Maud Allan, Canadian-born dancer and choreographer, London, 1908

September 13, 2015

Maud Allan (1873-1956), Canadian-born dancer and choreographer
(postcard photo: W. & D. Downey, London, circa 1908)

This postcard, postmarked twice during September 1909, is addressed to a Mrs Barton in Newton Abbot, Devonshire, England. The message reads: ‘You can get her life written by herself I hear, so I’m going got get it out of a library. This I should imagine is specially like her. Love May.’

Maud Allan’s My Life and Dancing, was published by Everett & Co, London, in 1908. A special souvenir edition was printed to commemorate Miss Allan’s 250th performance at the Palace Theatre, London, 14 October 1908.


Healy Gill, Dülmen Prisoner of War Camp, Germany, 1918

September 12, 2015

Healy Gill (1897-1973), English actor, as he appeared in the ‘Inspiration Dance’ for a production at the Camp Theatre of the Dülmen Prisoner of War Camp, Westphalia, Germany, probably 1918.
(postcard photo: unknown, probably 1918; an autographed copy of this postcard was sold on eBay on 10 March 2012, inscribed in ink, ‘Yours sincerely Healy-Gill’)

Healy Gill, whose real name was Edward James Gill, was the eldest child of Edward John Gill (1875-1965), a printers’ warehouseman, and his wife, Alice Minnie (née Healey [sic], 1875-1931). He was born in the Southwark area of south London on 21 November 1897. According to his World War I service record he was a private in the 23rd London Regiment and later a private in the East Surrey Regiment. He was registered at Dülmen Prisoner of War Camp on 24 March 1918, when his date of birth was recorded as 21 November 1898 rather than 1897. Gill was soon recruited for the Dülmen Camp Theatre, appearing over the next few months in a number of plays, including Caste (a favourite Victorian comedy by T.W. Robertson, first produced at the Prince of Wales’s, London, in 1867), A Fireside Flirtation (a music hall sketch first played in London by William Burr and Daphne Hope in 1916, which provided ‘serious and light-comedy songs, and racy patter’), and ‘Down on the Farm’ (which probably refers to a musical burlesque of that name making the rounds of the British music halls in 1917).

In peacetime, Healy Gill had a modest career on the stage. He is mentioned in June 1921 as appearing in a small part in a ‘bright and animated’ touring revue entitled Lizzie, starring Sara Rosebury and Ted E. Cowley. The following year, at the beginning of August 1922, Gill joined Murray King and Clark’s autumn tour of Romance, Edward Sheldon’s hugely successful play which was first performed at Maxine Elliott’s Theatre, New York, on 10 February 1913, with William Courtenay and Doris Keane in the leading roles respectively of Bishop Thomas Armstrong and Margherita Cavallini. Romance opened at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, on 6 October 1915 (transferring a month later to the Lyric, for a total run of 1047 performances), with Owen Nares as Armstrong and Doris Keane reprising her role as Cavallini. For the 1922 Murray King and Clark tour those parts were taken by Henry C. Hewitt and Frances Dillon; Healy Gill appeared as a minor supporting character.

Gill’s final professional engagement appears to have been in the modest role of Arthur Bellairs in the Percy Brown Company’s autumn 1924 tour of Fred C. Somerfield’s ‘powerful heart-stirring attraction,’ Geoffrey Langdon’s Wife. This well-tested play was first produced at the Rotunda, Liverpool, 22 June 1908, when Bellairs was played by Ivan Mavis.

Meanwhile, Healy Gill (Edward James Gill) was married in 1921 to Blodwen Gerrard (1900-1962), a chauffeur’s daughter. Some 36 years later the couple visited Canada when the ship’s manifest for their return journey to England (SS Empress of England of the Canadian Pacific Line form Montreal, arriving Liverpool, 29 July 1957) lists them as living at 70 Lessington Avenue, Tooting, London, SW17, and Gill’s occupation as ‘waiter.’ He outlived his wife by nearly 11 years and died in 1973.

* * * * *

It is worth noting that Healy Gill’s outfit for his ‘Inspiration Dance’ bears a remarkable likeness to the Parisian courier, Paul Poiret’s ‘harem trousers,’ which he first introduced in his Spring 1911 collection.


Flora MacDonald, British music hall serio-comic vocalist and dancer

June 22, 2015

Flora MacDonald (active 1864-1871), British music hall serio-comic vocalist and dancer, variously billed as a ‘Scotch and Irish Serio-Comic and Dancer,’ ‘Character Vocalist’ and ‘Scottish cantatrice and danseuse
(carte de visite photo: Henry Burrows, 21 Islington and 59 Moorfields, Liverpool, probably mid 1860s)

‘MISS FLORA MACDONALD (Serio-Comic Vocalist and Dancer), now fulfilling a highly successful Engagement at the above Music Hall, will be at liberty on the 19th December, 1864. fifth call nightly. Address as above.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 11 December 1864, p. 1c)

‘On Thursday evening [27 February 1868], an accident of an alarming nature happened in the Dundee Music and Opera House, by which a gymnast, one of the Brothers Beleena – narrowly escaped with his life, and the audience were thrown into a state of great excitement. Previous to the Brothers Beleena appearing on the stage, Miss Flora Macdonald, a serio-comic vocalist and dancer, had been performing, and she was received with great favour, and rapturously encored three times. After her third appearance, the audience, in spite of the conductor’s bell only ringing once, signifying that some other performers would appear, made a most determined attempt to get her again on the stage, and a slight misunderstanding seems to have existed between the Brothers Beleena and Miss Macdonald, as all the three came on at the same time. The Brothers Beleena, however, remained; and some of the audience, evidently displeased at Miss Macdonald not reappearing, began hissing. It is supposed that this had had the effect of throwing the former into a state of agitation. Whether this was the case or not, the Brothers Beleena ascended with great agility the rope to the double trapeze, which was suspended from the roof of the hall, right above the orchestra, at a height of about twenty-four or twenty-five feet from the floor. They went through some very clever and daring gymnastic performances, which many of the audience, especially females, could not behold except with fear, but for which they received, from the greater bulk of the audience, the warmest approbation. The elder and stronger of the two hung from the trapeze by the legs, while he caught the younger by one of the hands as he was falling past him, and swung him in the air. This and other equally daring feats, as we have already stated, were accomplished in safety. The next exhibition of their agility was intended to be of a similar kind. The elder of the two swung from the trapeze by the legs, and while in this state it was evidently his intention to catch the younger by the left ankle. By some miscalculation, however, the leg of the younger brother came some few inches short of the reach of the elder, and he fell head foremost into the orchestra. The sensation created amongst the audience on witnessing such a spectacle can be better imagined than described. Screams and sobs escaped from men and women, and a number of those in the front seats rushed in a state of excitement to see whether the unfortunate performer had been killed by his fearful fall. The other performers also hurried to ascertain what was the matter. The unfortunate man, when picked up from amongst the feet of the band, lay in the arms of his supporters in a state of unconsciousness, with the blood flowing from a wound on the skull. He alighted with his head on the sharp edge of the footstool used by Mr. Butler, the leader of the orchestra, with such force that he broke it, after having struck in his descent the neck of that gentleman’s violin. The unfortunate gymnast was carried into an ante-room, and messengers were instantly despatched for medical aid. Dr. Duncan arrived in a cab in the course of ten minutes after the accident occurred, and found him sitting in a chair quite conscious, but complaining of pain in his head, ribs, and back. On examination, it was found that he had sustained a large scalp wound of semi-circular shape, and about three or four inches in length, on the crown of the head, and some slight bruises on the forehead; but, so far as could be seen, he did not appear to have received any very serious injury. The wound was sewed up, and the sufferer was removed in a cab to his lodgings in the Nethergate. Falling a distance of upwards of twenty feet, and alighting on the crown of his head, it is a wonder he was not killed on the spot. It is supposed that he must have saved himself by his hands from receiving the full force of the fall.’
(The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, Sheffield, Monday, 2 March 1868, p. 4a)


Annette Fengler in England, 1900/01

June 21, 2015

Annette Fengler (?1879-?), American vaudeville and music hall singer
(cabinet photo: Hana, London, probably 1900)

‘William E. Hines and Miss Earle Remington, well-known and highly-appreciated artistes from the “other side,” will make their first appearance in England at the Tivoli on Monday. The particular business they affect is the original Bowery boy and girl, Yankee editions of the “Bloke” and “Donah” of Cockaigne. Miss Hines is also responsible for a humorous representation of the new woman “tramp” – a caricature of the unfettered female, and Mr Hines represents a type of the New York politician. On the same evening Miss Annette Fengler, another American lady, will commence an engagement at the same house, where she recently deputised for Countess Russell.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 28 April 1900, p. 18b. Countess Russell, formerly Mary (Mabel) Edith Scott, married as his first wife in 1890 Frank Russell, 2nd Earl Russell (1865-1931). She made her living for a while on the variety stage as a singer during their protracted divorce proceedings.)

The Tivoli music hall, Strand, London, week beginning Monday, 30 April 1900
‘Two new turns from America were last night introduced into the programme. They met with widely different receptions. It may be that [husband and wife duo] Mr. Hines and Miss Remington’s impersonations are true reproduction of some class that exists in America. One must remember that in some part of England Mr. [Albert] Chavalier’s costers were mistaken for Germans. But to the audience of last night the creatures before them were not any known or even conceivable class of human beings, their doing and their dialect wee alike utterly unintelligible. And the audience condemned the turn as one does not recollect any inoffensive music hall turn ever having been condemned before. Fortunately, the Tivoli programme can stand a weak turn or two, and the reception accorded to Miss Annette Fengler showed that the audience was free from all insular prejudice. Miss Fengler is an extremely pretty and elegant young lady, Slender and of more than common height, and most becomingly clad in an elaborate “confection” of pink silk, she had half conquered the audience before she opened her mouth. She sang two songs. Of the first once grasped little but the refrain, which ran “You know I left my little home for you” [i.e. ’I’d Leave ma Happy Home for You’]. The other was a sort of coon song about a little chocolate coloured boy, whose head appeared towards the end through a hole in the white sheet that served for background. These songs Miss Fengler sang very sweetly and daintily, passing the intervals, as American ladies are wont to, in ambling about the stage in rather forced attitudes. But she brought an unusual amount of grace to the business. The peculiar feature of her performance is, however, her singing some passages in an extremely high voice. These she rendered not only with a power for which the rest of her singing had not prepared one, but with exquisite purity and great beauty of execution. They were hailed with delight: the singer was encored, and it was quite evident that the audience would willingly have listened to her for another half hour. Miss Fengler has every reason to be satisfied with her first appearance in England… .’
((The Morning Post, London, Tuesday, 1 May 1900, p. 5g)

‘Miss Annette Fengler, an American variety artiste, is making a very favourable impression at the Tivoli. Her voice is, in quality, above the average heard on the music-hall stage, and the introduction of the little woolly-headed negro, whose head only is visible on the white canvas background when he joins in the song, is a novel feature.’
(The Pall Mall Gazette, London, Saturday, 5 May 1900. p. 7c)


Four unidentified acrobats, probably French, mid 1860s

June 14, 2015

Four unidentified acrobats in a sunny courtyard
(half of a stereoscopic photo: unknown, probably French, mid 1860s)


Violet Cameron as Germaine in Les Cloches de Corneville, 1878

June 14, 2015

Violet Cameron (1862-1919), English actress and singer, as Germaine in the English version of Les Cloches de Corneville, Folly Theatre, London, 1878.
(after a drawing by Pilotell, 1878)


Anna Thibaud, French singer

June 13, 2015

Anna Thibaud (1867-1948), French singer
(photo: unknown, Paris, 1906)


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