël Coward's groundbreaking drama The Vortex. She proved that comedy was her greatest asset in a long succession of drawing-room dramas and light comedies, culminating in the long running Arsenic and Old Lace (1942-1946).

Braithwaite responded to the assertion of critic James Agate that she was "the second most beautiful woman in London", by replying, "I shall long cherish that, coming from our second-best theatre critic."[1]

Personal life

During the Second World War she served as chairman and chief organiser of the hospital division of ENSA. She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), for services to the stage, on 1 January 1943.[2] Her daughter Joyce Carey became a film and television actress.

Selected filmography


  1. Nightingale, Benedict, "For love and money", The Times Literary Supplement, 11 April 1986, p. 383
  2. The London Gazette: no. 35841. p. 15. 29 December 1942.
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