Lily Elsie as Princess Soo Soo in A Chinese Honeymoon, April 1903

March 5, 2015

Lily Elsie (1886-1962), English musical comedy star, as she appeared as Princess Soo Soo in the musical comedy A Chinese Honeymoon. a part initially played by Violet Dene on tour when the piece was first produced at the Theatre Royal, Hanley, on 16 October 1899, and by Beatrice Edwards when the production opened in London at the Strand Theatre on 5 October 1901. Miss Edwards was succeeded (circa March 1902) by Kate Cutler and then (October 1902) by Mabel Nelson who in turn was succeeded by Lily Elsie when the latter took up the part of Soo Soo on Monday, 20 April 1903.
(photo: R.W. Thomas, Cheapside, London, 1903; colour halftone postcard no. 114 in C. Modena & Co’s ‘Ducal’ series, published London, 1903)


Lisa Weber’s death and burial, Buffalo, New York, October 1887

March 3, 2015

Lisa Weber (1844?-1887), English burlesque actress, one of Lydia Thompson’s original ‘British Blondes.’ She died in reduced circumstances while on tour in the burlesque Little Jack Sheppard at Buffalo, New York, on 23 October 1887. She was buried at New Forest Lawn Cemetery two days later.

(carte de visite photo: Howell, New York, circa 1868)

‘Lisa Weber Buried.

‘Buffalo, Oct. 25 [1887]. – The curtain has fallen upon the last act of Lisa Weber’s life, and the actress has stepped out upon the boards of an unknown stage. It was an indescribably pathetic little funeral that took place from the Eagle House this morning. Lisa Weber was once a successful and popular actress on the burlesque stage. Reverses came with age, and this year she took out a variety company on the road. Last Monday night she played the rôle of ”Little Jack Sheppard” at the Adelphi Theatre, but on Tuesday she fell sick. Her illness continued during the week and she was ”left behind” by her company. Sunday morning she died. She was in destitute circumstances, and members of the profession playing in Buffalo did what could be done to provide for her temporal wants. To secure a final resting place a lot in Forest Lawn was bought. The Rev. John E. Bold, of St. James’s Episcopal Church, conducted the funeral service. The pall bearers were chosen from members of the dramatic company now in Buffalo. A large number of the dramatic profession was present.’

(The New York Times, New York, Wednesday, 26 October 1887, p. 5c)


First edition of Footlight Notes, November 1994

March 1, 2015

Footlight Notes, cover proof of the first edition, published November 1994, featuring a photograph of Gabrielle Ray (1883-1973), English musical comedy actress and dancer, as Polly Polino in Peggy, Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 March 1911
(photo: Bassano, London, 1 June 1911, negative no. 40747, 2nd of 15 poses).


Odette Myrtil, French violinist, actress and singer

February 24, 2015

Odette Myrtil (1898-1978), French violinist, actress and singer, who later became a Beverley Hills dress designer and restaurateur
(postcard photo: unknown, probably Paris or London, circa 1916)


May Yohé, the future Lady Francis Hope, owner of the Hope Diamond

February 18, 2015

May Yohé (1866-1938), American musical theatre actress and celebrity
(photo: unknown, published as a Duke & Sons’ Honest Long Cut tobacco card, USA, mid 1890s)


James Crockett the ‘Lion Conquerer,’ photographed at the time of his appearances in Paris, 1863

February 8, 2015

James Crockett (1831/32-1865), English lion tamer, billed in the early 1860s as the ‘Lion Conquerer’; identity of the clown unknown.
(photo, from a stereoscopic card: Alfred Cailliez, Paris, 1863)

James Crockett’s parents were James Crockett, an itinerant musician (later publican), and his wife Ann (née Cross) who, at 6 ft. 8 or 9 in. tall, was a noted sideshow giantess, said to have been from Nottingham but who, according to the 1851 Census (2 Halfmoon Passage, St. Bartholomew the Great, London) was born in the London area. They were married at St. Peter, Liverpool, on 6 February 1831, and their son’s birthday is said to have been 9 May. The year of his birth, which took place at Presteigne, Radnorshire, south Wales, is not certain, but may have been in either 1831 or 1832 although one authority suggests 1835. He had two younger sisters, Sarah Ann, born Doncaster, Yorkshire, 1838, and Elizabeth (Eliza) Ann, born Ripley, Surrey, 1843, who were both living at the time of his death from sunstroke on 6 July 1865 at Cincinnati, Ohio. He was buried there in Spring Grove Cemetery the following day.

* * * * *

Cirque Napoleon, Paris, March and April 1863
‘All the Parisians are flocking nightly to the Cirque to see the lion tamer Crockett, with his cage full of lions, whom he orders about as imperiously as Omphale ordered Hercules. Mr. Crockett issued a challenge to all comers, offering a wager 500£. that no one will enter the cage with him. The challenge has been accepted by one Herbert [from Brussels], a retired lion-tamer. Mr. Crockett will, of course, insist upon the stakes being deposited before the trial of strength, as M. Herbert may not be in a position to play after the experiment.’
(Reynolds’s Newspaper, London, Sunday, 15 March 1863, p. 8a)

‘THE DRAMA IN PARIS… PARIS, April 4 [1863]…
‘Immense crowds go to the Cirque nightly to witness the admirable management of the celebrated English lion tamer, called in the journals ”Sir Crockett, Esq.” He has obtained immortal glory by plunging his head into the lion’s mouth, a feat which has never been considered by the keepers of wild beasts as anything very extraordinary, as it is reported that such is the expansion of the mouth, and the position of the teeth, that no accident could occur. This is is a point no doubt for the naturalist to decide, but certain it is that the sight is one that afford infinite pleasure to the Parisian.’
(The Morning Post, London, Monday, 6 April 1863, p. 3c)

‘During the performances of Crockett, the lion tamer, at the Cirque Napoleon, Paris, some nights back, an incident occurred which caused some excitement among the spectators. Crockett, having made one of the largest lions lie down, had stepped on its back, but his foot slipped towards the neck. The lion, probably being hurt, gave a savage growl, and seized the foot with its teeth, all present expecting to see the animal crush it between its powerful jaws. Crockett, however, did not lose his presence of mind, but by a word and a blow with his whip he made the lion loose its hold. He then went on with his performance as usual.’
(The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, Saturday, 11 April 1863, p. 3f)

* * * * *

‘Death of James Crockett, the Lion Tamer.
‘James Crockett, recently attached to Howe’s European Circus, and well known both in this country and Europe as a tamer of wild beasts, died yesterday afternoon, about four o’clock, in the dressing-room of the above-named circus, which was being exhibited at the time to an immense audience, that was waiting impatiently to witness his exploits with the animals under his management. Mr. Crockett enjoyed his usual health during the day, and had been driven through the streets in company with his lions, which fact, taken in connection with the excessive heat of the sun, seems to give the best and most rational clue to the solution of the mystery of his death. The deceased was a native of English, unmarried, and perhaps forty-five years of ate. At the time of his demise Mr. Crockett was costumed for the ring, and was able to appear before the audience. We believe that he was on his way from the dressing-room for this purpose, when he staggered, fell, and almost immediately expired. Coroner Carey held an inquest upon the body, but the verdict has not yet been made known. His loss to the establishment to which he was attached will be irreparable. – Cincinnati Gazette, July 7 [1865].
‘(Mr. James Crockett was a native of Preston, Lancashire [sic], where he was born May 9th, 1835, and where his father was employed as a musician in one of the noted circus companies of the day. The purchase by Messrs. Sanger of six lions gave young Crockett the opportunity he sought of displaying his daring, and the animals were soon under his complete control. About six years ago it will be remembered that Crockett and his lions ere engaged at Astley’s Amphitheatre, when a lamentable accident occurred, resulting in the death of a poor fellow named Smith, who was one of the attendants. The lions escaped from the den, but owing to the courage of Crockett, who entered the circus when the beats were roaming at will, further mischief was prevented. From Astley’s Mr. Crockett went to the Islington Agricultural Hall, and then to the Cirque Napoleon, Paris, and thence to the chief capitals of Europe, returning to England in 1863. He then formed an engagement to travel through America with Howe’s Mammoth Circus, and was thus pursing his daring career when hie death occurred at Cincinnati.)’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 30 July 1865, p. 10a)

‘The Late Lion-Tamer, James Crockett.
‘To the Editor of The Era.
‘Sir, – Perhaps it would be interesting to yourself and the public to know something authentic relative to the life of the much-lamented James Crockett, a young man who had earned for himself a world-wide reputation. He was one of the family of ”Old Travellers;” his grandfather figures largely at Bartholomew Fair with Richardson, Wombwell, Sanders, Clarke, and many others. His father married a Miss Cross, of Nottingham, whose height was six feet eight inches; she was not only tall, but stout, and had more than an ordinary share of beauty. This formed the chief magnet for an exhibition in a travelling caravan, Crockett’s father being the proprietor. They soon accumulated large sums of money. Becoming tired of travelling they entered into business as Licensed Victuallers. The son James, still having a desire for travelling, left home under the guardianship of |Messrs. John and George Sanger, with whom he used to play the cornet in the band connected with their exhibition. Shortly after which, complaining of the instrument affecting his constitution, he discontinued playing and took the office of equestrian director, and in the year 1857 commenced his occupation as trainer of lions, &c. He was a man possessing great nerve and determination. His birthplace was Prestyn [sic], Radnorshire, South Wales. Mr. Crockett was a man who must have possesses a moderate sum of money. Perhaps it would be as well for those who have possession of what did belong to him to remember that he was two young sisters living – one emigrated to Australia about two years since, and the other living near Nottingham – who are the only survivors of the family. – JOHN and GEORGE SANGERS [sic], Circus Proprietors.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 6 August 1865, p. 11d)


Phoebe Don, English burlesque actress and singer

February 2, 2015

Phoebe Don (active 1872-1882), English burlesque actress and singer, latterly music hall serio-comic and dancer, in an unidentified role, possibly as the Prince in the pantomime The House that Jack Built, produced at the Surrey Theatre, London, 26 December 1878
(two carte de visite photos: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, circa 1878/79)

Ixion; or, The Man at the Wheel, a burlesque by F.C. Burnand, produced at the Court Theatre, London, Wednesday, 5 February 1873
‘What old playgoer is there who fails to have a pleasant reminiscence of that ”Ixion” which made the fortune of the New Royalty Theatre ten years ago? The chic of Miss Jenny Wilmore as Ixion, the charms of Miss Ada Cavendish as Venus, the delicious pertness of Miss [Blanche] Elliston as Juno, the drollery of Felix Rogers as Minerva, the unctuous officiousness of Joseph Robins as Ganymede after the fashion of Mr. Wardle’s Fat Boy [in Dickens’s Pickwick Papers], still linger in our memory. Was it only our hot youth which impressed us with the devout belief that the goddesses of the little theatre in Dean-street [Soho, London] made up a galaxy of beauty which never had been, would be, or could be surpassed? Labuntur anni; we have grown to despise puns, to stickle for the dramatic unities, and to declaim against what we are pleased to call dramatic nudities and we rather anticipated that the ”Ixion” of 1873 would be likely to dis-illusion us as to the ”Ixion” of 1863. We are glad to say that this is not the case. The ”Man at the Wheel” of the Court appears to us to be in all respects equal to the ”Man at the Wheel” of the New Royalty. It hangs fire, indeed, in the prologue, which is altogether an unnecessary encumbrance, and it contains allusions to topics of the last decade which might be modernised with advantage. But is pleased us more than anything of the same kind that we have seen since the ”Vivanière” [i.e. Vivanière; or, True to the Corps, an operatic extravaganza by W.S. Gilbert, produced at the Queen’s Theatre, London, 22 January 1868]; Mr. [Edward] Righton is the most mirth-moving Minerva possible; the charms of Miss Phœbe Don, Miss M. Don, and half a dozen other Olympians could only be expressed by an unlimited number of notes of admiration; the songs are really funny and sparkling, the dances are lively, and the whole extravaganza has an amount of ”go” in it which is very attractive indeed. We should be rather glad if Bacchus could be transformed into a stanch [sic] teetotaller; for with Marks very tipsy half through ”Lady Audley’s Secret,” and Bacchus very tipsy all through ”Ixion,” we have an unpleasant surfeit of inebriation. In real life a drunkard is an exceedingly unpleasant companion, and we are not much more fond of him on the stage. Furthermore, we have a decided objection to those repeated encores of songs and dances which are now so common; and we cannot help thinking that an advertisement to the effect ”that such and such a dance is encored four times nightly” must have a decidedly repellent effect on sensible people. But here our cavilling ends, and we heartily recommend ”Ixion” to our readers.’
(The Observer, London, 9 February 1873, p. 3c/d)

‘Mr. R. BLACKMORE as organised another company for a five months’ season in Calcutta, the artistes engaged comprising Messrs Crawford, Cowdery, [George] Titheradge, Bond, E. Sheppard, Owen, Beverley; and the Misses Alice Ingram, Bessie Edwards, Alma Sainton, A. Rose, Phœbe Don, G. Leigh, F. Seymour, and Tessy Hamerton. They sailed from Southampton on the 21st inst. in the ”Poonah.” The Corinthian Theatre will be the scene of their operations.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 24 September 1876, p. 4c)

‘My dear Tahite, – Miss [Rosa] Cooper‘s benefit came off a few days ago. She played Miami in ”Green Bushes,” and the house was wedged. I understand the low-comedy man of this theatre is engaged to Mr. Coppin. The artist and the manager are shortly going to China in a panorama (”The Prince in India”). The French opera has been a disheartening failure. I never saw anything so bad, even at a third-class concert in Melbourne. Miss Bessy Edwards is a pretty taking actress, and Miss Phœbe Don, if not a great actress, is so bewilderingly beautiful a woman, that young men – and for the matter of that old men – go distraught about her… .’
(The Australasian, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 28 April 1877, p. 19c)

The House that Jack Built, pantomime, produced at the Surrey Theatre, 26 December 1878
‘Miss Phoebe Don, a promising young actress and singer, plays the part of the Prince effectively, and is ably seconded by Miss Nelly Vane as Princess Rosebud.’
(The Daily News, London, Friday, 27 December 1878, p. 6a)

Venus; or, The Gods as They Were and Not as They Ought to Have Been, a burlesque by Edward Rose and Augustus Harris, produced at the Royal Theatre, London, on 27 June 1879
‘The new extravaganza, ”Venus,” can hardly be deemed worthy, from a literary point of view, to follow Mr. [G.R.] Sims‘s still-popular comedy of ”Crutch and Toothpick.” Mr. Edward Rose and Mr. A. Harris are named as the authors of ”Venus,” and Mr. rose is so graceful a writer that probably he should be credited with work the goodness of which may have been drowned in the noise and obtrusive horse-play of the first night’s representation. The extravaganza, however, was possibly merely intended to served as a vehicle for the exhibition of the majority of the mythological deities, from Venus (Miss Nelly Bromley) to Adonis and Mars, who find comely representatives in Miss Alma Stanley and Miss Phœbe Don. Subdued to a tone more in keeping with the smallness of the house, ”Venus” may now run smoothly, and the vivacity of Miss Kate Lawler as a dashing Cupid would certainly be appreciated none the less for a little moderation. But ”Venus” will not be a second ”Ixion.”’
(The Illustrated London News, London, Saturday, 5 July 1879, p. 7b)

Nelly Power’s benefit, the Cambridge music hall, London, Wednesday, 27 October 1880
‘… The Sisters Lindon, in a duet in praise of waltzing, were generally admired, as was Miss Phœbe Don in her song with the chorus commencing ”D’ye take me for a stupid little silly?” a chorus which the audience was not slow to take up… .’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 31 October 1880, p. 4c)

London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus, London, week beginning Monday, 8 November 1880
‘… Mr Fred Law, who should rapidly make his way in public favour, sang ”Allow me to see you home,” and ”If a girl likes to kiss me,” in a merry style; and was following by handsome Phœbe Don, who, though possessed of only a small voice, makes the most of it, and contrived to win admiration in her song of the ”Little Cat,” and in another which allowed the audience to exercise their own sweet voices… .’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 14 November 1880, p. 4b)

Phoebe Don played the small part of Blue Peter in the pantomime Robinson Crusoe, produced at Drury Lane Theatre, on 26 December 1881, of which the stars were Dot and Minnie Mario, James Fawn, Miss Amalia, Arthur Roberts, Fanny Leslie, Harry Nicholls and Charles Lauri junior. Miss Don’s last known appearances were at the London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus, London, in May 1882.


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