Posts Tagged ‘Charles Fechter’


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)


Charles Fechter as Hamlet

June 25, 2013

Charles Fechter (1824-1879), Anglo-French actor, as Hamlet
(photo: Boning & Small, London, circa 1872)

Charles Albert Fechter’s first appearance as Hamlet in England took place in March 1861, prompting The Athenaeum (23 March 1861) to write, ‘Mr. Fechter does not act; he is Hamlet.’ He afterwards played the part many times, including at Niblo’s Garden, New York, at the beginning of 1870 previous to a tour of the United States, visiting Boston, Philadelphia and other cities.

* * * * * * * *

‘The poet – his name is of no consequence – has defined the evening as
‘“The close of the day when the HAMLET is still.”
‘Evidently he was a bucolle, and not a metropolitan poet. Otherwise he would have remembered that the close of the day, or, to speak with mathematical accuracy, the hour of eight P.M., is precisely the time when the HAMLET of a well-regulated theatrical community begins to make himself vocally prominent. A few nights since, we had no less than three HAMLETS propounding at the same time the unnecessary question, whether to be or not to be is the correct thing, The serious HAMLET of the eagle eye, and the burlesque HAMLET of the vulpine nose, are with us yet; but the rival of the latter, the HAMLET of the taurine neck, has gone to Boston, where his waggish peculiarity will be better appreciated than it was in this Democratic city.
‘The late Mr. WEGG prided himself upon being a literary man – with a wooden leg. Mr. FECHTER aspired to be a HAMLET – with a yellow wig. Mr. WEGG had this advantage over Mr. FECHTER, that his literary ability did not wholly depend upon his ligneous leg. Mr. FECHTER’S HAMLET, on the contrary, owes its existence solely to his wig. The key to his popularity must be sought in his yellow locks.
‘There are, it is true, meritorious points in Mr. FECHTER’S Dane. One is his skill in fencing; another, the fact that he finally suffers himself to be killed. Unfortunately, this latter redeeming incident takes place only in the last scene of the play, and the Fat Prince has therefore abundant previous opportunity to mar the superb acting of Miss [Carlotta] LECLERCQ. Why this admirable artist did not insist that her OPHELIA should receive a better support than was furnished by Messrs. BANGS, [Milnes] LEVICK, and FECHTER, at Niblo’s Garden, is an insoluble mystery. She must have perceived that absurdity of drowning herself for a Prince – fair, fat, and faulty – who refused to give her a share of his “load,” and denied, with an evident eye to a possible breach of promise suit, that he had given her any “bresents.”
‘That Mr. FECHTER speaks English imperfectly is, however, the least of his defects. If he could not speak at all, his audience would have reason for self-congratulation. We might, too, forget that he is an obese, round-shouldered, short-necked, and eminently beery HAMLET, with a tendency to speak through his nose. But how can we overlook his incapacity to express the subtle changes of HAMLET’S ever questioning mind? One of his admirers has recently quoted RUSKIN in his support. Mr. FECHTER gives no heed to RUSKIN’S axiom, that all true are is delicate art. There is no delicacy in his conception of HAMLET. True, he is impulsive and sensitive; but this is due to his physical and not to his mental organization. A HAMLET without delicacy is quite as intolerable a spectacle as a Grande Duchess without decency.
‘What, then, has given him his reputation? The answer is evident: – His yellow wig. NAPOLEON gilded the dome of the Invalides, and the Parisians forgot to murmur at the arbitrary acts of his reign. Mr. FECHTER crowns himself with a golden wig, and the public forgets to murmur at the five acts of his> ‘In all other respects Mr. FECHTER’S HAMLET is inferior to that of his rival Mr. [George L.] FOX. It is not nearly as funny, and it is much less impressive. Both actors are wrong, however, in not omitting the graveyard scene. To make a burlesque of Death is to unlawfully invade the province of Messrs. BEECHER and FROTHINGHAM.
‘The popularity of Mr. FECHTER is only a new proof of the potency of yellow hair. It is the yellow hair of the British blonde, joined to that kindliness of disposition with which – like a personification of Charity – she “bareth all things,” that makes her a thing of beauty in the eyes of R.G.W., and a joy for as many seasons as her hair will keep its color. It is because Mr. FECHTER decided that the hair presumptive of the Royal Dane must have been yellow, that his name has grown famous in England.
‘The veracious chronicler relates that, on one occasion, Mr. VENUS deprived his literary friend with a wooden leg of that useful appendage. But the act of constructive mayhem did not destroy Mr. WEGG’S literary reputation. Can Mr. FECHTER’S HAMLET endure an analogous test? If he has confidence in himself, let him try it. He has gone to BOSTON for a change of air. When he returns to NEW-YORK, let it be for a change of hair. When he succeeds in drawing full houses to see him play HAMLET with raven curls, we shall believe that he is something more than simply a HAMLET – with a yellow wig. Until then we shall be constrained to class him with other blonde burlesquers.’
(Matador, Punchinello, New York, Saturday, 2 April 1870, p.7)

* * * * *

Fechter died in America on 5 August 1879.


Miss Raynham

April 26, 2013

a carte de visite photograph of Miss Raynham (1844?-1871), English actress, as Sam in Tom Taylor’s drama The Ticket-of-Leave Man, produced at the Olympic Theatre, London, on 27 May 1863
(photo: W. Rowland Holyoake, 23 Great Coram Street, Russell Square, London, W.C., probably 1863)

The Ticket-of-Leave Man was revived many times, as on 25 May 1885 when Sam was played by Nellie Farren

‘The Olympic [Theatre, London] entertainments comprise the comedy of Taming a Truant, in which Mr. Robert Soutar, from the Brighton Theatre, now sustains the part of Captain Pertinax, and gives promise of being a valuable acquisition to the London boards; followed by an extravaganza, called Acis and Galatea [Acis and Galatea; or, The Nimble Nymph and the Terrible Troglodyte, produced at the Olympic, 6 April 1863], written by Mr. Burnand, and which may be pronounced to be the best and most successful of the Easter novelties. It is superior in refinement and language than these pieces generally are, and is admirably acted as well as elegantly put on the stage. One of the leading features in it is a clever imitation of Mr. Fechter by Miss Raynham.’
(The Sporting Gazette, London, Saturday, 11 April 1863, p. 383b)

Olympic Theatre, London
‘Mr Tom Taylor’s new drama is a success, though he has departed from his accustomed style of writing, and given us a piece more after the fashion of the Adelphi or Surrey dramas. It is called The Ticket-of-Leave Man, and is the history of the endeavours of one Brierly (Mr Neville) to free himself from the consequences to which he has become exposed owing to the villainy of a fellow named Dalton (Mr Atkins). Exiled from his native land, he returns to find all occupation denied to him as soon as it is known that he is the bearer of the fatal document called a ticket of leave. But, after many trials and troubles, he contrives to foil the schemes of Dalton, and to become restored to the paths of rectitude one more. In these honest intentions he is aided by Mary (Miss Kate Saville), to whom he is ultimately married. There are other characters in the piece which was admirably played by all the dramatis personae – a gamin of the English type being capitally played by Miss Raynham, and a professional vocalist being as admirably sustained by Miss Hughes, who sang twice during the progress of the drama. Miss Kate Saville was expressive and pathetic, and Mr Neville, whose rising qualities as an actor are being more apparently every day, took the leading business of the evening with the greatest success. The drama was most favourably received, and will doubtless have a long run.’
(Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, London, Sunday, 31 May 1863, p. 3b). The cast of the original production of The Ticket-of-Leave Man also included George Vincent

‘DEATHS OF ARTISTES. – The theatrical world has been much shocked by the self-imposed death of Mr Walter Montgomery, who so lately played at the Gaiety. It is supposed he had overworked himself in dramatic study. Miss Raynham, the original representative of Sam Willoughby, in the Ticket of Leave Man, at the Olympic, has died recently at Homburg. Mr St Auby has also died of consumption at the Charing-cross Hospital.’
(Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, London, Saturday, 9 September 1871, p. 11a)