Posts Tagged ‘A Country Girl (musical play)’


Marion Winchester, the ‘Sugar Queen,’ American dancer, possessor of a casket of fabulous jewellery and sometime Italian countess

July 2, 2014

Marion Winchester (active 1899-1908), American speciality dancer
(photo: Bassano, London, probably late 1905/early 1906; postcard published by Davidson Brothers, London, circa 1906)

Marion Winchester, whose real name was Isabel Marion Brodie, was born at Monterey, California on 21 March 1882, the daughter of Charles A. Brodie. She is first mentioned professionally in her native United States in 1899, having been trained at the Alviene Stage Dancing and Vaudeville School of Acting, Grand Opera House, New York. Her first appearance in London took place in the Spring of 1903, when at The Oxford music hall she was billed as the ‘World’s Champion Cake Walker,’ City. Between then and 1905 she was in Paris, where she was described as ‘une fabuleuse danseuse américaine’ (Le Figaro, 9 December 1903), and where it was rumoured in 1905 that she had married the American millionaire Daniel G. Reid. Although Reid was married three times (twice to actresses), no such contract between him and Miss Winchester was effected and the nature of their relationship, if any, remains open to speculation. Her last known appearances were in the Paris production of Vera Violetta in 1908.

In her application to the American Embassy in Paris in 1921 for an emergency passport (no. 6532), to replace one that had been lost on a recent train journey from Italy to Paris, Isabel Marion Brodie stated that she was professionally known as Iolanda de Monte, and was then residing at 8 Rue de Bois de Boulogne, Paris, for the purpose of studying music. She was subsequently married to the Italian pianist and composer, Count Aldo Solito de Solis (1905-1973), who during 1924 gave a number of recitals in London, the first being at the Æolian Hall, Wigmore Street, on Thursday, 28 February 1924 (The Times, London, 23 February 1924, p. 8, advertisement; The Time, Saturday, 1 March 1924, p. 8), and appeared at five Prom Concerts at the Queen’s Hall, London, including the last night (18 October 1924), when, accompanied by the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra conducted by Henry Wood, he played Liszt’s ‘Totentanz.’ Solito de Solis returned briefly to London early in 1927 to give five recitals. He and his wife continued together until their divorce about 1940; he was then married on 17 August 1942 to the Hollywood actress, Gale Page (1913-1983).

Countess Isabel Marion Brodie Solito de Solis, aka Marion Winchester and Iolanda de Monte, was still living in 1946.

* * * * *

‘Vaudeville and Minstrel …
‘MARION WINCHESTER, premier danseuse recently with the Devil’s Auction Co., is playing the Hopkins’ circuit. She introduces an original speciality, consisting of a cake walk toe dance, in conjunction with ballad singing and serio comic vocalisms. She will play the Keith circuit.’
(The New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 9 September 1899, p. 558c; The Devil’s Auction, an extravaganza with ballet similar to The Black Crook, was originally produced in New York in 1867 and subsequently revived in rejuvenated form many times)

‘Marion Winchester is making quite a bit success at the Alhambra, Paris. She is a lady who had the happy knack of sowing off the grandest costumes to the best possible advantage. On the same bill are the Harmony Four, Seymour and Dupre, and Johnson and Dean.’
(The New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 16 July 1904, p. 469a)

‘Du temps où les bals de l’Opéra existaient encore, le secrétaire du théâtre vit venir à lui un solliciteur qui lui demanda un entrée, parce que, disait-it, son médecin lui avait fait de la distraction un précepte d’hygiène. Aujourd’hui, ce setrait à l’Olympia que les docteurs enverraient les neurasthéniques se guérir: où trouveraient-ils un plaisir plus salutaire que celui d’assister à une représentation de Country Girl et d’applaudir Mariette Sully et Alice Bonheur? La délicieuse Marion Winchester, après quelques jours de repos, reprend ce soir son rôle de lady Carrington: c’est une bonne nouvelle pour le monde élégant qui viendra applaudir l’étoile de la danse américaine.’
(Le Figaro, Paris, Tuesday, 29 November 1904, p. 1e)

‘LONDON WEEK BY WEEK (By Emily Soldene.)
‘LONDON. December 16, 1904… .
‘We’ve got a ”Sugar Queen” – Miss Marion Winchester. Of course, she’s an American; equally, of course, she’s an actress – a toe dancer, recently with the Country Girl in Paris; also, of course, she’s at the Savoy. One day in Paris she met in the corridor of the Hotel Lebaudy, ”Emperor of the Sahara.” Marion was sucking a piece of candy. ”Give up sugar-stick,” said he, ” and buy sugar stock.” ”I just froze on,” said Marion. She took the tip, and £20,000 on the deal. She’s loaded up with trunks – sables, new dresses of Paquin diamonds – and is soon going on at the Gaiety.’
(The Evening News, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Saturday, 21 January 1905, p. 7e)

‘Dec. 16 [1905] …
‘Tonight Marion Winchester, well known in the theatres of two continents as a dander, will be seen in the cast of The Spring Chicken, at the Gaiety Theatre.’ (The New York Clipper, New York, Saturday, 30 December 1905, p. 1146b)

‘Beautiful Marion Winchester Becomes Mistress of $20,000,000 Fortune.
‘NEW YORK, March 1. [1905] – Marion Winchester, the beautiful American dancer, has become mistress of a $20,000,000 fortune by her marriage to Daniel G. Reid of Indiana, organizer of the tinplate trust and director of more than a dozen of the largest corporations in the country. The announcement of the marriage, which took place in Paris recently, reached New York to-day from London, where the couple are now living.
‘This is the second wife Reid has taken from behind the footlights.
‘Miss Winchester was a popular member of the New York Theater company, under the management of the Sire Bros.’
(The San Francisco Call, San Francisco, Thursday, 2 March 1905, p. 5f)

‘Miss Marion Winchester, the ”Sugar Queen” who is appearing in the Spring Chicken at the Gaiety Theatre [London], although an American, is an ardent Free Trader, her experience of Protection, in her native land, being the reverse of pleasant. On March 30 last year [sic; it was actually 20 March1905], the young actress returned to New York [from Southampton] on the St. Louis, and in answer to the usual inquiry of the customs office, stated that she had nothing to declare. On an examination of her luggage however, the official remarked that she had far too many jewels to pass, and she was asked to accompany him to the chief office.
‘The jewels were carefully weighed and tested, and Miss Winchester was staggered with the demand for £12,000, the amount of the duty due. In vain the beautiful dancer protested, tears and anger proved equally unavailing, and finally she declared her intention of departing by the next steamer, rather than pay money or deposit her jewels. On this understanding, after being detained either hours, she was allowed to retain possession of her treasures; but during the two days she remained detectives were continually shadowing her. Before the steamer sailed the jewels were carefully checked, to see that none had been disposed of.
‘Miss Winchester has purchased a house at 35A. South-street, Park-lane [Mayfair (where the actress Eleanor Souray lived in about 1908], with the intention of making her home in London, and emphatically states that the next time she visits her native land her jewels will remain in her London bank.’ (The Northern Argus, Clare, South Australia, Friday, 4 May 1906, p. 3)

Palace Theatre, London, week beginning Monday, 4 May 1908
Marion Winchester ‘fresh from her Continental successes.’
(The Sunday Times, London, Sunday, 3 May 1908, p. 15f)

‘Paris, Nov. 10 [1908].
Vera Violetta, Redelsperger’s spectacular operetta, which had a big run in Vienna, was produced by Victor de Cottens and H.B. Marinelli at the Olympia on the 6th [or 7th November 1908]. Mr. Baron, of the Varietes Theatre, has been engaged for a part that suits him admirably, though this popular actor is getting old and is now rarely seen. Marion Winchester, from the Gaiety, London, plays with much charm and especially pleases by her graceful dancing. M. Fereal, a popular baritone, Girier, the rotund comic, Mlle. Maud d’Orby, the 16 ”Olympia Girls” (Tiller’s), Mathilde Gomez, Mlle. Relly and the Delevines contribute to the success of this piece.’
(Edward G. Kendrew, ‘Paris Notes,’ Variety, New York, Saturday, 21 November 1908, p. 11a)

‘Daniel Gray Reid, the multimillionaire financier, who has been served with summons in an action for divorce brought by his third wife, Margaret Carrier, refused to discuss the affair yesterday. At his apartment on the eleventh floor of 907 Fifth avenue Mr. Reid’s butler said Mr Reid had nothing to say about the divorce… . ‘She married Reid in the fall of 1906, when she was 23 and he 54. she was a chorus girl and played in ”A Chinese Honeymoon” and later ”The Runaways.” ‘Mr. Reid’s first wife was Clarisse Agnew, an actress, who was playing at the old Hoyt Theatre. Following her death Mr. Reid met Marion Winchester in 1905, a dancer, on one of his trips to Paris and after a short courtship married her.
‘Three months after her death, in 1906, he married Margaret Carrier.’ (The Sun, New York, New York, Sunday, 2 March 1919, p. 8d)


Margaret Ruby, English actress and singer, in the role of a pantomime principal boy

March 6, 2014

Margaret Ruby (1886?-1937), English actress and singer, in the role of a pantomime principal boy, probably as she appeared as Boy Blue in the pantomime Red Riding Hood, produced at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, at Christmas, 1905, the other principals being Malcolm Scott as the Dame, Phyllis Monkman as Red Riding Hood, and Dorothy Monkman as Bo-Peep. Miss Ruby sang in this production ‘My Irish Molly’ and ‘Bombay.’
(photo: unknown, probably 1905; postcard published by the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd, London, no. 4006 D, 1905/06)

Margaret Ruby’s real name was Margaret Louise Madeline Hirschberg. She was born on 3 September 1875 and baptised at the parish church of St. Marylebone, London, on the 1 January following, the daughter of Robert Gustave Hirschberg (1843-1910), a merchant in the City of London, and his wife Anna (née Kowska, 1847-1926). Her theatrical career began in 1897 or 1898 with various music hall and pantomime appearances. She also featured in the casts of the musical plays, Kitty Grey and A Country Girl on tours of the United Kingdom. It was then that she met her future husband, the actor and singer, Ernest (Francis) Laws (1881-1954). They were married at Richmond, Surrey, in 1903. The Laws appeared together for the next few years, one of their post popular vehicles being the ‘miniature musical comedy,’ Cora’s Visitors. They appear to have retired from acting in 1911, when they and their son emigrated to Canada, where they settled at Grand Forks, British Columbia. Mrs Laws died on 16 Dec 1937 and her husband on 18 Nov 1954.


Dolly Dombey

August 3, 2013

Dolly Dombey (1887-1967), English musical comedy actress/chorus girl
(photo: Rita Martin, London, circa 1909)

Dolly Dombey, whose real name was Florence Newton, was born in Lambeth, London, in 1887. In 1909 she married Fred J. Blackman (1879-1951), a former actor and theatrical producer who from 1907 to 1921 was in charge of all tours of the productions originating at Daly’s Theatre, London, including The Merry Widow and The Dollar Princess. For the next five or six years he produced various musical shows in London, including The Lady of the Rose with Phyllis Dare in the leading role (Daly’s, 1922) and Katja the Dancer (Gaiety, 1925). In 1927 the couple emigrated with their three children, Joan, Timothy and Barabra, to Australia where Blackman worked in a similar capacity for Williamson & Tait Ltd.

Miss Dombey was one of a number of bit-part actresses who were well-known to London audiences who favoured musicals during the years immediately preceding the First World War. She appeared during the runs of the following productions: The Merry Widow (Daly’s, 8 June 1907); The Dollar Princess (Daly’s, 25 September 1909); The Quaker Girl (Adelphi, 5 November 1910); The Count of Luxembourg (Daly’s, 20 May 1911); The Marriage Market (Daly’s, 17 May 1913); and a revival of A Country Girl (Daly’s, 28 October 1914). Her final appearance was as Lady Mendie in succession to Therese Mills in A Southern Maid (Daly’s, 18 May 1920).


Huntley Wright in A Country Girl

July 18, 2013

photograph flyer for a touring production of the musical play, A Country Girl; or, Town and Country, featuring a portrait of Huntley Wright (1868-1941), English actor and singer, as Barry, servant to Barry Challoner (played by Hayden Coffin) in the London production of that show, produced at Daly’s Theatre on 18 January 1902.
(photo: unknown, probably London, 1902; printed by the Rotary Photographic Co Ltd, London, 1902/03)


Bessie Butt

April 16, 2013

Bessie Butt (fl. early 20th century), English dancer, actress and singer, as principal boy in Aladdin, pantomime, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Christmas 1909
(photo: Langfier, Glasgow, 1909)

‘Born in London within the sound of Bow Bells [the traditional description of a Cockney], Miss Bessie Butt commenced her stage career at a very early age by playing the child part in [Minnie Palmer’s popular vehicle] My Sweetheart. While still in her early ‘teens she toured through many European countries in company with her brothers – the Reed Family – and made quite a big reputation as a transformation dancer, being billed as “Baby Butt.” An unfortunate illness kept her from the stage for a long period, and her next appearance was under the management of Mr. John Tiller, who looked upon her as one of the most promising of his young recruits.
‘Having ambitions, Miss Butt decided on doing a single turn on the halls, and at once sprang into popularity wherever she appeared. The late Walter Summers saw her, and recommended her so highly to Mr Robert Arthur that she was engaged by him as second girl for the Kennington theatre pantomime of Red Riding Hood, and there she made her first great success in [singing] “Ma blushing Rosie.” The late Clement Scott [dramatist and theatre critic, 1841-1904] was so taken with this number that he went several times to hear it. Miss butt’s next appearance was [on tour] under the management of Mr. George Edwardes as Susan in The Toreador [originated by Violet Lloyd, Gaiety, London, 17 June 1901], and this was followed by Sophie in A Country Girl [originated by Ethel Irving, Daly’s, London, 18 January 1902] and Thisbe in The Orchid [originated by Gabrielle Ray, Gaiety, London, 26 October 1903]. After this she was for twelve months at the London Coliseum, where she created several parts, notably the Black Pearl in Mr. Leslie Stuart’s song specially written for Mr. Eugene Stratton, and produced at the Coliseum in 1905. She also appeared as a wonderfully life-like doll in Mr. Will Bishop’s [ballet] My Gollywog. This was in 1906.
‘A pantomime engagement as Cinderella at Cheltenham was followed by a return to the halls under the managements of Mr. Oswald Stoll, the late Mr. G.A. Payne, and others; and then Miss Butt was seen and secured by Mr. Lester Collingwood to play the title roole in his pantomime of Cinderella at the Alexandra, Birmingham, in 1907. The success was phenomenal, as the run of the pantomime was a record for the country. On that occasion also Miss Butt won the “Owl” cake and diamond ring in a local beauty competition. This year Miss Butt has discarded skirts and gone in for principal boy, and as Dandini at the Royal County Theatre, Kingston, she is undoubtedly the hit of a most successful [Cinderella] pantomime [; other members of the cast were Dorothy Grassdorf, Hilda Vining and Laurie Wylie]. During her short career she has introduced many popular songs, of which probably the most successful have been “Scarecrow,” “Amelia Snow,” “Cherries are blooming,” “Peggy, the pride of the Mill,” and “Sunshine Soo,” her latest effusion, which is likely to eclipse in popularity all the others.
Gifted with youth, beauty, a sweetly clear and distinct voice, a genius for dancing, and unlimited vivacity, there is no knowing to what heights this clever lady may aspire.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 30 January 1909, p.13c)

Bessie Butt

Bessie Butt
(photo: White, Bradford, circa 1908)


February 2, 2013

May Leslie Stuart (fl. early 20th Century)
English actress and singer,
as she appeared in A Waltz Dream,
Daly’s Theatre, London, 7 January 1911
(photo: Foulsham & Banfield, London, 1911)

‘In the course of an interesting chat with an Era representative recently Miss May Leslie Stuart, the charming daughter of Mr. Leslie Stuart, said: –
‘“Following some chorus work at Daly’s in The Count of Luxembourg [20 May 1911] and A Country Girl [probably on tour], Mr. Arthur Collins offered me the part of an Italian girl in The Hope at the [Theatre Royal, Drury] Lane [14 September 1911]. My next engagement was with Mr. Hale Hamilton in Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford at the Queen’s [14 January 1913] – when, you may remember, I played the part of the ingénue, Dorothy. I recall that this was a somewhat strenuous rôle, in that much kissing was a rather prominent feature. The run ended, I paid a most pleasant visit with my husband, Mr. Cecil Cameron, to the United States. Mr. Cameron is, by the way, playing Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Granville Barker in New York.
‘“I appeared with my husband at the Alhambra in a sketch entitled The Girl Next Door. I am afraid I am guilty of writing the ‘book.’ Edward Royce produced the sketch, and it was so successful that it ran for six weeks at the Alhambra, and then for a good while in the provinces.
‘“As I think you will be aware, it was originally arranged that clever and charming Ada Reeve should take up her old part of Lady Holyrood in Florodora [revival, Lyric, London, 20 February 1915], but for reasons of health this was eventually found to be impossible. And so – here I am! I am quite delighted to have the opportunity of playing the part, also to sing the rather “catchy,” in more senses than one, number ‘Jack and Jill,’ which my father has written for me.’
(The Era, London, Wednesday, 24 March 1915, p.7d)

Florodora revived, Lyric Theatre, London, 20 February 1915
‘Miss Evie Greene, the original Dolores, got a most enthusiastic reception on her first appearance, and her beautiful singing and fine acting enraptured her audience. The years that have elapsed since Miss Greene first played this part seem merely to have strengthened the magnetism of her personality. She has never sung “Queen of the Philippine Islands” better than she did on Saturday night; indeed, her performance has lost none of the sprit and charm of the original impersonation… As Lady Holyrood, Miss Ada Reeve’s original part, Miss May Leslie Stuart displays a fresh sense of humour and gives a very natural performance, clever and full of piquancy. She sings “Tact” excellently, and also a song, “Jack and Jill,” of which the words and music have been specially written by [her father] Leslie Stuart for this revival, and which wins hearty applause … In response to great enthusiasm Miss Evie Greene made a little speech at the end of the evening, acknowledging herself to be an old friend, but trusting that she did not “look the part.”’
(The Era, London, Wednesday, 24 February 1915, p.11b)

May Leslie Stuart, accompanied by her father Leslie Stuart on the piano, made four gramophone recordings in London during 1915 for the HMV label. These were ‘Jack and Jill’ from the 1915 revival of Florodora (03430) and ‘Don’t Blame Eve’ (03431), both re-issued on C590; and ‘Is That You, Mr. O’Reilly?’ and ‘Heligoland’ from the revue, 5064 Gerrard (Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, 19 March 1915. In 1916, Miss Stuart appeared as Lady Orreyd in Sir George Alexander’s film production of The Second Mrs Tanqueray