Archive for June, 2013

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Elsie Janis and the American Expeditionary Force

June 30, 2013

a photograph of Elsie Janis (1889-1956), American actress and singer, at about the time of her appearances in France for the American Expeditionary Force during World War I
(photo: Malcolm Arbuthnot, London, circa 1918)

‘PLAY-GIRL OF WESTERN FRONT.
‘Wonderful Part Played by Elsie Janis in Keeping Up Morale of Troops.
‘SINGS TO BOYS OVER THERE
‘Many a Company Has Marched to First Night in Trenches With More Gallant Swing Because Elsie Cheered Them on Way.
‘By ALEXANDER WOOLLCOTT.
‘Paris. – the theater was no theater at all. It was just the great train shed which serves as the workshop and headquarters for a small army of American engineers who are lending the P.R.R. Touch to the astonished landscape of France. Though retreat had sounded an hour or so before, it was packed to suffocation with Yanks, for all that day rakish posters, turned out in the company painter’s best style, had intrigued the eye with the modest announcement:

‘ELSIE JANIS – AMERICA’S GREATEST ACTRESS – FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY.

‘And at last, with warning toots from a distant whistle and a great wave of laughter as the order was passed along to clear the track, a locomotive trundled in out of the night, in its cab a pair of proud and grinning engineers, on its cowcatcher Elsie Janis. A moment later and the engine was near enough to the stage for her to clear the space at a single jump and there she was, with her black velvet tam pushed back on her tossing hair, with he eyes alight and her hands uplifted, her whole voice thrown into the question which is the beginning and the end of morale, which is the most important question in the army:
”’Are we downhearted?”

‘The Thunderous Response.

‘You can only faintly imagine the thunderous ”No” with which the train shed echoed. And it is the whole point of Elsie Janis – as well as the whole point of all the mummers now being booked to play for the A.E.F. – that whatever the spirit of the boys before her coming, they really meant that ”No” with all there was in them, that any who might have been just a little downhearted before, felt better about it after seeing and hearing her. For, like the rare officer who can inspire his men to very prodigies of valor, so the flashing Elsie is compact of that priceless thing which, for lack of a less pedantic phrase, we must call positive magnetism. More than one company has marched off to its first night in the trenches with brighter eyes, squarer shoulders and a more gallant swing because, at the very threshold of safety, this lanky and lovely lady from Columbus, Ohio, waved and sang and cheered them on their way.
‘That is why, when the history of this expedition comes to be written, there should be a chapter devoted to the play-girl of the western front, the star of the A.E.F., the forerunner of those players who are now being booked in the greatest circuit of them all, the Y.M.C.A. huts of France.
‘For her, and for her like, there is always room. And work aplenty to do. There are troops to be fired – as by martial music – on the edge of the advance.
‘Elsie Janis (and mother) are having the time of their lives, and she meant every word of it when she cabled back to all her brothers and sisters of the stage to come or they would never know what they had missed.

‘Barn-Storming With Vengeance.

‘For Elsie it has been barn-storming with a vengeance, a tour of tank towns in more senses than one. It has meant traveling without a maid for once in a way, playing a whole season with a one-dress wardrobe, bivouacking in strange and uninviting hotels.
‘It has meant warbling as a cabaret singer among tables of some officers’ mess or mounting a bench to sing through the windows of some contagion barracks where the isolate doughboys had been tearing their infected hair with disappointment because they had heard she was in the post and knew they could not got out to see her.
‘It has meant lingering for an extra performance at some hut because a whole new audience was coming through the starlit heavens from the aviation camp down the lines.
‘In all her years on the stage she has known no such tumultuous heart-warming welcomes as are her nightly portions in the biggest time a booking office can offer to a player in the year 1918.
‘The boys swarm up on the stage and slap her on the back and vow there never was such a girl since the world began. They cheer her until they are hoarse, and she is dizzy with pride.’
(Adams County Union-Republican, Corning, Iowa, Wednesday, 17 July 1918, p. 8b/c)

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Elsie Janis Sweetheart of the A.E.F.

This long-overdue and very welcome CD, ELSIE JANIS Sweetheart of the A.E.F., including recordings made by her between 1912 and 1919 for the Victor and H.M.V. Labels, has been issued by Archeophone Records in its Pioneers Series.

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Eliza Weathersby

June 30, 2013

a cabinet photograph of Eliza Weathersby (1849?-1887), English burlesque actress and one of the original ‘British Blondes’ introduced to American audiences by Lydia Thompson
(photo: Mora, New York, circa 1880)

‘Eliza Weathersby Dead.
‘THE WIFE OF NAT C. GOODWIN EXPIRES AFTER A PAINFUL ILLNESS.
‘Eliza Weathersby (Mrs. Nat Goodwin) died in New York last night [24 March 1887], after long suffering, from a tumor in the womb. She was 38 years of age. There was no performance last evening at the Bijou Theatre, where Nat Goodwin is now engaged.
‘Miss Weathersby was born in London in 1849, and she made her first appearance in 1865, at the Alexandria Theater [sic, i.e. the Royal Alexandra Theatre], Bradford. Her American debut was made at the Chestnut Street Theater, Philadelphia, on April 12, 1869, in the burlesque of Lucrezia Borgia. She afterwards became the original Gabriel in Edward E. Rice’s Evangeline, a burlesque which was successful all over the country, and thus Eliza Weathersby, originally one of the ”English blondes” brought over by Lydia Thompson, gained a national popularity. When she was singing the chief boy’s part, ”Gabriel,” in Evangeline, the Boston school boy, destined to become famous as Nat Goodwin, was playing ”Captain Dietrick” in the same caste, and Henry E. Dixey, the ”Adonis” of to-day, was acting as the hind legs of the heifer, who executes a solemn dance in one act of Evangeline. On June 24, 1877, Miss Weathersby was married to Nat C. Goodman [sic], and she afterward shared all his successes on the stage. Her last appearance was made in Hobbies.’
(The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Friday, 25 March 1887, p. 4c)

‘PHYSICIAN VS. ACTOR.
‘A Sensational Episode Growing Out of Eliza Weathersby’s Death.
‘NEW YORK, April 24 [1887]. – [Special Telegram to the BEE.] – The death of Eliza Weathersby-Goodwin, the actress, promises to have a sequel. Dr. Merion Sims has presented his bill for professional services to her husband, Nat C. Goodwin, and Mr. Goodwin has refused to pay, on the ground that it is exorbitant. But this difference of opinion does not make the sensational episode. There are other things back of the matter that, if brought out, as it seems likely they will be in the courts, will prove extraordinary. Mrs. Goodwin had been ill for a considerable period. The trouble was a disorder that resisted all attempts to check it. Eventually the family physician, Dr. T.S. Robertson, deemed it advisable to have experts summoned to consult on the case. Dr. Sims was not among those who came at first. The doctors were in grave doubt as to the precise nature of the malady, but some were inclined to the opinion that it was a tumor in the fallopian tubes. If such were the case the only possible remedy would like in an operation for the removal of the tumor – a very dangerous matter at the best, and one that would be liable to cause death, even if successfully performed. When Mrs. Goodwin was informed of the possible nature of her trouble she expressed a desire that an operation be made, but Dr. Robertson promptly refused to perform it. He was not confident that a tumor existed, and was wholly unwilling to assumer the terrible responsibility for the result if none should be found. The other experts agreed with the family physician. Mrs. Goodwin, however, was anxious that whatever might be done for her should be resorted to, and Dr. Sims was called. He made an examination, and his opinion agreed in its general features with that of his colleagues. The truth of the matter simply was that Mrs. Goodwin must die if the disorder were to be left alone; that a surgical operation might possibly save her, but the chances were so strongly against her that it would hasten the end. This was made clear to the patient, and she unhesitatingly asked Dr. Sims to make the operation. He consented, and Dr. Robertson and one other were present when it was performed. The result showed that no tumor existed. The disorder was inflammation of the fallopian tubes, and soon after the conclusion of the operation Mrs. Goodwin died. Dr. Sims is a physician of the highest professional standing, has an extended practice and comes high. The actor, who disputes the bill, purposes to show, when the doctor sues him for the amount, that the death of his wife was nothing less than scientific murder. He will endeavor to produce the experts to swear that the operation was uncalled for, dangerous and inexcusable. On the other hand it is said that Dr. Sims can easily justify his course. It is pretty sure to be a disagreeably interesting case, unless the actor yields and pays the bills, for the physician is determined to collect, even if it should prove necessary to invoke the aid of the law.’
(The Omaha Daily Bee, Omaha, Monday, 25 April 1887, p. 1c)

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E.J. Lonnen sings ‘Hush! The Bogie’

June 29, 2013

song sheet cover of ‘Hush! The Bogie’ with a portrait of E.J. Lonnen (1860-1901), English comic actor and singer, as José in the burlesque, Carmen-Up-To-Data, which was produced at the Gaiety Theatre, London on 4 October 1890
(portrait after a photograph by Bassano, London, 1890; lithograph by H.G. Banks; published by E. Ascherberg & Co, London, 1890)

‘Mr. E.J. Lonnen, who seems glad to get back to Lonnun [i.e. London] (the genius loci must excuse this and other lapses from the paths of virtue) as José, was as amusing as ever, and sang “The Jolly Boys’ Club” with immense spirit; even more successful was the song “Hush! the Bogie Man,” in which Mr. Meyer Lütz has annexed a most dainty little bit of melody, and the effect is enhanced by the chorus singing the refrain pp. aux bouches fermées. This is decidedly the gem of the play, and was received with enthusiastic applause. It might have been as well, perhaps, to have mentioned that it was written by Harrigan and composed by Dave Braham, and as such finds its place in No. 15 of the Mohawk Minstrels Magazine, by whom it was sung ten years ago. It is, however, rather rough on Mr. Lütz to say that this is the only plum in the pudding.’
(The Footlights, London, Saturday, 11 October 1890, p.8c/9a)

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Edna May in The Belle of New York

June 29, 2013

Edna May (1878-1948), American star of musical comedy, as she appeared as Violet Gray in The Belle of New York, which was first produced at the Casino Theatre, New York, on 28 September 1897 and then at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, on 12 April 1898.
(cabinet photo: W. & D. Downey, London, 1898; the photograph has been inscribed by Miss May to Reginald Edward Golding Bright (1874-1941), the English literary and dramatic agent.

THE ”BELLE OF NEW YORK” IN LONDON.
A chat with Miss Edna May, ”THE BELLOF NEW YORK.”
‘PROSPERITY, through a fascinating Salvation [Army] lass, has come to the Shaftesbury Theatre. Crowded houses are nightly and at every matinée welcoming with rapture the gay American Company which has come, I hope, to stay. So delighted was I with my visit to this comfortable playhouse that I obtained an introduction to
Miss Edna May,
‘the sweet-voiced Belle herself, and found her as charming and as delightfully ingenuous as she appears before the footlights, where she takes all our hearts captive.
”’Perfectly lovely,” is Miss Edna May’s concise opinion of her reception. ”We were told before the curtain went up not to be disheartened if we did not get encores. Therefore the reception you gave us made a still more agreeable surprise. Indeed, your enthusiasm outrivalled even that of New York.”
”’So you are inclined to lie us here in London?”
”’Everything is Delightful.
”’I have not seen much as yet, but I mean to do so. I have been to see ‘The Geisha,’ and immensely admired dear little Maggie May’s voice; and last Sunday I lunched at Richmond, and then explored Hampton court. Your parks are splendid. But why do your women wear such long skirts when biking?
”’Do I Bike?
”’What a question! Yes, ever since I was twelve. I wouldn’t be without my Spalding wheel for anything.”
”’Is this your first appearance in a musical fantasia?”
”’Why, yes. I haven’t been on the boards more than eighteen months.”
”’Indeed! From where did you get your charming young voice, which for strength, timbre, register, and perfect harmony pleased me immensely?”
”’Well, I was born in Syracuse, New York State, but my schooling as a girl was acquired in New York, where I receive a general education, my musical instructor being Professor Walters; but I fear I gave most of my attention to fencing, which, although the most delightful exercise, is not particularly beneficial to the voice. But you must know that
”’I Never Studied for the Stage ”’in any way, my parents being of quite a different turn of mind. Nor have I sung before in public, excepting solos in church occasionally, at home, and in New York. However, a friend recommended me to go on the stage when I was barely seventeen – i.e. two years ago [sic] – when
”’I appeared in ‘Santa Maria
”’under Mr. Hammerstein at the Olympic Theatre in New York, and in the chief cities of the United States. Afterwards I played a small part with Mr. Hoyt, his wife being the star, in ‘A Contended Woman’; but seeing no prospect of getting on, I returned home rather discouraged.”
”’And then came your opportunity?”
”’The Character of Violet Gray
”’in ‘The Belle of New York.’ Isn’t it a sweet-sounding name?”
”’Your voice is so fresh and natural, and its register is very great; quite up to upper E I should say.”
”’Yes, that is the extent of my register. The music of ‘The Belle of New York’ scarcely does me credit, as it is written for a medium register. It is when I get on the higher notes that I feel most at home. The fact is
”’I Really Love to Sing.
”’I got the nickname of Adelina Patti at school, partly for that reason, and because my patronymic is very similar. Edna May, my stage name, being really Christian names only.”
”’Before I go I wonder if you would oblige me with a verse of that charming Salvation-lass song, which has haunted me ever since I heard it?”
‘Most obligingly Miss May sat down and sang the sweet, demurely expressed refrain, which has become the talk of London –
”’When I ask then to be good,
As all young men should be,
they only say they would
Be very good – to me.
Follow on, follow on,
Till the light of Faith you see
But they never proceed
To follow that light
But always follow – me.”’
(The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times, London, Saturday, 30 April 1898, p. 276)

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the audience at the Brixton Theatre, 6 January 1906, during a performance of Cinderella

June 27, 2013

the audience at the Brixton Theatre, South London, during a performance of the pantomime, Cinderella, 6 January 1906
(photo: unknown, London, 6 January 1906)

The cast of the Brixton Theatre 1905 pantomime, Cinderella, which opened on Boxing Day, included Lily Iris as Prince Casimir, Milly McIntyre in the title role, George French as the Baron, Tom W. Conway as Tiny, Herbert St. John as Dandini, Adelaide Gracey and Madge Yates as Araminta and Elvira (the ugly sisters), and Ellaline Thorne as the Duke of Whistbridge.

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June 26, 2013

Kitty Gordon (née Constance Minnie Blades,1878–1974), English actress and singer, as she appeared in The Enchantress, a musical comedy written for her by Victor Herbert. The production opened at the New York Theatre, New York, 19 October 1911, later transferring to the Grand Opera House, New York, 1 April 1912, before a United States tour
(photo: White, New York, 1911/12)

The Nixon Theatre, Pittsburgh, 28 October 1912
‘KITTY GORDON TO BRING “THE ENCHANTRESS.”
‘Beautiful Kitty Gordon who comes to the Nixton theater next week in “The Enchantress,” is said to wear some of the most wonderful gowns that have ever been seen on the stage. “The Enchantress” is rated by musical and dramatic critics as Victor Herbert’s masterpiece.
‘The English prima donna has never appeared to better advantage than in this colorful production and she is supported by a cast of stellar quality, including the charming dancer Nellie McCoy.’
(The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Sunday, 20 October 1912, Theatrical Section, p. 4c/d)

Cort Theatre, Los Angeles, October 1913
‘KITTY GORDON’S TROUPE “BROKE”
“’Enchantress” Fails in Los Angeles – Owes Star $6,000
‘LOS ANGELES, Oct. 31 [1912]. – As a result of the collapse of Kitty Gordon, the famous English actress, who has been playing a week’s engagement in “The Enchantress” here, the company has disbanded and will be returned to New York. Miss Gordon collapsed at the end of the first act.
‘Captain Beresford, her husband, says she has been on the verge of a breakdown for some time, and she insists on her taking a long rest.
‘KITTY MAKES STATEMENT.
“’There are many contradictory reports relative to the unfortunate affair which brought the engagement of ’’The Enchantress” to a close in Los Angeles,“ said Kitty Gordon. ’’Not being able to locate the producer, I am forced to protect myself with the truth.
”’The financial condition of theatricals is not responsible for the closing of “The Enchantress.” We have been supported well enough to continue, if the funds which have gone to the company had been competently handled in the New York office. The show would have been attached today had we continued our performance, and yet royalty money has been repeatedly sent to New York.
‘The money which was sent to New York for our railroad tickets has not been used for this purpose. I realized these facts nightly, and for the first time in my career as a star three weeks ago I accepted postponement for payment of my salary that the chorus and other members of the company who needed the money more than I might be paid.
‘THREE WEEKS’ SALARY DUE
“’’I have always received my money before the matinee started on Saturday, but during the last three weeks it has not been paid.
”’I have sacrificed my salary to help out my chorus, and today Gaieties’ theatrical office in New York owes me $6,000.“
‘From her bed Miss Gordon arranged this afternoon for an additional performance of ’’The Enchantress” to get money to transport the company to New York.’
(The San Francisco Call, Los Angeles, Friday, 31 October 1913, p. 1b)

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In a recording made in 1911, Lucy Isabelle Marsh sings ’(To The) Land of My Own Romance,’ one of Victor Herbert’s songs from The Enchantress, originally sung by Kitty Gordon. Another version was made in 1938 by Richard Tauber. In 1912, Victor Herbert’s Orchestra made a recording of a selection of music from The Enchantress.

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June 26, 2013

Kitty Gordon (née Constance Minnie Blades,1878–1974), English actress and singer, as she appeared in The Enchantress, a musical comedy written for her by Victor Herbert. The production opened at the New York Theatre, New York, 19 October 1911, later transferring to the Grand Opera House, New York, 1 April 1912, before a United States tour
(photo: White, New York, 1911/12)

The Nixon Theatre, Pittsburgh, 28 October 1912
‘KITTY GORDON TO BRING ”THE ENCHANTRESS.”
‘Beautiful Kitty Gordon who comes to the Nixton theater next week in ”The Enchantress,” is said to wear some of the most wonderful gowns that have ever been seen on the stage. ”The Enchantress” is rated by musical and dramatic critics as Victor Herbert’s masterpiece.
‘The English prima donna has never appeared to better advantage than in this colorful production and she is supported by a cast of stellar quality, including the charming dancer Nellie McCoy.’
(The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Sunday, 20 October 1912, Theatrical Section, p. 4c/d)

Cort Theatre, Los Angeles, October 1913
‘KITTY GORDON’S TROUPE ”BROKE”
”’Enchantress” Fails in Los Angeles – Owes Star $6,000
‘LOS ANGELES, Oct. 31 [1912]. – As a result of the collapse of Kitty Gordon, the famous English actress, who has been playing a week’s engagement in ”The Enchantress” here, the company has disbanded and will be returned to New York. Miss Gordon collapsed at the end of the first act.
‘Captain Beresford, her husband, says she has been on the verge of a breakdown for some time, and she insists on her taking a long rest.
‘KITTY MAKES STATEMENT.
”’There are many contradictory reports relative to the unfortunate affair which brought the engagement of ”The Enchantress” to a close in Los Angeles,” said Kitty Gordon. ”Not being able to locate the producer, I am forced to protect myself with the truth.
”’The financial condition of theatricals is not responsible for the closing of ”The Enchantress.” We have been supported well enough to continue, if the funds which have gone to the company had been competently handled in the New York office. The show would have been attached today had we continued our performance, and yet royalty money has been repeatedly sent to New York.
‘The money which was sent to New York for our railroad tickets has not been used for this purpose. I realized these facts nightly, and for the first time in my career as a star three weeks ago I accepted postponement for payment of my salary that the chorus and other members of the company who needed the money more than I might be paid.
‘THREE WEEKS’ SALARY DUE
””I have always received my money before the matinee started on Saturday, but during the last three weeks it has not been paid.
”’I have sacrificed my salary to help out my chorus, and today Gaieties’ theatrical office in New York owes me $6,000.”
‘From her bed Miss Gordon arranged this afternoon for an additional performance of ”The Enchantress” to get money to transport the company to New York.’
(The San Francisco Call, Los Angeles, Friday, 31 October 1913, p. 1b)

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In a recording made in 1911, Lucy Isabelle Marsh sings ‘(To The) Land of My Own Romance,’ one of Victor Herbert’s songs from The Enchantress, originally sung by Kitty Gordon. Another version was made in 1938 by Richard Tauber. In 1912, Victor Herbert’s Orchestra made a recording of a selection of music from The Enchantress.