Fitzsimmons & Flory, American vaudeville entertainers

November 21, 2014

Fitzsimmons & Flory (active 1926-1927), American vaudeville entertainers, as they appeared on tour in the United States during 1926 and 1927 in ‘A Novel Comedy Diversion’ entitled By the Weight?
(photo: Sussman, 305 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, 1926/27)

Before teaming up with Mlle. Flory in 1926, Billy Fitzsimmons had been on the vaudeville circuits in the United States for some years, notably in 1918 with Florence Normand, whom he had married he had married on 9 November 1917 at City Hall, New York, in Trimmings, a comedy skit (Variety, New York, Friday, 9 November 1917, p. 25c; The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Wednesday, 11 September 1918, p. 2a). Between 1921 and 1925 he toured with Joe Shriner in ‘a new comedy diversion’ entitled The Newsdealer.

Mlle. Flory was known as Jeanette Fleury before the fall of 1926 and her appearances with Billy Fitzsimmons. The reason for her change of name is unknown but it is remarkable in the light of the widely reported suicide at Drury Lane Theatre, London, on 17 June that year of the well-known French actress and singer, Regine Flory.

* * * * *

Keith’s Vaudeville at Fairfax Theatre, Miami, Florida, week of Monday, 23 April 1923
‘Joe Shriner and William Fitzsimmons have a novel comedy entitled ”The Newsdealer.” This little sketch portrays an old man of 92 as the newsdealer, while Shriner as an actor brings in much witticisms in this conversation with the newsdealer. They offer many songs of the rag time variety as well as the old ones of yesterday.’
(The Miami Daily Metropolis, Miami, Wednesday, 24 April 1923, p. 2c)

Faurot Opera House, Lima, Ohio, October 1926
‘Billy Fitzsimmons and Mlle Flory are a new combination of entertainers and will be seen in a novelty comedy diversion entitled ”By the Weight.” Fitzsimmons has made a speciality of eccentric old men parts, haing appeared in intimate productions under the management of Cohan and Harris … Mlle. Flory was in four consecutive editions of Greenwich Village Follies and with ”Innocent Eyes” and ”Gay Paree.”’
(The Lima News, Lima, Ohio, 13 October 1926, p. 13a)


Lily Elsie about the time of her return to the stage in the title role of Pamela, Palace Theatre, London, 1917

November 19, 2014

Lily Elsie (1886-1962), English star of musical comedy, upon her return to the stage in the title role of Pamela, comedy with music by Arthur Wimperis and Frederic Norton, Palace Theatre, London, 10 December 1917
(photo: unknown, probably London, 1916/1917)

‘I hear them talking. For once they all agreed. Not time or love or circumstance could change her – she must succeed. She was Lily Elsie. I did not marvel. She is such a sweet woman. Men and women love her equally. Could anyone wish for greater blessing? What is her fascination? Perhaps it is charm. That elusive quality. Few women and fewer men possess it. She alone of all our stage women possesses it to the full. She is herself – Lily Elsie. Queen of Hearts – back on the stage once more. If Alfred Butt never did anything else he has earned in that achievement the gratitude of playgoers everywhere.’
(The Pelican, London, Friday, 1 February 1918, p. 3)

Note the similarity between this photograph and Sir James Jebusa Shannon’s portrait of Miss Elsie, which has been dated to circa 1916.


Alexandrine Martens, ‘die preisgekrönte Schönheit,’ international singer

November 17, 2014

Alexandrine Martens (active 1886-1896), ‘die preisgekrönte Schönheit’ (‘the award-winning beauty’) and singer, who was at the Amy P, Paris, in 1888 and again in 1893
(photo: unknown; Ogden’s Guinea Gold cigarette card, England, late 1890s)

‘Aux Folies-Bergère. – Nous constatons avec plaisir que le théâtre des Folies-Bergère jouit d’une vogue indiscutable sous la nouvelle direction de M. Allemand, lequel fait du reste tout ce qui est nécessaire pour attirer et retenir son public.
‘Trois attractions en ce moment sont inscrites au programme: les taureaux espanols, les frères Hulines, les soeurs Martens.
‘Les soeurs martens sont quatre gracieuses et superbes tziganes, qui chantent avec un charme indéfinissable des mélopées de leur pays. Ces chants où les cris de joie se mêlent à des accents d’une tristesse sauvage, produisent une profonde impression sur les spectateurs. Puis ce sont des tyroliennes, des romances, des chansonnettes d’une gaieté folle.
‘L’une de ces jeunes filles, Mlle Alexandrine Martens, dont nous donnons le portrait, a obtenu l’année dernière le prix de beauté au concours de Vienne.
‘Il est difficile de rencontrer une jeune fille plus séduisante. Son visage, du plus pur ovale, encadré de cheveux noirs, a quelque chose qui attire et fascine. Aussi n’est-il pas étonnant que chaque soir les soeurs Martens soient l’objet de véritables ovations.’
(La Presse, Paris, Thursday, 5 April 1888, p. 9a)

‘The Alexandrine Martens Quartet will commence on Monday next an engagement with Mr Dan Lowrey, of Dublin and Belfast, afterwards going to the Winter Garten, Berlin.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 14 December 1895, p. 17a)

‘At the Lambeth County Court, on the 27th ult. [February 1896], an action was tried by his Honour Judge Emden, which was brought by Miss Ada Dannett against Miss Alexandrine Marten, to recover damaged for breach of contract. The plaintiff claimed to be entitled to £125 balance of salary due under a contract dated Nov. 20th, 1895, whereby the defendant agreed to engage her for twelve months at £2 10s. per week to sing in a quartet, but to bring the matter within the jurisdiction of the county court she claimed £50 damages for the breach. Mr C.W. Kent was counsel for the plaintiff, and Mr W.H. Armstrong solicitor for the defendant.
‘The plaintiff stated in her evidence that, having been engaged by the defendant, the quartet opened at the Star Music Hall, Dublin, for twelve nights, commencing Dec. 23d, 1895, and, after fulfilling the engagement, they returned to town [i.e. London], after which the defendant decided not to proceed further.
‘For the defence Mr Armstrong stated that, in consequence of the want of stage experience of the plaintiff and the other two ladies engaged by the defendant, she decided to abandon the affair.
‘Miss Amy Pennington, one of the quartet, stated that she had cancelled her contract with the defendant by mutual consent, on account of her want of stage experience, and that the other lady had done the same.
‘His Honour said that, according to the terms of the contract, there must be judgement for the plaintiff, but not for the amount claimed. It was a most unfortunate affair for the defendant, and he should award the plaintiff £20. On the application of Mr Armstrong that amount was allowed to be paid at £2 per month.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 17 March 1896, p. 18c)


La Petite Marguerite, child vocalist and dancer

November 14, 2014

La Petite Marguerite (active 1877-1880), English (or Irish) music hall performer billed as ‘the clever Child Vocalist and Dancer’ and serio-comic vocalist, pupil of the Sisters Carlton, burlesque artists
(photo: unknown, United Kingdom, late 1870s)

‘KEIGHLEY. – KERSHAW’S VARIETIES. – company for Monday, October 20th [1877] – Madame Delgrange and Mons. Jullien, French Operatic Vocalists and Duettists; Mr Harry Wingett, comic; Miss Rebecca De Brent, Serio-Comic; Sidney Spry and Little Monti, the Elastic Darkies; sisters Darlton, Comic Duettists; and La Petite Marguerite, the clever Child Vocalist and dancer. A. KERSHAW, Proprietor. Vacancies for Talent.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 28 October 1877, p. 18c)

Victory Theatre, Aldershot, week beginning Monday, 1 September 1879
‘… A new company opened on Monday, and consisted of the Sisters Carlton, burlesque artists, always favourites here; La Petite Marguerite, a clever singer, justly styled the pocket ”Ashcroft” …’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 7 September 1879, p. 7a)

Victory Theatre, Aldershot, week beginning Monday, 15 September 1879
’ … The Sisters Carlton (burlesque artistes) and La Petite Marguerite (Irish silver and dancer) continue great favourites.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 21 September 1879, p. 7a)

Royal Alhambra music hall, Nottingham, November 1879
‘THE Original SISTERS CARLTON, Opera Bouffe, Burlesque, and Comic Characters entertainers, and La Petite MARGUERITE, the Pocket Ashcroft, are again Re-engaged for Six Nights longer, at the above Hall. Our New Duet ”Don Juan,” written by Miss Amy Carlton, encored Nightly. At Liberty November 24th, Six Nights only. Full up till July 26th, 1880. Address, Alhambra.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 16 November 1879, p. 20a)


Nellie Stratton as she sang ‘Give Us a Bit of Your Kilt,’ 1898/99

November 6, 2014

Nellie Stratton (1875-1947), English music hall comedienne, featured on the cover of the song for ‘Give Us A Bit Of Your Kilt,’ written and composed by A.J. Mills and Albert Perry.
(published by Francis, Day & Hunter, London, 1898; lithographic printing by H.G. Banks, London)

‘Oh! Sandy, you’ve taken our hearts by storm,
There’s no mistake about it, we are mash’d up on your form:
Oh! McGregor, you look so finely built,
If you can’t give us a bit of your love,
Give us a bit of your kilt!’

The Granville Theatre of Varieties, Waltham Green, London, week beginning Monday, 13 March 1899
‘Miss Nellie Stratton is a neat little serio, her seaside story of ”The cosy little corner,” and her description of Sandy M’Gregor’s kilt and the havoc it wrought in the hearts of the fair sex, is highly popular and instructive.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 18 March 1899, p. 18d)

The Bedford music hall, Camden, London, week beginning Monday, 10 April 1899
‘Miss Nellie Stratton, a pretty brunette, sings of ”Alice in Wonderland” – not Lewis Carroll’s little heroine, but a lass from the country, who visits Barnum and Bailey’s. In her song concerning a Highlander Miss Stratton puts Sandy in a quandary by asking ”If you can’t give me a bit of your love give us a bit of your kilt.” The hardy Scot, anxious to save that indispensable article of his wardrobe, buys a suit, hands it to his lady admirers in a parcel as a kilt, and then beats a judicious retreat.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 15 April 1899, p. 18d)

* * * * *

Nellie Stratton, one of the daughters of John William Stratton (1841-1889) and his wife Esther (née Solomon, 1839-1911), was married to the comedian Wilkie Bard (William August Smith, 1874-1944) at St. George’s, Bloomsbury, London, on 29 July 1895. The witnesses at their wedding were Francis James Peers (1867-), a musician and one of the bride’s brothers-in-law, and the actor Herbert Arrowsmith (Bert) Monks (1872-1952).


Phyllis Neilson-Terry as Rosalind, New Theatre, London, May 1911

November 2, 2014

Phyllis Neilson-Terry (1892-1977), as she appeared for 9 matinee performances as Rosalind in a revival of Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It, New Theatre, London, 11 May 1911. Other members of the cast included Philip Merivale, Maurice Elvey, Vernon Steel, Malcolm Cherry, Miriam Lewis and, as Touchstone, Arthur Williams.
(photo: Alfred Ellis & Walery, 51 Baker Street, London, W, negative no. 52936-4)

‘Youth, beauty, stature, presence – Miss Neilson-Terry has all the externals of a first-rate Rosalind. Never was a prettier fellow than her Ganymede. Her past performances, too – and especially that beautiful performance of Viola [His Majesty’s Theatre, London, 7 April 1910] – promised a Rosalind who might catch for us most, if not all, of the flickering play of lights and shades in this April day of a character; particularly when the name of her father [Fred Terry] was announced as that of the ”producer” of the play. And our hopes were only very slightly disappointed. Such young as Miss Neilson-Terry’s is an invaluable asset; but even youth has its own drawbacks, especially when it is let loose on part in which there is plenty of high spirits and laughter and a swashing and a martial outside. To our thinking, Miss Neilson-Terry made just a thought too much of that outside. Like many a Rosalind, or rather Ganymede, she was inclined to be too consistently hearty, even at moments when Rosalind, being really interested in what was toward, would forget to be hearty. Would Rosalind, for instance, have thumped Silvius on the back when she told him to ”ply Phœbe hard”? Again, she is a little too ready to ”make” fun, where there is humour in plenty already. Her reading of Phœbe’s letter to Ganymede we might instance as a case where a much simpler manner would have gained a much stronger effect. And lastly (O spirits and vigour of youth!) she jumps and dances and sways about and clps her hands more than she should. And sometimes she forces her voice.
‘Against this apparently formidable list of complaints we have to set merits that are much more important. Some of them – the natural merits – we have mentioned. Miss Neilson-Terry is a Rosalind who does not allow us to forget that Ganymede, pretending to be Rosalind, is actually Rosalind, and that under the mock love-making with Orlando lies what is to her dead earnest. This most essential idea is constantly peeping out in all sorts of nicely calculated and touching little ways. The swift changes of mood and cross-currents of thought and emotion are nearly all expressed by the tone, the gesture, or the face; and the grave gentleness or simple earnestness, of which we see rather too little, are, when they come, delightful. And we must add that in the interpolated cuckoo-song Miss Neilson-Terry showed a very highly-trained and very pretty singing-voice.
‘The whole production is charming. There is always something one wants to quarrel with in any ”cutting” for the modern stage of a Shakespeare play; but into that we need not go now. The acting is good through, especially that of Miss Miriam Lewes as Celia and Mr. Horace Hodges as Adam; Mr. Arthur Williams made an agreeable Touchstone, and Mr. Vernon Steel was handsome and gallant enough in the not very exacting part of Orlando.’
(The Times, London, 12 May 1911, p. 11c)


Maud Rochez, animal trainer and proprietor of a music hall and vaudeville monkey act

October 27, 2014

Maud Rochez (1885?-1930), animal trainer and proprietor of a celebrated monkey act
(postcard photo: unknown, circa 1906)

Maud Rochez (née Birtwhistle) was the wife of Harry Rochez (Henry James Percy Dutfield Rochez, 1869-1955), whom she married at Cardiff in 1903. She appears to have retired from performing about 1920 after which her husband continued with their act.

Keith’s Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts, week beginning Monday, 2 August 1909
‘The regular vaudeville section of the bill will be even stronger than that of last week, and will have as a leading feature a summer sensation on Hammerstein’s Roof. It is called ”An Amateur Night in a Monkey Music Hall,” and act brought over from England by Maud Rochez, in which there is a large company of monkeys giving an entire performance on a stage built on the stage.
‘They are even provided with a monkey orchestra, the leader of which is an artist in that way. The monkeys themselves manage the stage, drawing the curtain, hanging the cards, setting the stage, and introducing the money actors.’
(The Boston Sunday Post, Boston, Massachusetts, Sunday, 1 August 1909, dramatic page)

London Coliseum, June 1911
‘Maud Rochez’s monkys are always welcome, and their return to the Coliseum bill is a feature worth recording. A miniature music-hall performance is provided entirely by a troupe of well-trained monkeys, who do everything on their own unimpeded by the usual officious parading of a conceited trainer. It is a unique show, and withal an incomparably good one.’
(‘Between the Turns,’ Penny Illustrated Paper, London, Saturday, 10 June 1911, p. 770a)

The Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, January 1927
‘London, Jan. 18 [1927] … The Alhambra holiday program was a magnet for the huge crowds filling the Leicester Square building. Daisy Taylor, Scotch singing comedienne, with pianist also attired in Highland costume, opened. This was a tough spot for this kind of an act. Went over very well, however. Clay Keyes, the dancing club juggler, was on second, and what a hit! Harry Rochez’ Monkey Music Hall was a scream, with the simians as orchestra and other monks [sic] as variety performers. The part that tickled me was where the monk [sic] doing the ”strong act” always heaved his props into the orchestra when he had finished with them. What a wow that would be in real life! Debroy Somer’s [sic] Band, very good outfit, played their stuff with brilliance. Hilda Glyder in snappy songs was a big hit, especially in her dance bit after singing ”Am I Wasting My Time?” The society entertainer in hob-nailed boots then rolled on – and what did not Bill Bennett do to ‘em! Layton & Johnstone were their usual popular triumph, with The Hassans, novelty wire and cycling act, closing.’
(Frank O’Connell, The Vaudeville News and New York Star, New York, 22 January 1927, p. 6a/b)


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