Archive for December, 2014

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Bonnie Maginn – ‘Dashing Bonnie Maginn’ – New York City, 1898

December 30, 2014

Bonnie Maginn (Bonalin Maginn, active before 1898 – 1906, still living 1931), American burlesque actress, singer and dancer
(cabinet photo: B.J. Falk, New York City, 1898)

‘MAGINN, Miss Bonnie:
‘Actress and dancer, was born in Chicago and made her first appearance there at the Grand Opera House, under the management of David Henderson, when she was a mere child, in ”The Mikado.” She then joined Weber and Fields in New York, with whom she remained nearly six years. In 1903 she played in ”Mr. Bluebeard,” under Klaw & Erlanger, and then joined Frank Daniels in ”The Office Boy.” In 1904 she again joined Joe Weber’s company and remained with him two and a half seasons. She then went into vaudeville.’
(Walter Browne and E. De Roy Koch, editors, Who’s Who on The Stage 1908, New & York, 1908, p. 297)

‘DASHING BONNIE MAGINN.
‘There are few prettier or sprightlier soubrettes on the stage than Bonnie Maginn, who for several years has been one of the idols of Broadway. She made a bit hit as Ines Dasher in ”Mr. Blue Beard” and in the Weber burlesques shared honors with such veterans of comedy as Joe Webr, Edward Connelly and even the redoubtable Marie Dressler. Miss Maginn has a good voice – is a better singer in fact than many of the higher salaried soubrettes – and as a fun maker she has few rivals.’
(Centralia Daily Chronicle, Centralia, Washington, Saturday, 15 August 1908, p. 4b)

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Gabrielle Ray to return to the stage, London, April 1914

December 30, 2014

Gabrielle Ray (1883-1973), English musical comedy dancer and actress, as Polly Polino in Peggy (Gaiety Theatre, London, 4 March 1911), during her final professional appearances prior to her marriage on 2 March 1912 to Eric Loder (1888-1966) at St Edward’s Roman Catholic Church, Windsor.
(photo: Bassano, London, 1 June 1911)

London, April 1914
‘Gabrielle Ray is coming back to the stage. Leastwise I am told so in the most emphatic manner by the press agent of one of the leading theatrical managers in London. Miss Ray was, of course, one of the most popular of Daly’s theater [London] stars and at one time enjoyed the distinction of being the most photographed beauty in stageland. Her picture post cards sold in hundreds of thousands and no one was surprised when she captured a scion of the Loder family, famous in sporting circles and on terms of intimacy with royalty. Unfortunate the union was not a happy one and it was not long before it was a case of ”as you were” by permission of the courts. Lately Miss Ray, who, after her marriage, was seen very little by her former companions in the theatrical profession, has been returning to her old haunts and has been a regular attendant at all the costume balls so much frequented by the more swagger actresses.
‘Gabrielle Ray was never a great actress and never had any voice, but she had a dainty beauty and charm that was more valuable to her than either voice or talent would have been. Her biggest successes were made in unambitious dances that called for little more than grace and the ability to pose. I am told that in her new engagement, which will be announced shorty, she will continue in the line of her old successes.’
(John Ava Carpenter, ‘The News from London,’ The Chicago Sunday Tribune, Chicago, Sunday, 12 April 1914, section VIII, p. 2e/f)

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Flo Bilton, English music hall singer and dancer and sister of Belle Bilton (Countess of Clancarty), London, 1890

December 28, 2014

Flo Bilton (1868-1910), younger sister of Belle Bilton (1867-1906, later Lady Dunlo and Countess of Clancarty), music hall singers and dancers, who appeared together in the late 1880s as the Sisters Bilton.
(lithograph cigarette card, issued with Ogden’s Cigarettes, England, early 1890s)

Flo Bilton, whose real name was Florence Beatrice Bilton, was born in the Kennington area of London in 1868, the youngest daughter of John George Bilton (1842-1905), a recruiting sergeant in the Royal Engineers, and his wife, Kate Maude (née Penrice, 1843/45-1930). Her first marriage was on 30 September 1887 at St. James’s, Piccadilly, to William Arthur Seymour (1864-1894). Her second marriage took place in Fulham during the summer of 1894 to Evan McFarlane (1868/69-1943). Both her husbands served in the British Army.

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‘THE SISTERS BILTON.
‘Flo Sings, ”He Lost It” – Lady Dunlo on Her Case.
‘Last night, at the Trocadero Music Hall, a Sportsman reporter interviewed the respondent in the now notorious divorce case of Dunlo v. Dunlo and Wertheimer. He writes: After the verdict had been delivered it is needless to say that Lady Dunlo receive very warm congratulations from her friends, and from many unacquainted with her ladyship, but who on reading the proceedings had ranged themselves upon her side. Time quickly ran by, and in order to catch, ”turn” No. 14 in the ”Troc.” programme, it was necessary for Lady Dunlo’s sister Flo (Mrs. Seymour) to reach the hall, so ably managed by Mr. Sam Adams. I view of the fact that ”Flo” was a big line on the bill at the hall, and an immense attraction on the stage, the audience last night was exceptionally large, so large indeed, that the crowding in the stalls caused not a little inconvenience, even to the early comers. About ten o’clock, through a dense throng assembled in the street outside the entrance, a well-appointed trap drove up and there alighted therefrom Lady Dunlo, Miss ”Flo” Bilton, her sister, and Mr. Seymour, the husband of the last-named lady. A faint cheer was raised by the assembled crowd as her ladyship passed into the hall by the main entrance. She was received by Mr. Adams, jun., and at once on reaching the handsome salle attached to the hall was most warmly welcomed by many friends, and tendered the heartiest congratulations. One of the first to shake her ladyship very warmly by the hand was Mr. Wertheimer, who had arrived about twenty minutes previously. Whilst the ”O.P.” box was placed at the disposal of the now famous respondent, Sister Flo hastened off to her dressing-room, there to prepare for ”Mr. Call Boy” when No. 14 came round. At once, on her ladyship being recognised on entering the box, she was most enthusiastically greeted, and again and again bowed her acknowledgements to the crowded house.
‘The advent of Miss Flo Bilton was the occasion for a perfectly extraordinary outburst of enthusiasm, almost the entire company standing up and waving hats and handkerchiefs, while the more ardent occupants of the stalls shouted ”Bravo!” and ”Gold old sister Flo!” Miss Bilton, on silence being partly restored by the personal requests – and they were not one, two, or three – of Mr. Adams, sen., sang her first son, the refrain of which, oddly enough, was ”He lost it.” This was electrically taken up by the entire house with the result that with the chorus the lady had really very little to say. Another song was equally well received, and in her ”skirt” dance Miss Bilton was greeted with the most flattering plaudits, a large number of the audience sill continuing the opening words of the refrain, ”He lost it.” The ”farewell” turn created even more enthusiasm than either of the others, and perhaps in the history of the Trocadero Hall never was such a reception accorded an artist or under circumstances so unique.
‘Lady Dunlo was now slow to answer such ”interrogatories” as were put to her by the Sportsman reporter, and thought time did not admit of a lengthened interview, it was certainly to the point.
‘Asked by the reporter, ”What verdict did you anticipate?” Lady Dunlo almost indignantly replied:
”’The verdict that was given, simply because I knew I was innocent of the horrible charge that had been trumped up against me.”
‘Reporter: Do you intend to continue your professional engagements/
‘Lady Dunlo: Of that at present – and of course I have had really no time to consider the matter – I am not quite sure.
‘Reporter: What is your opinion of the charge of the presiding judge, Sir James Hannen?
‘Lady Dunlo (enthusiastically): Well, all I can now say of his lordship is that he is a dear old chap. I really feel and mean that.
‘Reporter: Are you quite satisfied with the advocacy of your learned counsel?
‘Lady Dunlo: I am truly delighted with Lockwood – and who could not be? and then as to Gill I can only describe him as a brick.
‘Reporter: And now Lady Dunlo, what is your opinion of the counsel on the other side? ‘Lady Dunlo: I think Sir Charles Russell, did the very best – his dead level beat – against overwhelming odds and for a very, very bad case. I felt really sorry for him when he walked out of the Court and did not return to hear the verdict.
‘Acknowledgements of the courtesy extended having been duly made, Lady Dunlo resumed her evident enjoyment of the Trocadeo’s well varied bill of fare.
‘AT THE ROYAL, HOLBORN.
‘A most enthusiastic reception was given to Miss Flo Bilton (Mrs. Seymour) on her appearing at the Royal, Holborn, last night. The audience stood up and cheered for at least ten minutes, and Miss Bilton and Lady Dunlo (who was present in a private box) were visibly affected by this spontaneous outburst of sympathy.
‘At the conclusion of Miss Bilton’s performance the demonstration was repeated for some minutes. Before leaving the hall Lady Dunlo was offered an engagement for a few nights, and will therefore probably appear at the Royal this evening.’
(The Evening News and Post, London, Thursday, 31 July 1890, p. 4c)

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Alexandra Dagmar and Edmond DeCelle, duettists, United States and United Kingdom, 1890s

December 24, 2014

Dagmar and DeCelle (active 1890s), Anglo-American duettists: Alexandra Dagmar (1868-1940), English music hall vocalist and pantomime principal boy, and Edmond DeCelle (1854?-1920), American tenor
(cabinet photo: Robinson & Roe, 54 West 14th Street, New York, and 77 & 79 Clark Street, Chicago, circa 1890)

‘A CHAT WITH MISS DAGMAR.
‘(By Our Special Commissioner.)
‘Few of the critics, lay and professional, who waxed so enthusiastic over Miss Dagmar’s performance in the pantomime [Cinderella, produced on 24 December 1894] at [the Metropole Theatre] Camberwell had any idea that the lady then made her first appearance in the capacity of a principal boy. But such was the case. Previously Miss Dagmar had appeared on our variety stage, and, as she is an important from America, the impression prevailed that she is a product of the United States. But that is not the case. Miss Dagmar is a London girl, of Danish parents, which may account for her Junoesque proportions and wondrously fair hair. Her association with the stage began some ten years ago, when a friend of the family, remarking her beautiful voice, suggested a professional career. Miss Dagmar was delighted by the very thought. Her father, however, was reluctant, and it was some time ere he could be prevailed upon to let his daughter avail herself of an introduction to Miss Sarah Thorne. But at length all obstacles were overcome, and Miss Alexandra Dagmar became a very humble member of the theatrical profession, playing a fairy, ”of something of that kind,” she vaguely recalls, in a travelling pantomime, on the old subject of ”Peter Wilkins.” She has a vivid recollection of papa escorting her to Maidstone and committing her to the sober and respectable care of a temperance hotel.
‘But good luck was in store for her – good luck that grew, as it sometimes will, out of another’s misfortune. The second girl fell ill – Miss Dagmar was, after no more than a week’s experience, promoted to the part thus vacated, and continued to play it during the fifteen weeks ensuing. Her great effort was a ballad entitled ”Waiting.” Miss Dagmar recalls that one of her companions during a delightful engagement was none other than Miss Janet Achurch, who played the Fairy Queen. After an experience on the stage as free from temptation and knowledge of the great world as a sojourn in a seminary might be, Miss Dagmar returned to the bosom of her family, and her further devotion to the stage was regarded with much disfavour. But the circumstances of her friends underwent a sudden change, and Miss Dagmar was, in fact, quite grateful for the necessity to make the most of her talent. The most lucrative engagement that offered was to visit America, and there join the Boston Redpath Lyceum Bureau.
‘This is a curious and interesting organisation. It forms concert parties and other entertaining bodies, and sends them the round of high-class social institutions – literary society, young men’s Christian associations, and the like. The performances were given in evening dress, and were as proper as proper could be. The company that Miss Dagmar first joined had especially a German character, and she became a notable singer of Volkslieder. For several years Miss Dagmar travelled with the Redpath Lyceum companies; and here one Mr De Celle appears on the scene. Mr De Celle comes from Chicago, and has all his life been devoted to music – as a singer and as a manager for eminent performers. In his time has has, for instance, engineered Remenyi and Ovide Musin, the violinists. Mr De Celle was the manager of the Lyceum company to which Miss Dagmar belonged, and took a special interest in the development of her voice. Some four years ago [sic] they were married.
‘When Miss Dagmar left the Redpath Lyceum she soon found herself in great request with the managers of high-class variety entertainments. At Koster and Bial’s, for instance, she is a great favourite. Alone, or as eventually she appeared, in association with Mr De Celle, Miss Dagmar has appeared at Koster and Bial’s for two years in the aggregate, and she rejoices in a general invitation from Mr Albert Bial to make the famous variety theatre her home. At first Miss Dagmar used to sing on the variety stage in evening dress. Then she had the happy thought of giving in costume excerpts from popular operas, her husband also taking part. The managers of the American theatres, so Miss Dagmar tells you, look upon the variety performer with friendly toleration. ”Sing your exceprt,” they say, ”and welcome. So far from your injuring us, you give us a valuable advertisement.” So Mr De Celle and his wife acquired a vast repertory of operatic fragments. An except from La Cigale was a notable favourite with American audiences. But when the duettists reached England a stern copyright law assailed their repertory on every side, and decimated it. They are left with nothing much to sing besides their always popular jödel. And the worst of it is, pay what money they will for original compositions, they get nothing to suit them.
‘One has run ahead a little. From time to time, ere yet they left America, Miss Dagmar and Mr de Celle appeared with ”combinations,” and notably with Mr William A. Brady‘s companies. They appeared in the variety scene when he produced After Dark, and when eventually he set out with Gentleman Jack, they ”supported” Mr Jim Corbett during a tour of the phenomenal success. Miss Dagmar, in making up her mind to visit England some nine months ago, had two objects in view. She wanted to ”go in for” a severe course of study; and she wanted to distinguish herself as a burlesque boy. Alas! burlesque boys were not in strong demand, and Miss Dagmar determined on a pilgrimage to Italy. But Mr. Brady, then about to exploit Corbett over here, begged his old friends to join him; and so they did, although there were not able to take part in the first week’s performances of Gentleman Jack at Drury-lane [21 April-5 May 1894]. This, by the way, was a memorable period of Miss Dagmar’s life. She wore tights for the first time! One’s demand for a full and particular account of the sensations that a young lady experiences in such circumstances is doomed to disappointment, for Miss Dagmar says, ”Well, you may call it the first time; for I had just had them on previously. That that began my career as a stage boy.”
‘London music hall managers were quick to appreciate the worth of the new turn. Since Miss Dagmar and Mr De Celle arrived in London they have never been out of an engagement, their notable successes having been achieved at the Palace Theatre, the Alhambra, and the Royal. Their services have been secured for well nigh six months to come, and during the spring and early summer they will visit a series of the great continental music halls. Meanwhile, neither of the objects that Miss Dagmar had in view when she determined to come to London has been lost sight of. She meant to study, and she is studying very diligently, with Mr [Albert] Visetti, at the Guildhall School of Music. As to the principal boy? Well, here is the progress of the principal boy. The tantalising delays attendant upon the completion of his theatre at Camberwell left Mr [John Brennan] Mulholland in grave doubt as to whether he should be able to do a pantomime this year or not. When at length he could make arrangements there was probably the shortest space of time at his disposal that ever a manager dared to contemplate for the preparation of a Christmas annual. But he had many potent influences at command, and with wondrous tact and energy he manipulated them to the point of success. Who should be principal boy? That was, indeed, a momentous question. Would Miss Dagmar like the engagement, said her agent? Was not Miss Dagmar, indeed, dying to show London what she could do in this capacity[?] She set to work, and for the first time in her life found herself an important figure in the development of a story on the stage. Miss Dagmar is perfectly delighted with her success. And, indeed, her ambition has received a particular incentive that is not yet the time to disclose. But the variety stage may, at any rate, take a hint to make the most of her while it can. Camberwell is not so very far from the Strand – nor too far for the excursions of observant managers, with eyes wide open when new ”talent” is airing itself, and words of honey on their lips when the discussion of future arrangements begins. Of one thing Miss Dagmar is quite certain. She never had a happier thought than when she determined, after so long an interval, to resume her theatrical career in circumstances curiously similar to those wherein she left it. The years ago she played in a pantomime with conspicuous success, and by the way of a pantomime she has stepped into a position of gratifying distinction on the London stage.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 12 January 1895, p. 11e)

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Alexandra Dagmar as Dandini in the pantomime Cinderella, Drury Lane Theatre, Christmas 1895

December 24, 2014

Alexandra Dagmar (1868-1940), English music hall vocalist and pantomime principal boy as Dandini in the Ballroom Scene of the pantomime Cinderella, produced at Drury Lane Theatre on Boxing Night, 26 December 1895.
(cabinet size photo: Alfred Ellis, 20 Upper Baker Street, London, W, negative no. 20706-7, early 1896)

‘Miss Alexandra Dagmar, the Dandini, is an accomplished vocalist, and her singing adds much to the general effect.’
(The Standard, London, Friday, 27 December 1895, p. 2b)

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Alexandra Dagmar, whose real name was Dagmar Alexandra Heckell, was born in Polar, east London, on 13 March 1868, one of the daughters of her Danish-born parents, Charles Heckell (1828?-1889), a ship’s chandler (bankrupt, 1868) and later a wholesale provision merchant, and his wife, Christine (1833?-1898).

Miss Dagmar first came to general notice on 8 November 1884 under the management of ‘Lord’ George Sanger at his Grand National Amphitheatre, Westminster Bridge Road, London. Sanger, who billed her as ‘First appearance in England of the celebrated American actress Miss Grant Washington,’ cast her as Richard, Duke of Glo’ster to appear in ‘the Fifth Act of ”Richard III.,” portraying the Battle of Bosworth Field and Death of White Surrey – a scene of unparalleled effect.’ (The Era, London, Saturday, 1 November 1884, p. 16b) ‘… and then the last act of ”Richard III.” was given, an especial novelty being the representation of the chief personages by ladies. It had certainly a comic effect when Miss Grant Washington appeared as the crook-backed tyrant with beard and moustache, fighting and declaiming in the most ”robustious” manner. If Shakespeare was shaky it could not be denied that Miss Grant Washington was a handsome young lady with a fine figure and a good voice, and her rendering of Richard was vigorous in the extreme.’ (The Morning Post, London, Monday, 10 November 1884, p. 2f)

Miss Dagmar subsequently toured the United States under the auspices of the Boston Redpath Lyceum Bureau. Here she met Edmond DeCelle (1854?-1920), a tenor, and the couple were married in New York in 1888; their son, Edmond Carl DeCelle (1890-1972), became an artist and costume designer. Mr and Mrs DeCelle subsequently appeared for a few years together on both sides of the Atlantic, billed as Dagmar and DeCelle, before Miss Dagmar resumed her solo career. She appears to have retired on the outbreak of the First World War, after which she and her family resided exclusively in America.

Alexandra Dagmar died in Mobile, Alabama, on 8 December 1940.

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December 23, 2014

Clarice Mayne (née Clarice Mabel Dulley,1886-1966), English music hall, variety theatre and pantomime singer and entertainer and her husband, James W. Tate (1875-1922), English variety artist, composer and theatrical producer
(photo: unknown, circa 1914, contemporary postcard repro by Frank Dobson, Liverpool)

‘I Was a Good Little Girl Till I Met You,’ written and composed by Clifford Harris and James W. Tate, and recorded by Clarice Mayne and ‘That’ (James W. Tate) in London in April 1916. Click here for ‘Bambola Infanta,’ an Italian version of this song, recorded in 1919 by the celebrated tenor, Fernando de Lucia.

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Clarice Mayne and James W. Tate sing ‘I Was a Good Little Girl Till I Met You,’ London, 1916

December 23, 2014

Clarice Mayne (née Clarice Mabel Dulley,1886-1966), English music hall, variety theatre and pantomime singer and entertainer and her husband, James W. Tate (1875-1922), English variety artist, composer and theatrical producer
(photo: unknown, circa 1914, contemporary postcard repro by Frank Dobson, Liverpool)

‘I Was a Good Little Girl Till I Met You,’ written and composed by Clifford Harris and James W. Tate, and recorded by Clarice Mayne and ‘That’ (James W. Tate) in London in April 1916. Click here for ‘Bambola Infanta,’ an Italian version of this song, recorded in 1919 by the celebrated tenor, Fernando de Lucia.