Posts Tagged ‘George Bernard Shaw’


a scene from Jitta’s Atonement

March 17, 2013

a scene from Jitta’s Atonement, adapted by George Bernard Shaw from the original German play Frau Gittas Sühne by Siegfried Trebitsch, with (left to right) J. Leslie Frith as Alfred Lenkheim, Nancy Price as Agnes Haldenstedt, Violet Vanbrugh as Jitta Lenkheim, Leonard Upton as Dr. Ernest Fessler and Prudence Vanbrugh as Edith Haldenstedt, produced at the Grand Theatre, Fulham, south west London, 26 January 1925
(photo: unknown, probably London, 1925)


Robert Loraine

February 17, 2013

Robert Loraine (1876-1935),
English actor manager and aviator,
as John Tanner in George Bernard Shaw’s play,
Man and Superman,
produced at the Criterion Theatre, London, on 28 September 1911
(photo: Daily Mirror Studios, London, 1911)

Mr. Robert Loraine – Actor and Producer
By John Wightman
‘It was the smoking-room of a country gentleman. The polished oak floor with its warm rugs, the low leather chairs made for comfort rather than show, the good old engravings on the walls, the rifle in the corner, the hunting crop flung carelessly down, all indicated the sportsman. The stage is the last profession you would associate with the owner, yet it is the “den” of Robert Loraine, one of the brainiest of our younger school of actors.
‘A typical Englishman, tall, clean-made, with a fresh complexion and clear eye, Mr. Loraine gives you the impression of a man who spends much of his time in the open, as indeed, he does. In his opinion, if an artiste desires to give the public of his best mentally, he must be at his best physically.
‘“I suppose you know,” he remarked during a recent chat, “that acting is in my blood, for both my parents were connected with the profession. They did not assist me, however, as when only fifteen I ran away to Liverpool. There I joined the stock company at a local theatre. It was real hard work, as we usually did six different plays in a week, with two performances nightly. The proprietor catered for popular audiences, and the prices could hardly be called prohibitive, as they ranged from a penny to threepence, the latter sum securing a private box.
‘“I look back with awe to those days, when I remember my rough attempts at making-up. The third week I had to appear as an old, hoary-headed man in the first piece and a sallow, saturnine villain in the second. Just imagine, my entire make-up consisted of a white wig and beard in one case and a black moustache in the other. Yes, I have studied and learnt a lot since then.
‘“For instance, it took me weeks to perfect my make-up as the Chinaman, Ah Ching, in A Tragedy at Tientsin, which I produced in New York. So complete was the disguise that on the opening night, Miss Grace George, who was in a box with her husband, turned round and said to him, ‘What’s wrong with Mr. Loraine? Why isn’t he playing? Surely he’s not ill?’ ‘Don’t talk like that,’ was the reply; ‘why he’s on the stage.’ ‘Now you’re just saying that to satisfy me,’ answered Miss George; and it was not until I cam forward to take my call that she recognised me. This was one of the greatest compliments I ever received. But I am wandering away from my early days.
‘“After the Liverpool apprenticeship I joined Ben Greet’s Woodland Players and appeared in a large Shakespearean repertoire all over the country, the performances taking place in the open air. Then I remembered a favourite saying of my father’s, that only London counts theatrically, so determined to put my fortune to the test.
‘“Arriving in town, I was engaged by Mr., now Sir, George Alexander, and only left him to go to Drury Lane. A part I enjoyed playing immensely was Dudley Keppel, the young Highland officer, in the old Princess’s [Theatre, Oxford Street] production of One of the Best [revival, 1 June 1899; the part was first played in this production by Harry B. Stanford]. Shortly after I had a taste of the real thing, for when war broke out in South Africa I joined the Yeomanry, and saw a good deal of fighting under General Hunter and Major Baden-Powell. Then followed my first appearance on the American stage. It was in 1901, at the Knickerbocker Theatre, New York, as Ralph Percy in To Have and to Hold. Although a failure, it started my theatrical connection with our cousins across the Atlantic, which culminated in my producing at the Hudson Theatre, in 1905, the play I am now appearing in – viz., Mr. G. Bernard Shaw’s brilliant Man and Superman. Needless to say it proved an instantaneous success, and for the next two years I toured it all over the Eastern States, where every city endorsed the verdict pronounced by New York. What led me to choose Man and Superman for my first managerial venture? Well, as a matter of fact, one day in New York I commenced reading the book. So struck was I with the sparkling dialogue, deep human interest and strong dramatic situations, that I immediately sailed for England, where arrangements were soon completed. The striking feature of Bernard Shaw’s work? Truth! With all its wit, audacity and vivacity, it has no characteristic so striking as truth.”
‘I have purposely avoided touching upon Mr. Loraine’s career as an aviator, and the magnificent work he has done to forward the development of flying in this country. Lest, however, my readers should imagine that his labours at the Criterion may interfere with his flying, let me assure them Mr. Loraine is sending to Paris shortly for his latest machine, a 70 h.p. Nieuport, on which he hopes to make some important flights this winter.’
(The Playgoer and Society Illustrated, ‘Man and Superman’ edition, London, 15 January 1912, p.25)


January 9, 2013

chorus girls from the first New York production of
Oscar Strauss’s The Chocolate Soldier,
Lyric Theatre, Manhattan,13 September 1909
(photo: White, New York, 1909)

‘Turned Into a Comic Opera Book Arms and the Man Is More Shavings Than Shavian.
‘As The Chocolate Soldier New Piece Is Especially distinguished by Strauss’s Charming Music.
‘THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER, an opera bouffe, in three acts. Music by Oscar Strauss. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man. Libretto by Rudolph Bernauer and Leopold Jacobson. English version by Stanislaus Stange. Lyric [New York, 13 September 1909].

Nadina Popoff … Ida Brooks Hunt
Aurelia Popoff … Flavia Arcaro
Mascha … Edith Bradford
Lieutenant Bumerli … J.E. Gardner
Captain Massakroff … Henry Norman
Louka … Lillian Poli
Stephen … George C. Ogle
Colonel Kasimir Popoff … William Pruette
Major Alexius Spirideff … George Tallman
Soldiers of Bulgarian Army, gentry, peasants, wedding guests, villagers, musicians, &c.

‘Count Mr. George Bernard Shaw himself in his most fantastic mood have imagined anything more ironical than Mr. George Bernard Shaw set to comic opera music, danced and soubretted, done into duos, trios, and quintets, march time, walt time, everything, fortunately, but rag time.
‘That is what has happened to Arms and the Man, acted here originally by the late Richard Mansfield, subsequently revived by Arnold Daly and now imported as The Chocolate Solider, with made-in-Vienna label. How much of the present book is due to Rudolph Bernauer and Leopold Jacobson, the foreign librettists, and how much to Stanislaus Stange, who has Englished it, would be difficult to say, but as far as lines and story go it is more shavings than Shavian.
‘That, however, need not matter if Mr. Shaw is satisfied. And as it stands The Chocolate Soldier is a decidedly pleasant evening’s entertainment. Once in a while the real Shaw lines and situations come to the surface, and then one wonders if it wouldn’t have been better to stick more precisely to the text, but Mr. Oscar Strauss’s music is so soothing, where it is meant to be soothing, and so stirring where it is meant to be stirring, that it really need not matter. Mr. Shaw has been taking liberties with other people so long it isn’t surprising that chickens come home to roost.
‘People are renamed in the operatic version apparently to suit the librettist’s sense of humour, with Bluntehli becoming Bumeril, which might have a sort of meaning in German, though you must drop the last two syllables to give it any point in English. Their dispositions and intentions are considerably changed, also, from what they appear to be in Arms and the Man.
‘Instead of the one maiden succumbing to the attractions of the Swiss adventurer, here we have three, (including the mother of the bride-to-be,) and they quarrel for the privilege of soothing him to sleep after his hurried escape from the pursuing Bulgarians, when he takes refuge in Nadina’s bedchamber. So, too, each of the three must hide her photographs in the borrowed coat, to make the complication greater when the returning Popoff arrives on the scene. In other words, the general idea seems to be that it will not do to be too subtle in a comic opera, which perhaps is the right idea.
‘Mr. Shaw cables last night that if the audiences was pleased with the entertainment they should congratulate themselves, and it is not unlikely that his advice was followed by the greatest number of those present. For there is enough broad fooling to the action to make it appealing to people who do not care for Shaw, and enough bright and spirited music to make it worth while to those who do, but who now find they must take a good deal of his play for granted.
’ When somebody or other sings, ”Why don’t you close the shutters? My heart with terror flutters,” you are certain that you will not find those lines or any like them in Arms and the Man, but fortunately you are more likely to be interested in the refrain rather than the words.
‘The music in fact is most agreeable, from the charming aria in the first act, with its lilting, rhythmic waltz movement, to the delightful duo in the last, in which Bumerli insists that Nadia loves him, though he is reading a letter in which she has expressly tried to covey the other impression. There is a fine swinging march to bring on the soldiers and the populace overjoyed that, ”the war is ended, the war is ended,” and a capital trio, one of the kind in which one after the other of the characters repeat insistently ”Something is wrong,” ”something is wrong,” ”something is wrong,” though there does not appear to be the slightest desire on the part of any one to deny it.
‘The music is very well sung, too, and the piece is charmingly staged, though there is hardly a girl in the chorus who isn’t a reminder of the old story of the newly married man who begged his wife to sing. They do sing, too, with good spirit in the ensembles, which is something for which to be thankful.
Ida Brooks Hunt, acting with plenty of vivacity, easily carries off the vocal honors in the rôle of the girl whom the Chocolate Soldier surprises and who he is eventually to marry. She has a rich, well-trained voice, no unpleasant affectations, with sweetness, and good range, and, not the least important essential for this sort of thing, she enunciates so as to be understood. Edith Bradford soubrettes easily though the rôle of Mascha, a substitute for the Louka of the original play, dances nicely, and shares with Flavia Arcaro the secondary honors among the women.
‘Mr. Gardner’s acting of the Swiss adventurer can scarcely be judged from the standards of the rôle that have been establishes, but he seems to satisfy the popular idea of the comic-opera hero, and he was agreeable in several of the duos, while George Tallman, William Pruette, and Henry Norman filled in the other rôles very well.
‘Mr. [Antonio] De Novellis conducted with enthusiasm.’
(The New York Times, New York, Tuesday, 14 September 1909, p. 9c)