Henry Ainley was born in Leeds on August 21, 1879. He acted in literally hundreds of productions, but he began his career as an amateur. He joined Frank Benson‘s company and made his debut as a messenger in Macbeth. He later played with Herbert Beerbohm Tree‘s company as well. He played major parts in many Shakespeare plays, beginning with Henry V in 1900 and ending with As You Like it in 1936. He played Hamlet in 1930 at the Haymarket Theatre, London, a production that was chosen for a Royal Command Performance.
Beginning in 1915, Ainley played in several films, but the stage was his real home, where he performed in one of the Shakespeare plays almost annually in a busy career that spanned four decades. He died on October 13, 1945.