Archive for July, 2013


The Melody Monarchs, 1913

July 31, 2013

The Melody Monarchs (fl. 1910-1915), American vaudeville entertainers, whose personnel in 1913, when their song, ‘A Lesson in Love’ was published by the Shapiro Music Publishing Co of New York, were (clockwise from the top of the above song sheet cover) Gustav Benkhart (Gustavus Adolphus Benkhart, 1888-1973), Charles Shisler (1886-1952), George E. Reed and Al Hockey
(photo: unknown, USA, circa 1913)

Chase’s Polite Vaudeville, Washington, DC, week beginning Monday, 19 December 1910
‘Chase’s week before Christmas bill next week will be of an appropriately near-holiday nature, the leading novelty being the recent New York success, Marion Murray and company of comedians in Edgar Allen Woolf’s merriest musical comedy, A Prima Donna’s Honeymoon. The added attraction will be ”The Monarchs of Melody,” Bobby Heath, Charles O’Donnell, Gus Benkhart, and Charles Shisler, four popular writers of catchy songs, singing their own new hits… .’
(The Washington Herald, Washington, DC, Sunday, 11 December 1910, p. 6e)

Empress vaudeville theatre, Salt Lake City, week of Monday, 7 July 1913
‘The Four Melody Monarchs, which include George E. Reed, late of The Pink Lady fame, will present an offering that will be unique and pleasing. There will be three pianos on the stage. Charles Shisler, Gus Benhardt and Al Hockey are all song writers, while Mr. Reed is the famous junvenile comedian of The Pink Lady.’
(The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday, 9 July 1913, p. 12d)


Lily Elsie advertises Erasmic Soap, London, 1911

July 30, 2013

Lily Elsie (1886-1962), English star of operetta and musical comedy, promoting Erasmic Soap, London, at the time of her starring role in The Count of Luxembourg, Daly’s Theatre, London, 20 May 1911
(photo: Foulsham & Banfield, London, 1911; advertisement from The Play Pictorial, no. 108, vol. XVIII, ‘The Count of Luxembourg’ edition, London, 1911, p. vii)

The Festival of Empire was held at Crystal Palace, south London, during 1911.


Lillie Wilson

July 30, 2013

Lillie Wilson (fl. late 1880s), actress
(photo: unknown, possibly London, circa 1888)

This real photograph cigarette card of Lillie Wilson, about whom nothing is at present known, was issued in the United States in the early 1890s with The Old Reliable Sweet Caporal Cigarettes. Miss Wilson is almost certainly the actress of that name who appeared in a minor role at the Princess’s Theatre, London, in November 1888, in The Love that Kills, the ‘Poetical Fancy’ adapted by Jocelyn Brandon from Alphonse Daudet’s L’Artésienne, with music by Georges Bizet, which first opened at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre on 27 January 1888.

The Love that Kills, Jocelyn Brandon’s adaptation of Alphone Daudet’s exquisite play L’Artésienne, was revived for a series of matinées at the Princess’s, commencing November 26 [1888]. Miss Sophie Eyre, Mr. Lawrence Cautley, Mr. Julian Cross, and Mr. Glen Wynn resumed the characters they appeared in when the piece was played at the Prince of Wales’s in June last, and were all warmly applauded. Miss Enid Leslie was the new Jacques, the half-witted boy, and succeeded in a very artistic and sympathetic manner in conveying the struggle of the awakening intellect in the little neglected, almost unloved creature. Miss Nellie Navette, as L’Artésienne, looked the beautiful dangerous creature she should represent, and her dancing of the Farandole gained her an emphatic encore. Miss Grace Hawthorne, but for a little artificiality in her manner, was a tender Vivette. Bizet’s beautiful music was well rendered by an increased orchestra conducted by Mr. Michael Conolly.’
(The Theatre, London, 1 January 1889, p. 66)


Lennox Grey

July 29, 2013

Lennox Grey (fl. 1870s), English actress and singer
(photo: Hills & Saunders, London, circa 1875)

Lennox Grey was born Louisa Caulfield in London in 1845, the daughter of John Caulfield, a teacher of music, and his wife, Louisa, a vocalist. Her stage name derives from that of her first husband, Lieutenant Francis Lennox George Grey of H.M. 96th Regiment, who she married at the age of 17 in 1862.

‘Miss Lennox Grey, Once the Most Admired Woman on the London Stage.
‘Just as a benefit is being arranged for Emily Soldene another old time burlesque actress and a member of the famous Soldene company of other days has been found in poverty in an English workhouse [i.e. the Strand Workhouse, Edmonton, north London]. These two women are said to be the only survivors of the company which originally sang Genevieve de Brabant, which was a New York sensation of the early ’70s.
‘Miss Lennox Grey was the stage name of the old woman who has been taken out of a London workhouse, an anonymous donor having provided a weekly stipend sufficient to support her for the rest of her days. She did not take part in the original production of Offenbach’s operetta in London [at the Philharmonic Theatre, Islington, 11 November 1871], but succeeded Selina Dolaro, who was compelled to retire from the cast after a few performances.
‘Miss Lennox Grey was at that time the wife of an officer in the English army. She had married him after a short stage experience and went to India to live. He deserted her and she returned to the stage in England.
‘she was for years one of the most popular burlesque artists in England and came to this country with the Soldene companies, appearing in Little Faust, Chilperic, and other works of this company’s decollete repertoire. Emily Soldene, who is now a very old woman, came to this country for the last time about twenty years ago and sang in the Bowery variety theatres in New York.
‘Miss Lennox Grey married for her second husband a classical scholar of high attainments, which did not, however, avail to prevent him from going to the poorhouse along with her. When the actress began to lose her youth there was no longer engagements for her, and she finally disappeared so completely that she was commonly supposed to be dead.
‘Yet less than forty years ago she was the most admired woman on the London stage.’
(The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., Sunday, 31 March 1907, Theatrical News and Gossip, p.3e)


Kate Terry in Bel Demonio, 1863

July 28, 2013

carte de visite photograph of the English actress, Kate Terry (1844-1924), as Lena in Charles Fechter’s production of Bel Demonio (The Broken Vow: a Romance of the Times of Sixtus the Fifth), a drama by John Brougham based on Prosper Goubaux and Gustave Lemoine’s L’Abbaye de Castro, produced at the Lyceum Theatre, London, on 31 October 1863
(photo: Southwell Brothers, London, 1863)

‘The Lyceum will be re-opened by Mr. Fechter for the season on Saturday next, October 31 [1863], [with] a new four-act drama founded on a plot by Paul Feval, and entitled Bel Demonio, a Love Story, being produced on the occasion. An entirely new stage has been laid down, the interior of the Theatre has been re-embellished, nd the principal parts in the play will be sustained by Miss Elsworthy, Miss Kate Terry, Mr. John Brougham, Mr. [Sam] Emery, Mr. George Jordan, Mr. G.F. Neville, and Mr. Fechter.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 25 October 1863, p. 10a)

Lyceum Theatre, London, Saturday, 31 October 1863
‘Mr. Fechter inaugurated his second season on Saturday evening under the most flattering auspices, the house being attended by a numerous and enthusiastic audience… . A new stage, constructed upon a principle which has been found to work well in the Parisian theatres, has been laid down; and, when the audience shall have become accustomed to it, it will doubtless be recognised as an improvement. Without attempting to bore the reader with an infinity of technical details intelligible only to stage-carpenters, it will suffice to state in general terms that the chief objects of the new system are to abolish what are called the ”wings,” to do away with the visible functions of scene shifting, and to substitute a silent and unseen mechanism for many of the operations which have heretofore been executed by manual labour. This reform is but the natural development of that proficiency in the mechanical arts which is characteristic of the age, and the only wonder is that it has not been applied before now to the business of the theatre. In the days of Garrick, the candle-snuffer was an indispensable functionary of the playhouse. His abolition, inevitably consequent upon the introduction of gas, was felt to be a public benefit; and it is not improbable that the disappearance of other officials who were never ornamental, and who cannot now be said to be useful, will be regarded with equal favour. It will no longer be necessary that furniture and the requisite accessories of stage ”interiors” should be carried to and fro by footmen in obsolete liveries, not will the audience be again shocked with visions of stalwart mechanics in their shirt-sleeves pushing mountains with their shoulders, or shooting sections of scenery along wooden groves [sic] till the sundered landscapes are fitted together with a crash for which there is not more warranty in nature than for the severing of the scene. Rocks, grassy mounds, and garden seats will for the future be made to appear and disappear by some more artistic agency than either the corporeal intervention of an awkward servant coming in for the purpose, or the still more clumsy expedient of a rope pulled at the sides. The footlights, instead of being obtruded above the boards, with their unsightly tin-reflectors, are now sunk below the level of the stage, an arrangement which not only softens the tone of the light and prevents the wavering and flickering of shadows upon the faces of the actors, but also tends to the personal safety of the corps de ballet, whose dresses were formerly in continual danger of catching fire… . The piece called Bel Demonio, which was produced on Saturday is not so much a play as a series of splendid tableaux into which the actors are introduced like figures in a classic landscape rather for the purpose of improving the picturesqueness of the scene than for that of illustrating any actual or possible occurrence of real life. The story … is as intricate and bewildering piece of mechanism as ever taxed the ingenuity of novelist or playwright … Miss Kate Terry, as Lena, acted with a grace and tenderness that made the character exceedingly attractive… . The piece was received throughout with vehement acclamations, and the principal performers were summoned before the curtain, not only at the end of each act, but on the conclusion of every tableau – an insane proceeding, which, besides destroying whatever illusion the play might inspire, contributed to protract the performances long beyond midnight.’
(The Morning Post, London, Monday, 2 November 1863, p. 3a/b)


Kate Cutler in A Model Trilby, 1895

July 28, 2013

Kate Cutler (1864-1955), English actress, as she appeared in the title role of the burlesque, A Model Trilby; or, A Day or Two After Du Maurier, which opened at the Opera Comique, London, 16 November 1895. Trilby, the play, with Dorothea Baird in the title role, had opened at the Haymarket Theatre, London, on 30 October 1895.
(photo: unknown, probably London, 1895; Ogden’s Guinea Gold cigarette card issued about 1900)

‘Miss Nellie Farren has fixed the date of the reopening of the Opera Comique with A Model Trilby; or, A Day or Two After Du Maurier, for the 16th [November 1895]. The burlesqued Trilby will be represented by clever Miss Kate Cutler, and Mr Tree’s Svengali will be travestied by Mr Robb Harwood… . The interior [of the Opera Comique] has been greatly altered; new stalls, dress circle, and upper boxes have been added, and a new and spacious pit has been provided; so that Miss Farren’s enterprise will have a fair start, so far as the house in which it is made is concerned.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 2 November 1895, p. 10a)

‘Messrs Yardley and Brookfield’s burlesque The Model Trilby had a trial trip on Monday afternoon at the Kilburn Theatre. Miss Kate Cutler was demurely droll as Trilby, and Mr Robb Harwood imitated cleverly the appearance, voice, and manner of Mr Beerbohm Tree as Svengali. Miss Cutler’s song ”The Altogether” seems decidedly smart; and we await with agreeable anticipation the production of the ”skit” at the Opera Comique on Saturday next.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 9 November 1895, p. 12b)

‘The trilby jokes date back to the fifties, Taffy in the burlesque says in apology. It may be out of regard to the unities that Miss Farren has gone to the same period for the ”new and original comedy” which precedes A Model Trilby at the Opera Comique. Nannie is a good half-century belated. With its naïve sentiment, its old-fashioned seducer, its painstaking dialect, it might perhaps have brought tears to the eyes of the Amelias of a more susceptible generation. But the early Victorian revival could not make this sort of primitive pathos and humour again the fashion, and in the face of it a modern audience yawns politely from the stalls, laughs uproariously from the gallery. Or, it may be that there is wisdom in the choice. After so tame a performance, the weakest attempt at burlesque could not by seen gay.
‘The Model Trilby of Mr. C.H. Brookfield and Mr. W. Yardly, is, however, something more than an attempt, and would, in parts, amuse under any circumstances. Trilby, the book, it must be confessed, adapts itself to parody with unusual facilities. Indeed, with us it is a question whether the play at the Haymarket belongs, strictly speaking, to burlesque or to melodrama. The Haymarket Taffy, with his pepper-pot and dumb-bells, the Haymarket Mrs. Bagot with her unreserved confidences to a chance concierge, the Haymarket Mr. Bagot, modelled upon Mr. Blakeley in his familiar rôles, are really conceived in as farcical spirit as the same characters at the Opera Comique, and are, if anything, the funnier because of the seriousness with which they are played. And if the magnificent proportions of Trilby herself have grown less at the Opera Comique – because the part has been so much cut down, Durien, the artist-author explains – at least the lady has an ankle to account for her speciality as a model. In the Haymarket, too, the success, in large measure, depends upon make-up; the characters are received with applause in proportion as they look like Mr. Du Maurier’s drawings. But the trick is an easy one, and on the stage of the Opera Comique, Svengali and Taffy and the Laird and Trilby all reappear with a genuinely comic excellence of imitation. In the case of Svengali, Mr. Robb Harwood and Mr. Tree might change places, and the two audiences be none the wiser. The burlesque takes all the usual indispensable liberties with the play and the novel. The whole story is turned topsy-turvy. Little Billie weeps unrestrainedly because he is counted too young to see Trilby pose in the ”altogether”; Trilby’s voice is ruined by Svengali in the training, and so on. But, after all, plot in burlesque matters little. The great thing is the way it is written and played. Mr. Brookfield and Mr. Yardley, in the beginning at least, are not wanting in wit and gaiety. They have seized upon the real weakness of Trilby, and got all the fun out of it they can; to provide harmless, Bowdlerized indecency for the middle classes; that is the little game of Durien, their artist-author, ”the present scribe,” who is perpetually appealed to by his puppets to set them straight. But. Apparently, the material, made to their hand as it might be, could not hold out for an hour or more. The second half of the performance, ending in an indifferent variety entertainment, drags and is as dull as the first half is light and gay and spontaneous. And here the trouble must rest with the authors; for, to the end, the actors do their very best. The whole thing is carried through with plenty of ”go” and life and vivacity. Mr. Eric Lewis, as Durien, may show unexpected restraint in his get up, but he plays with spirit, and his song and dance with Mdme. Vinard is one of the best things in the whole burlesque. Miss Kate Cutler does not bother to study the Haymarket Trilby, except to borrow a hint for her first costume, and, perhaps, this is just as well. Mr. Farren Soutar and Mr [C.P.] Little and Mr. [George] Antley make the Taffy and Laird and Little Billie of the play seem by comparison more tedious than ever, and before dullness sets in on their own stage they have one very jolly dance. We have already said that Mr. Harwood’s Svengali is a capital piece of mimicry. The music has the appropriate gaiety, and there is a Trilby dance, which means, of course, bare, or rather stockinged, feet. And the chances are that in the course of time the last part will go at a more lively rate, and A Model Trilby will be as amusing a little skit, which is all it pretends to be, as you could have.
‘But on Saturday, perhaps, the prettiest bit of comedy of the evening was given by Miss Nellie Farren in the little speech to her ”boys and girls,” a lump in her ”froat,” ready for the good cry all ”females” must have at such a critical moment. Miss Farren the manager has not forgotten Miss Farren the actress.’
(The Pall Mall Gazette, London, Monday, 18 November 1895, p. 3b)


July 25, 2013

J.W. Rickaby (1870-1929), English music hall character comedian and singer
(photo: unknown, probably UK, circa 1912)

J.W. Rickaby was born James (Emanuel) Platt in 1870, the son of Adam Platt, sometime colour sergeant in the 7th Lancashire Militia, and his wife, Hannah. He died at his house in Brixton on 1 October 1929, leaving a widow, Margaret Alston (? Martha Ann) Platt, whom he had married about 1891.

‘In answer to a correspondent, Mr. J.W. Rickaby, we believe, claims to be the original singer of “What ho! she bumps.”’
(The Stage, London, Thursday, 25 January 1900, p. 17b)

Tivoli Theatre, Sydney, Australia, Saturday, 31 October 1908
‘At Saturday’s performances at the Tivoli Theatre, Mr. J.W. Rickaby, who arrived lately from London, made his first appearance before Sydney audiences. He is a comedian with a good deal of genuine humor, which he exhibited in amusing burlesques of various types of character, such as a British soldier with a capacity for enjoyment, a sailor, and a policeman. These were hit off in such a manner as to keep the audience laughing heartily during his turns.’
(The Evening News, Sydney, Monday, 2 November 1908, p. 2f)

‘J.W. Rickaby, the famous comedian appearing at the New Tivoli Theatre, started his stage career as a baritone.
“’I used to work in the day,” he said, “and do concerts at night, and I got on very well. I used to sing ’Queen of My Heart’ all all songs of that class. But I saw the people wanted to be made to laugh, so I tried a comic song. After that they would not have me in anything else.
‘I shall never forget when my father first heard me. I had gone to Manchester, so he came to the hall. I got on very quickly – at least, I did not exactly got on; I mean I did not earn big money quickly, but I became popular and had a good place on the bill, and felt very satisfied and proud. I saw my father going to the front, so I said, ‘Don’t go out there, dad: stay here and watch me from this corner,’ and I settled him there. Well, I had never seen my father afraid or nervous. He was a soldier, and did not know what fear meant, but that night he was white and shaking with fear and nervousness. I could see him sitting there and twisting his hands and looking so anxious.
”’When I cam off he said, ‘You’ll never be any good at it, Jim; never be able to do anything’ ‘Why not?’ I asked.
“’’Why, boy, they were laughing at you all through those first two songs; you’ll never do anything at it.’’You see, he did not realise I was trying to make them laugh. He was so used to me singing the sentimental songs.
”’that time I was singing two humorous songs, and then a sentimental ballad. I wanted to be versatile. But, strange to say, in England versatility does not succeed. They do not want you to be versatile. At least, it succeeds, but the one who wants to be versatile never gets into the big and secure position. To go on and do a song in a comedian make-up and then appear in evening dress to do a straight song is not what they want; they will not accept you as a sentimental ballad singer, and they try to laugh, thinking it should be funny, so I gave up trying to be versatile.
“’’One of my best turns is a soldier song, and I have all their little ways for it – the way they hold the cigarette, inhale and smoke, then blow it out, and their movements. I meant it to be one of my principal numbers here, but I would not sing it now on principle.
”’For stage purposes one of my brothers is known as Rhodes, and the other as Waite. My own name is Platt – J.W. Platt, an old Lancashire name, and there are a good many Platts there. In fact, I do not know how many nephews and nieces and relatives I have there. I have given up counting them. They have big families in Lancashire. Why, one connection of mine has 17 children. I never know which is which and which is the baby. They are all steps and stairs. As for how many nephews and cousins I have at the war I have not the least idea. Why, there are four nephews out of one family.
“’And if you want to see bonnie, healthy children you cans see them in Lancashire. This connection of mine with the 17, how much do you think he has a week? Between two and three pounds. Yes, he has been able to bring all up healthy and well. They run about barefooted – he cannot run to boots and stockings – but some of them would have clogs for special occasions. You can get them for about eighteen pence per pair. They have fine homemade bread in Lancashire, and good butter, too, and the children live and thrive principally on this. They would have a bowl of stew or soup for their dinner – nothing else. Yet they look well and are as happy as possible, rolling over one another. They are just growing up now, and are beginning to earn money, one or two bringing in 15/- a week, another 10 or 12 shilling, so they are getting quite rich.’
(The Daily Herald, Adelaide, Saturday, 26 December 1914, p. 6f)

‘J.W. Rickaby, who left these shores for Australia last September to fulfil an engagement for Mr. Hugh D. McIntosh with Rickard’s Theatres, arrived in London on Tuesday evening [25 May 1915]. Mr. Rickaby made the return journey per the s.s. ’’Morea,” leaving the boat at Marseilles and travelling overland. He should open in Leeds on Monday, but as all his theatrical luggage and band pats are still on board, and the boat is not expected back in time, he will probably have to postpone his appearance until the following Monday, when he is due at Newcastle.’
(The Stage, London, Thursday, 27 May 1915, p. 14e)

Listen to J.W. Rickaby singing ’I’m Always Thinking of Her,’ recorded for the Edison Bell Winner label (3498) in London in November 1920.