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Letty Lind and Hetty Hamer

February 21, 2013

Letty Lind (1862-1923),
English actress, dancer and singer,
contrasted with
Hetty Hamer (fl. late 1880s-early 20th Century),
English Gaiety Girl, showgirl and later music hall celebrity

Letty Lind as Daisy Vane in An Artist’s Model,
Daly’s Theatre, London, 2 February 1895.
(photo: W. & D. Downey, London, 1895)

‘Letty Lind the Idol of the Theatre Goers – Hetty Hamer Is a Beauty Devoid of Talents …
‘To be a favorite on the state in the “Modern Babylon,” a woman must be equipped in at least one of three ways. She may be only beautiful, and the lack of talent will be overlooked; if she startles by her “fetching” quality, audacity, diablerie, she may be plain and sublimely stupid; or she must legitimately amuse and interest according to English canons, which, by the way, are frequently ours. Two of these types are found in The Artist’s Model [sic], the comic opera which has held a London stage now for very nearly a year – Letty Lind and Hetty Hamer.
‘We are familiar with the dainty little Englishwoman who transformed skirt-dancing into a sort of butterfly art four or five years ago. London pets her. In the blue jean trousers and blouse of the Paris street urchin, as she dances in her diminutive clogs and smiles in her odd, one-sided way, she sparkles into the sympathy of the watchers. Her face is piquant – an honest, little face – but of absolute beauty she has scarcely any, and after three years’ illness she returned to the stage last year with only an echo of a voice, even for spoken lines. Her charm, however, does not depend on beauty of face or voice. She seems a sprite, her every glance an unreserved expression of the part she plays; her smile flashing over every part of a crowded house an invisible lasso knitting the attention and homage of her audience. And then, lastly, and most important, those little feet of hers! In the timings of the “Tom-tit” dance they waft the blues away as gracefully as clouds of tobacco smoke; acrobatic sky assaults find no exponent in Letty Lind. She is a born comedienne. Seldom does a dancing member of a comic-opera company give any semblance of reality to the lines of the libretto – as a rule it is considered quite enough to strut through the part; but as the runaway school-girl in Paris, playing truant in the blouse and cap of a saucy gamin, she is satisfying enough to dispense with songs and dances and still be a success.

Letty Lind as Di Dalrymple in Go-Bang, Trafalgar Square, London, 1894
(photo: probably Alfred Ellis, London, 1894)

‘In contrast to her stands Hetty Hamer. Her photographs decorate the theater lobbies as prominently as those of the principals, yet she does nothing. She is an actress as she might be a model in a cloak shop. Her face is beautiful, though lacking in shades of expression. She neither sings nor acts. She merely exists behind the foot-lights and draws her large salary because her eyes are like big, shadowed violets, her mouth like a Greek bow, the cut of her nose and chin strikingly classic. She suggests Hardy’s milkmaid heroine, Tess – the bovine calm in the large, clear eyes, the pouting lips, with the red pinch in the middle of the upper one, the surprised, ingenuous, unvarying smile. Lengthy notices are always given Hetty Hamer in the papers, and the interest the audience takes in her is eloquent of another national difference between the English and us – their critical appreciation of feminine beauty, merely as beauty, irrespective of talent and social status.
(The Gazette, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Wednesday, 20 November 1894, p.9a)

Hetty Hamer
(photo: W. & D. Downey, London, early 1890s)

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