Archive for February, 2014


K. Scott-Barrie’s The Upper Ten, an English concert party, circa 1912

February 28, 2014

The Upper Ten, an English concert party organized and headed by the actor and entertainer Kemsley Scott-Barrie (seated, right, on piano); other members of the group included Leslie Barker (back, left) and Mamie Watson (back, right)
(photo: Donald Massey, Bognor, Sussex, probably 1912)

‘The Upper Ten, who describe themselves as the ”merry and bright” concert party, are living up to this description at the Alexandra Palace Summer Pavilion this week, where their two shows a day are being well supported. Mr. K. Scott-Barrie, who heads the combination, is, of course, well-known to our readers, and his effervescent humour permeates the programme. Indeed, if we may criticise, we would suggest thet he need not interfere quite so much during other turns, but give the artists a chance to show their own merits. Miss Peggy Rae [i.e. Peg Ray, mother of Peter Sellers], Miss Mamie Watson, Miss Lillian Collard, Miss Madge Carr, and Miss Louie Milne [mother of Jimmy Campbell] all display ability in their respective lines, the last-named being a clever pianist, whiles the male members of the company are Mr. Charlie Carr, Mr. Reg Leslie, and Mr. Leslie Barker [(1895-1965) who later worked with Gabrielle Ray]. Some of the actions in the concerted items might be varied more, but, taken as a whole, the entertainment is certainly pleasant and amusing.’
(The Stage, London, Thursday, 6 June 1912, p. 19d)

Kemsley Scott-Barrie, whose real name was Edward Woolhouse, was born in 1883 in Leeds, Yorkshire, one of the children of Arthur Woolhouse, a joiner, and his second wife Sarah Ann (née Cousins), and baptised at the church of St. John the Baptist in that city on 13 April 1884. Originally an apprentice bricklayer, he became a professional entertainer in his early 20s. His relatively short career lasted from 1906 until enlisting during the First World War, attaining the rank of Corporal in the Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment). He appeared in pantomime and on the music hall stage but became particularly identified with his concert party work. He died on 6 October 1918 of wounds received in action, a little over a month before the end of hostilities. He is buried at Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, near Dieppe, northern France. (For further information, see The Stage, London, Thursday, 12 November 1998, p. 10)


Clive Watts, English comedian and eccentric dancer

February 26, 2014

Clive Watts (1865?-1932), English comedian and eccentric dancer, who appeared at music halls and in pantomime, revue and other popular entertainments
(photo: Hana, London, circa 1910)

The Bedford music hall, London, week beginning Monday, 20 July 1908
‘Clive Watts scores heavily with ”Please, Mr. Manager” and some excellent patter. Smartly dressed, he also executes a neat and clever eccentric dance, which is loudly applauded.’ (The Stage, London, Thursday, 23 July 1908, p. 11e)

‘Clive Watts is a comedian who can tell funny stories and sing comic absurdities with equal ability. He made a great hit with his stories, and the audience appreciated his efforts. His dancing was really marvellous and he introduced many new steps into his whirlwind dancing.’
(Weymouth and Portland Standard, Weymouth, Dorset, England, Tuesday, 10 March 1914)


Bob Pender’s Troupe of pantomimists and knockabout comedians

February 23, 2014

Bob Pender’s Troupe of pantomimists and knockabout comedians
(photo: unknown, in or before 1917)

Keith’s vaudeville theatre, Syracuse, New York, week beginning Monday, 19 December 1921
‘Keith’s headliners this week are Clayton White and Grace Leigh company [sic] in a one-act playlet, Cherie. The plot is laid on Long Island, near the Belmont race track, in the home of the Harringtons. In it, Mr. White and Miss Leigh will no doubt have opportunity to display their unusual ability to act. The added attracted is the famous Bob Pender troupe [including Archie Leach], which were featured all last season at the Hippodrome, New York. They are animal impersonators, stilt walkers and eccentric dancers. Also on the bill are Glen and Jenkins, in Working on the Railroad.’ (Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, New York, Monday, 19 December 1921, p.9c)


Eunice Hill, singer and dancer in vaudeville, New York, 1896-1898

February 23, 2014

Eunice Hill (active late 19th Century), American singer and dancer
(photo: Schloss, NewYork, circa 1896/98; Ogden’s Guinea Gold cigarette card, issued in the United Kingdom, late 19th Century)

Little is known about Eunice Hill although she is recorded as having appeared in ‘songs and dances’ at Proctor’s Theatre, 23rd Street West, New York, during the week beginning Monday, 23 March 1896. Two years later she was at Tony Pastor’s Theatre, also in New York.


Nora Stockelle, English music hall and pantomime soubrette and dancer

February 23, 2014

Nora Stockelle (active 1907-1920), English music hall and pantomime soubrette and dancer
(postcard photo: Charles & Russell, 10 Royal Avenue, Belfast, circa 1915)

Merry Moments Merry Moments, a revue by Albert P. de Courville and Herman Darewski, first presented at the Hackney Empire, north London, 22 March 1915. There were various changes during the subsequent tour: Nell Emerald was temporarily replaced by Lily Lena and by July 1915 Florence Smithson had been added.
Finsbury Park Empire, north London, week beginning Monday 17 May 1915
‘Harry Day brings his Merry Moments to Finsbury Park Empire this week, and frankly disdaining the fetters of a plot of any kind, just gives us a series of amusing scenes, linked together by choruses, and the evolutions and dances of Lottie Stone’s troupe. The effect is decidedly pleasing, and requires no mental effort to follow. Amongst the most amusing episodes are ”The Amateur Burglar,” by Hal Jones, [Fred] Hawes, and T. Gamble; ”Bookkeeping” and ”A present from a friend,” by Marriott Edgar and Walter Williams; ”The Canadian Bully,” by Lily Lena, [Hal] Jones, and [Fred] Dark; ”A swish wish,” by Nora Stockelle, Messrs. Edgar, Jones, and W. Williams. These are apparently the favourites with the audience. Lily Lena’s archness and piquancy find immediate favour with the audience, and she makes a great hit with her song, ”What a lady.” Nora Stockelle scores with ”All of you rag with me,” as does Miss [Beatrice] Boarer and Walter Williams with their duet, ”Anytime, Anywhere.” altogether, Merry Moments may be said to have made a good impression, and Mr. A. Coleman Hicks has no cause of complaint as to business.’
(The Stage, London, Thursday, 20 May 1915, p. 16a)


Olga Sydney imitating Maidie Scott, London, 1916/17

February 22, 2014

Olga Sydney (1903-1986), ‘The Wonderful Child Mimic’ and later variety artist as she appeared in her imitation of the music hall star Maidie Scott in the ‘children’s revue’ section of The Happy Family, the children’s play first produced at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London, on 18 December 1916 and revived at the Strand Theatre, London, on 24 December 1917, matinees only.
(postcard photo: Elliott & Fry Ltd, London, 1916/17)

Olga Sydney was the daughter of Simeon Blaiberg (1874?-1943), a north London house furnisher. Her career began about 1916 and lasted until she was married in 1927 to Raphael Woolf (1899-1961), whose father was an india rubber manufacturer.-


Florence Smithson, English soprano and musical comedy and pantomime actress

February 19, 2014

Florence Smithson (1884-1936), English soprano and musical comedy actress, who appeared in several Drury Lane pantomimes and spent much of the last part of her career touring variety theatres in the United Kingdom. She is best remembered for her appearance as Sombra in the original production of The Arcadians (Shaftesbury Theatre, London, 28 April 1909).
(photo: Metropole Studios, Cardiff, circa 1915)


Erroll Stanhope, ‘England’s Lady Whistler’

February 18, 2014

Erroll Stanhope (1872-1969), English siffleuse, musician and music hall and pantomime actress and singer, sometime billed as ‘England’s Lady Whistler’
(postcard photo: Alfred Ellis & Walery, London, circa 1903)

Erroll [sometimes Errol] Stanhope (Erroll Augusta Stanhope Drake) was born on 20 February 1872, the elder daughter of Collard Augustus Drake (1843-1911) by his second wife Julia Annie (née Eales). Drake, better known as ‘A. Collard,’ was an accomplished flautist, a flute and piccolo manufacturer trading as A. Collard & Co., and author of Method of Practising the Flute (London, 1875). Miss Stanhope’s earliest public appearances seem to have been with her father. She later went on to feature in various pantomimes, including Babes in the Wood at the Alexandra Theatre, Sheffield, at Christmas 1899, and as Jack in Sweet Red Riding Hood, at the Kennington Theatre, produced on 26 December 1901. She also made numerous music hall appearances before her marriage in 1904 to the music hall singer, Whit Cunliffe (1876-1966).

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‘Miss Erroll Stahope rivals Mrs. Alice Shaw, the original belle siffleuse, in the gentle art of whistling. She has whistled, and the Sketch tells us, from babyhood. In those early days she whistled for her own amusement, now she purses her pretty lips and whistles for the delectation of the playgoing public. During the run of King Kodak at Terry’s Theatre [produced on 30 April 1894] Miss Stanhope whistled nightly ”‘Way Down the Swanee River,” as well as a whistling piece of her own composition. In one thing she beats Mrs. Alice Shaw – she whistles three notes higher; her register being from C natural to C sharp. By way of change Miss Stanhope, who does not look more than sweet seventeen in the Sketch‘s portrait, sometimes plays the flute, and is even suspected of a determination to learn the Scottish bagpipe when her engagements leave her the necessary time.’
(The Weekly Standard and Express, Blackburn, Saturday, 11 August 1894, p. 7f)

‘TO-MORROW (SUNDAY) AFTERNOON, at 3.30; doors open 2.30.
‘Organist, Mr. Alfred Hollins. Vocalists, Miss Beatrice Frost, Mr. Iver M’Kay. Violinist, Miss Cecile Elleson. Flute Quartette, Miss Erroll Stanhope, Messrs J. Radcliff, J. Lemmons, A. Collard. Accompanists, Mr. Henry J. Wood, Mr. Richard Rickard. Admission free; reserved seats, 6d., 1s., 1s. 6s., 2s., at Robert Newman’s box-office, Queen’s Hall, Langham-place.’
(The Morning Post, London, Saturday, 25 May 1895, p. 6b, advertisement)

Royal Pier Entertainments, Southampton, Hampshire, 3 August 1895,br> ‘… Miss Erroll Stanhope specially distinguished herself as a vocalist and siffleuse. Her song ”Little Miss Prim” was encored. Her whistling solos were perfection itself, and several encores followed.’
(The Hampshire Advertiser, Southampton, Saturday, 10 August 1895, p. 6a)

‘MISS ERROLL STANHOPE Theatre Royal, York. – ”Miss Erroll Stanhope is a young lady who has a diversity of attractions. As Daisy Madcap she sings and acts well; but, beyond that, she is able to whistle with a sweetness and brilliancy rarely met with in either male or female. On Saturday night she whistled Arditi‘s ‘Il Bacio’ [orchestral version with saxophone] with all the sweetness and brilliancy of execution which one would have expected from an accomplished piccolo player. The inevitable encore followed.” – Yorkshire Herald March 25th [1899]’
(The Stage, London, Thursday, 28 March 1901, p. 2d)

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Mrs Alice Shaw is said to have made several cylinder recordings. One, with her twin daughters, entitled, ‘Spring-tide Revels,’ described as ‘A whistling trio novelty,’ was released in 1907 by Edison in the United States.


Gaby Deslys sings!

February 17, 2014

Gaby Deslys (1881-1920), the irresistible French actress, singer and dancer, was ‘discovered’ in Paris by the impresario George Edwardes, who brought her to London for a cameo role, ‘The Charm of Paris,’ in The New Aladdin, produced at the Gaiety Theatre, London on 29 September 1906. She conquered Broadway in 1911 and later that year effortlessly upstaged her co-star (although there is some disagreement on this point), the rising Al Jolson, in Vera Violetta (Winter Garden Theatre, 20 November 1911). Mlle. Deslys appeared in several films and her only known recordings, of which the present example for the HMV label (2-033039) is one of several, were made in Vienna on 17 October 1910 [see below]. Her long-time dancing partner was the American Harry Pilcer (1885-1961) and together they created ‘The Gaby Glide,’ also in Vera Violetta.

A follower, chrisz78, has kindly added the following comment: ‘The present recording (‘Tout en rose’ by Vincent Scotto, the second song is not mentioned anywhere and came as a total surprise to me!) was recorded not in Paris but in VIENNA, on 15 October 1910, as per Gramophone Co.’s original recording register. On the same day, Deslys made four further recordings, including another take of ‘Tout en rose’ on a 10-inch disc, two versions of ‘Philomène’ and one of ‘La Parisienne.’ All were issued, though apparently very briefly, so the discs are very rare.’

For further information, see James Gardiner’s biography, Gaby Deslys, A Fatal Attraction, published in 1986.


Lawrance D’Orsay in his dressing room at the Manhattan Theatre, New York, preparing for his role in the comedy, The Earl of Pawtucket, 1903

February 16, 2014

Lawrance D’Orsay (1853-1931), English actor, in his dressing room at the Manhattan Theatre, New York, preparing for the 3rd Act of The Earl of Pawtucket, the comedy by Augustus Thomas, which opened at that theatre on 23 March 1903. The young man in costume as a page who is assisting Mr D’Orsay is probably James Gardner, who was also a cast member in this production.
(photo: Van der Weyde, New York, 1903)

‘New Play at the Madison Square Theatre Bristles with Laughmaking Lines.
‘Miss Elizabeth Tyree Appears to Advantage, and Other Members of Company add to Ensemble.
‘Since Augustus Thomas wiped away the stain of Colorado by giving us a dramatization of Richard Harding Davis’ Soldiers of Fortune the theatre-going public has been asking him to get out his atlas and write another of his geographical dramas.
‘this request was granted last night. Mr. Thomas had visited Providence at one time in his life and recalled a suburb of that city names Pawtucket, and his Rhode island town furnished a geographical setting for his latest play, The Earl of Pawtucket.
‘For a third time this season Miss Elizabeth Tyree was almost a star. Lawrance D’Orsay was to share the honors of the production, and between them and Mr. Thomas, Kirk La Shelle promised a comedy which would make the Madison Square Theatre ring with the laughter which has been missing since William Collier took his leave in On the Quiet, another comedy by this same author.
‘After last night’s performance Mr. La Shelle’s promises will be good for face value in any theatre along Broadway. Whenever he and Augustus Thomas jointly sign a note making themselves liable to present a comedy of excellence the theatrical district will raise sufficient money to provide a crowded house on the opening night.
‘Bristled with Bright Lines.
‘Excepting a few short but dreary stretched in the opening act, when it was difficult to tell what all the conversation was about, the play simply bristled with bright lines, sparkled and rippled along like the waves of laughter throughout the house.
‘With no delving into anything but wholesome fun, with no effort to add to anything but the laughs of a nation, Mr. Thomas has taken a local setting, a modern period and persons of real life, placed them in ludicrous situations and evolved one of the very best comedies of his repertoire.
‘The honors of the evening went to Lawrance D’Orsay. Those familiar with Mr. D’Orsay’s excellent work in A Royal Family and The Wilderness well knew the finish he would give the role of an English lord who comes to this country and attempts to pose as a native.
‘It was never difficult for Mr. D’Orsay to assume the broad accent of the well bred Englishman. His accent is a trifle broader now and his inherent stupidity less mystifying than formerly. He was the [The Earl of Pawtucket‘s] Lord Cardington of real life to a nicety. He ordred his coffee like a lord, and he used his monocle like a lord, to say nothing of the faculty he has always possessed of wearing his clothes like one.
‘Plot Delightfully Simple.
‘In plot The Earl of Pawtucket is delightfully simple. Lord Cardington meets Miss Fordyce in London and Paris – a concession to Thomas’ geographical tendencies – and follows her to America. By chance he has met her divorced husband and assumes the man’s name for an alias. The remainder was easy enough for Mr. Thomas. He gave the foreign lord a notebook filled with American expressions, placed him in the Waldorf Astoria, where he met all grades of society, and made his every line count.
‘It was in the brightness of the dialogue and Mr. D’Orsay’s methods that the comedy achieved its success. Mr. Thomas has gone Clyde Fitch one better this time in attacking the weaknesses of society and pinning them to a merry laugh with a single sentence of satire. He has missed few opportunities in The Earl of Pawtucket.
‘It was good to see ElizabethTyree again in a real play, devoid of the straining for anything but possible incidents and possible characters. Miss Tyree herself seemed to appreciate the change. The nervousness that marred her skill in her last boisterous character [in Gretna Green] has gone. She was delightfully natural and jus fitted in the place that had been made for her.
‘Miss June Van Buskirk justified her selection for the important role of Ella Seaford. She, like the others, had been infected by the microbe of naturalness. Charles W. Stokes, too, was a real human being without extraneous assistance. Robert McWade, a stertling actor, was miscast as Senator Barker, and seemed ill at ease.
‘There is a place in New York for The Earl of Pawtucket and other plays like it which Mr. Thomas may have in mind. Thoroughly American, in spite of the fact that an English lord is the principal character, and genuinely humorous, it provides two hours of entertainment that is distinctly worth while.’
(The Morning Telegraph, New York, New York, Friday, 6 February 1903, p. 10a)

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Lawrance D’Orsay reprised the character of Lord Cardington for the film version of The Earl of Pawtucket, which was made in the United States of America and released on 26 July 1915.