Archive for June, 2014


Willie Edouin as ‘The Heathen Chinee,’ inspired by Bret Harte’s character, Ah Sin

June 10, 2014

Willie Edouin (1846-1908), English comic actor, as ‘The Heathen Chinee’ (based on Ah Sin, a character imagined by Bret Harte for a poem, first published in 1870) in Lydia Thompson‘s production of H.B. Farnie‘s burlesque, Blue Beard; or, the Mormon, the Maiden and The Little Militaire, first produced at Wallack’s Theatre, New York, 16 August 1871. After 30 performances the piece began a tour of the United States. Lydia Thompson’s production of Blue Beard, in which Willie Edouin appeared again as ‘The Heathen Chinee,’ was first seen in London at the Charing Cross Theatre on 19 September 1874. This pose shows Edouin stepping away from the playing cards which have just fallen out of his ‘Chinee’s’ long sleeve, as in Harte’s poem.
(carte de visite photo: Fradelle & Marshall, 230 & 246 regent Street, London, W, probably 1875)

Wallack’s Theatre, New York, Wednesday evening, 16 August 1871
‘MISS LYDIA THOMPSON and her new burlesque company commenced an engagement at Wallack’s Theatre on Wednesday evening, Aug. 16th, the house having been closed the two preceding evenings for rehearsals. Although the troupe had been announced to appear on Monday evening, the delay on the passage of the steamship Queen, which bore them to our shores and only arrived on Friday, the 11th inst., rendered it advisable that the opening should be postponed rather than risk a possibly imperfect performance, as the company had never, hitherto, acted together… . Willie Edouin created much hilarity by his grotesque acting of Corporal Zoug-Zoug. He walked with a gait which defies description, but which convulsed the audience with laughter. In the third scene he was introduced as a Heathen Chineee, which he personated in an excellent manner, singing a Chinese song, and performing a Chinese grotesque dance which met with great favor, being thrice re-demanded. He also, with [Harry] Beckett, presented in a realistic manner the celebrated game of euchre played by Ah Sin, as described by Bret Harte, which was rapturously received. His ping being made of India rubber became the vehicle of likewise creating much mirth… .’
(The New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 26 August 1871, p. 166b)

Memphis Theatre, Memphis, Monday, 8 January 1872
‘This temple of the Muses was packed from pit to dome last evening by an enthusiastic and fashionable audience, on the occasion of the initial performance of the famous Lydia Thompson blondes, in the extravaganza called Blue Beard. From the rise until the fall of the curtain the troupe kept the audience in a roar of laughter. By way of change, a charming solo, duet or quartette would be introduced, all of which were sung in an artistic and operatic manner. Miss Thompson has lost none of her old-time playful abandonment. Last night she skipped and pirouetted through the part of ”Selim” with airy grace and bewitching sweetness. Burlesque holds its position on the stage as an amuser of the people, and, while it may not aim to accomplish lofty ends, it is still a form of entertainment that is harmless, and, at the same time, fruitful of much innocent enjoyment. Of burlesque, Miss Thompson is now the recognized exponent, and deserves thanks fo the admirable manner in which she has pleased eye and ear in Blue Beard. Next in importance to Miss Thompson in the success of the troupe if Mr. Harry Becket, whose ”make up” and acting as the polygamous ”Blue Beard” presented the same rare appreciation of the broadly humorous which has always characterized his art labors. Willie Edouin, too, as ”Corporal Zoug Zoug” and the ”Heathen Chinee,” also came in for a large share of applause, and, indeed, the entire company appears to be one that will work harmoniously together and be the source of much entertainment to the theater-going public. Two points in Miss Thompson’s characterization were remarkable. One was her interpritation of the song, ”His Heart was True to his Poll,” which was full of an energetic humor for which we did not give her credit; the other was her personal appearance as the ”Shepherd boy,” wheein she looked as though was had strayed out of one of Virgil’s eclogues, with the bloom of the pastoral age upon her. Blue Beard will be presented again this evening.’
(The Public Ledger, Memphis, Tennessee, Tuesday, 9 January 1872, p. 2c-d)

Academy of Music, Charleston, Thursday, 4 April, 1872
‘A Crowded Audience and a Brilliant Initial Performance.
‘The beautiful burlesquers of Miss Lydia Thompson’s new troupe took simultaneous possession of the Academy of Music and the hearts of its crowded audience at their initial performance last evening. The merry travestie upon the doleful legend of Blue Beard was irresistibly comical, and, with its rollicking humor, its excruciating puns, and its accompaniments of charming dresses and lovely forms, it brought down the house. Miss Lydia Thompson was the jauntiest of sous-lieutenants; Miss Eliza Weathersby, the jauntiest of O’Shabacacs, and Miss Nellie Kamp the pearl of pages. We give place aux dames, as it our duty, but the success of the evening was won by Willie Edouin, the Heathen Chinese, whose euchre scene from the tale of Truthful James was applauded to the echo. To-night will be given the legend of the love-lorn Lurline.’
(The Charleston News, Charleston, South Carolina, Friday, 5 April 1872, p. 3c)

Charing Cross Theatre, London, 19 September 1874
‘Mr Willie Edouin, who re;resented a corporal and a ”Heathen Chinee,” is an extremely clever actor, but his performances are, we should say, a good deal too violet for English tastes. His ”Heathen Chinee,” however, is very much superior to his corporal. His dancing as the Chinee is little short of miraculous, and his antics generally are very laughable, though rather verging towards incontinent extravagance.’
(The Examiner, London, Saturday, 26 September 1874, p. 1056b)

‘… It would be impossible to find for Selim another impersonator as graceful and refined as Miss Lydia Thompson, or for Blue Beard a more humorous representative that Mr. Lionel Brough [replacing Harry Beckett]. But the American actors [sic], Mr. John Morris, who, in presence of the audience, transforms himself instantaneously from a young man to an old one, from man to woman, and from an old woman to a younger girl; and Mr. Willie Edouin, who plays the part of the ”Heathen Chinee,” and after a series of most grotesque performances cheats Blue Bear at euchre, could not be replaced at all. How these gentlemen ever got into the piece is a problem which cannot be solved by analysis. But there they are and there they are likely long to remain. Many playgoers, and a far greater number of non-playgoers, had been congratulating themselves on the fact that burlesque was dead; that it had at last given way to opera bouffe, which was, in its turn, to give way to opéra comique, so that in the end all fun of a farcical kind and set to music would disappear from the stage. This was neither possible nor desirable; and Miss Lydia Thompson’s experiment has shown that, with whatever violence burlesque may be driven out, it will return. No one, however, would have wished for its disappearance had the class in general been as free from vulgarity as it the individual specimen of it which Miss Lydia Thompson has now brought forward.’
(The Pall Mall Gazette, London, Monday, 26 October 1874, p. 10)


Lily Elsie and Ivor Novello in The Truth Game, 1928/29

June 7, 2014

Lily Elsie and Ivor Novello as Rosine Browne and Max Clement in H.E.S. Davidson’s [i.e. Ivor Novello’s] light comedy The Truth Game, first produced at the Globe Theatre, London, on 5 October 1928. A tour followed its closure on 23 February 1929, returning to London (Daly’s Theatre) on 25 June 1929 for a further 22 performances.
(photo: E. Harrington, New Bond Street, London, 1928; postcard no. 339K published by J. Beagles & Co Ltd, 1928)


Maude Marshall (Mrs Herbert Fox), English actress

June 6, 2014

Maude Marshall (1865?-1937), English actress, in an unidentified role
(cabinet photo: unknown, probably UK, circa 1885)

The written caption on this photograph is incorrect inasmuch as Maude Marshall’s real name was Brenda (not Beryl) Maude Marshall. Born about 1865, her mother, Louisa Marshall (1841?-?) was also an actress who probably did not use that name in her professional life. The latter is not to be confused with Louisa Marshall (1826?-1896) of the large Marshall family of actors (which included Polly Marshall), who latterly became a teacher of the piano and died in reduced circumstances. Maude Marshall’s brother, John Arthur Marshall (1868/69-after 1937), was briefly an actor before leaving the profession.

Nothing is known of Miss Marshall’s father but she was married to the actor Herbert Henry Fox, known professionally as Herbert Fox, in 1886. They both had very varied theatrical careers, from pantomime to melodrama, mostly appearing at theatres in the suburbs of London and throughout the United Kingdom. He died in Yorkshire on 1 November 1916 and she in Walworth, London on 18 November 1937. (The Stage, London, Thursday, 7 November 1935, p. 2a and 9 December 1937, p. 6e)


Agar and Young, comic acrobats

June 1, 2014

Agar and Young (active 1924-1943), comic acrobats and pantomime performers
(photo: unknown, United Kingdom, mid 1920s)


Lulu, the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World,’ unmasked as a boy

June 1, 2014

a carte de visite photograph of Lulu, the ‘female’ trapeze artist formerly known as the boy acrobat El Niño Farini, who was actually Sam Wasgate (1855-1939), the adopted son of William Leonard Hunt (1838-1929), known to the world as the tightrope walker and acrobat, The Great Farini.
(carte de visite photo: Sarony, 680 Broadway, New York, probably 1873)

‘NIBLO’S GARDEN [New York, 28 April-9 June 1873]
‘Entirely new and brilliant ballet spectacle pantomime,
‘Produced with entirely new scenery, gorgeous and elegant costumes, marvelous appointments, and a brilliantly beautiful transformation unequaled in any previous scenic display.
‘First appearance in America of the great sensation gymnast, LULU, LULU, LULU,
The marvel of the age. The eighth wonder of the world. In the most marvelous and thrilling exploits ever performed on any stage. The pantomime is presented with an exceptionally strong cast in the opening, and THE HARLEQUINADE will be rendred by the unrivaled quartette, Jas. S. Maffitt, W.H. Bartholomew, E. Valade, Mlle. Clara Leontine. The three grand ballets under direction of Madame Kathi Lanner [sic], with Mlle. Pitteri, the celebrated premier danseuse. First matinee of the new pantomime and Lulu, Wednesday afternoon, April 30 at 1 ½ o’clock.’
(The New York Clipper, New York, 3 May 1873, p. 39g, advertisement)

”’LULU.” – It is stated that the pretty ”Lulu,” who does the flying leap at Niblo’s, New York, over whom half the city is crazy, and who is advertised as a girl, is a boy. The gentle youth is said to have remarked the other day: ”The old man hain’t got more than a year or two more of the ‘Lulu’ business. I’m getting a moustache and ain’t near as pretty as I was, either.’
(The Daily State Journal, Richmond, Virginia, Saturday,14 June 1873, p. 1f)

Lulu’s appearance with Sanger’s Circus at Bath, Somerset, 1875
‘This week I paid Messrs. Sangers’ Circus another visit. Of course you guess why I did so. Lulu, whose name is in everybody’s mouth, drew me there. Where all the world goes, I must go. Now all the world – I mean the local world – has this week been tearing towards the Circus in Walcot-street each evening, impelled by the desire to see the ”eighth wonder of the world.” I had never seen the real and original Lulu before this week, and I was eager to behold the little lady who caused such a sensation in London not long ago by her wonderful athletic performances, the interest in which was increased in no small degree by her reputed graces and charms. I make use of the words ‘her’ and ‘feminine’ with a firm conviction that they are quite correctly applied, notwithstanding the report which one has heard so often repeated in Bath this week, that Lulu is not at all feminine, but masculine in sooth. If she is not ‘she,’ then I don’t know what a woman is at all. I must have grown up with very erroneous ideas respecting the natural distinctions of the sexes. If Lulu be not a woman, she bears a very striking resemblance to all the representations by best authorities of our mother Eve as distinguished from the representations of our father Adam. When one gets puzzled over questions such as this, it is well to go back to ”first principles.” I found the Circus filled in almost every part. The popular parts of the house were crammed. At an early stage of the entertainment Lulu made her entrance. There is much that is attractive in her personal appearance. She was effectively costumed in a rich crimson tunic and pink silk fleshings, her arms and neck being bare. She also wore pretty little shoes of white satin. Small in statue, but of comely proportions, agile as an antelope, with eyes like a gazelle’s, young, and well-featured, Lulu, as she lightly tripped into the arena and made her bow to the audience, created a most favourable impression at once. Everybody clapped her. Immediately afterwards she mounted aloft, and went through a number of feats on the trapeze, a minute description of which would sound odd enough, performed as they were by one of the fair sex. The spectators, however, were filled with wonder and delight at the grace, agility, and courage of Lulu. Her great feat, however, the one that was so much talked about at the time of her debut, is her vertical leap from the stage to a small platform, swung on ropes, about thirty feet above. Just as the leap takes place smell screams proceed from various parts of the house, but Lu-Lu [sic] invariably alights on the platform above. How this leap is effected is a question which always causes a good deal of speculation. I have my own opinion on the subject, but I would rather that my readers who have not yet see Miss Lulu should do so, and form a perfectly independent opinion.’
(quoted in an advertisement, The Era, London, Sunday, 21 February 1875, p. 13d)

”’LULU!” ”LULU!” –
This Celebrated Gymnast, who created such a furore at the Amphitheatre, Holborn, is now on a final Tour of England, Scotland, and Ireland, previous to starting for India and the Colonies, and retirement from public life. Managers are therefore invited to make Engagements with this World-renowned Artiste, especially in those Cities and Town[s] not yet visited by Lulu.
for dates, terms, &c., apply to C. Hodson Stanley, Business Manager, en route.
BATH, October 18th, 1875.
PLYMOUTH, November 8th, 1875.
NOTTINGHAM, November 25th, 1875.
GLASGOW, January 3d, 1876.
LULU, the Marvel of the Age!
LULU, the Wonder of the Universe!!
LULU, the Embodiment of Grace!!! LULU, the Eighth Wonder of the World!!!!’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 17 October 1875, p. 13d, advertisement)

‘Lulu, the well-known acrobat, met with a shocking accident at Hengler’s Circus, Dublin, on Monday night. In the leap to the roof of the circus, the spring of the machinery by which she is impelled upwards failed to send her the requisite height, and she missed the cross bar. The netting which should shoot out under her failed to work, and she fell on the edge of the platform with great violence. She was carried from the place insensible. Several persons almost fainted, and there was a general cry from the audience to lynch the manager who had introduced her. A great panic prevailed in the theatre for several minutes after the occurrence. It is stated that Lulu is almost completely recovered from the effect of the severe fall. A shaking and an ugly bruise between the shoulders have been the only injuries sustained, and a few days’ rest is the only requisite for perfect recovery.’
(The Sunday Times, London, Sunday, 13 August 1876, p. 5a)

‘Lulu, ”the champion female trapezist of the world,” lately fell and dislocated her hip in London, The attending physician discovered that Lulu is a man!”’
(The Evening Star, Washington, DC, Monday, 11 September 1876, p. 3g)

MONDAY NEXT, November 6th [1876]
Eighth wonder of the World.
Free List (press excepted) entirely suspended.’
(The Sunday Times, London, Sunday, 5 November 1876, p. 4b, advertisement)

The Royal Cambridge Hall of Varieties, Shoreditch, London, November 1876
‘The ”star” of the company is the marvellously clever Lulu, whom some few years ago we christened the eighth wonder of the world, a title well earned and honourably kept. What Lulu’s performance is like everybody knows, or out to know. It has lots none of its charm, none of its daring, none of its accuracy; and the pleasure to be derived from witnessing it is enhanced by the presence of the magnificent nets fitted up under the watchful direction of M. Farini, and by the knowledge that all danger is thereby precluded. The upward flight through space is as startling as ever, and its accomplishment is nightly provocative of applause which we imagine may be heard at the Bank or at Kingsland-gate.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 19 November 1876, p. 4d)

‘THE LITTLE WHITE WHALE exhibited for one or two days at the Westminster Aquarium last week was an ”amusing little cuss,” as Mr. Henry Lee might say… . Whilst my friend, the artist, was sketching her, the whale blew from her blow-hole not only a good whiff of breath but also a diminutive eel which had, apparently, ”gone the wrong way.” Some other curious things were observed by the same keen-eyed Artist. Zazel was there off duty studying her rival, and chatting with Mr. Morris … ”Lulu” was there, too, looking at the whale; and the mystery of Lulu’s sex was solved. ”Lulu,” scented up to the eyebrows, looked very much like a German student – a pocket swell with long hairy and pale features, in which one could trace a resemblance to the daring young gymnast who, years ago, used to perform on the trapeze at the Alhambra, and sing out in a boyish treble, ”Wait till I’m a man!” …’
(The Penny Illustrated Paper, London, Saturday, 6 October 1877, 222a; on p. 217 is the sketch of Zazel chatting with Mr. Morris; the whale, ‘THE FIRST WHALE SEEN ALIVE IN LONDON’; and ”’LULU” IN MUFTI,’ showing the celebrated acrobat in pale trousers, frock coat and top hat)

* * * * *

After his retirement as an acrobat Lulu became a photographer and eventually settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he opened a studio.

‘… You have in Bridgeport [Connecticut], Farini (the photographer), who so many years was ”Lulu” and electrified audiences in Europe and America as a beautiful and shapely young girl. At Niblo’s Garden [New York] ”Lulu” broke the hearts and woman many favors from rich men. ”Lulu” was hurled from the catapult. He was shot out of a cannon. From concealed springs on the stage at Niblo’s he was fired to dizzy hights [sic], and his graceful figure deceived the poor deluded men into offers of marriage. ”Lulu” made a living by his disguise… .’
(‘A Woman as a Locomotive Engineer,’ Pacific Rural Press, San Francisco, Saturday, 16 July 1887, p. 46d)