Posts Tagged ‘Gertrude Lawrence’


Gertrude Lawrence advertises Ciro Pearls, London, 1925

August 8, 2014

Gertrude Lawrence (1898-1952), English actress and singer, advertising Ciro Pearls, London, 1925
(photo: unknown, probably London, circa 1925; advertisement published in The Magazine-Programme, London, [circa mid September 1925], p. 12)

At the time of the publication of this advertisement, Gertrude Lawrence was playing in the successful Charlot’s Revue, which opened at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London, on 30 March 1925 and closed after 303 performances the following 19 December. Other members of the cast included Leonard Henry, Peter Haddon and Beatrice Lillie. The Misses Lawrence and Lillie, however, left the cast before the end of the run to appear in the New York version of Charlot’s Revue, which opened at the Selwyn Theatre on 10 November 1925. The cast included Jack Buchanan, with whom Gertrude Lawrence sang ‘A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich and You,’ which they recorded for the Columbia label in New York on 17 November 1925.

Jack Buchanan and Gertrude Lawrence singing ‘A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich and You,’ which they recorded for the Columbia label (Col 512-D) in New York on 17 November 1925.


Gertrude Lawrence at Murray’s Night Club, London, 1920

September 26, 2013

Gertrude Lawrence (1898-1952), English actress and singer, as she appeared in 1920 as the lead in London’s first cabaret entertainment at Murray’s Night Club.
(photo: Claude Harris, London, 1920)

‘It was a somewhat daring innovation on the part of Murray’s Club to introduce a Cabaret Entrainment each night during the dinner hour, as although very popular in the States and on the Continent the experiment had not been tried in this country, but owing to the fact that Mr. Jack May persuaded a really brilliant artiste to ”top the bill,” Murray’s Frolics have proved a big success and a great draw.
‘Miss Gertie Lawrence, who appears on our font cover in colours [see above], is without a doubt the coming revue star. She made a name for herself at the Vaudeville in Buzz Buzz, particularly with the song, ”Winnie the Window Cleaner,” and in the forthcoming Hippodrome Christmas pantomime she will take Miss Phyllis Dare‘s part at all the matinees… .
‘Miss Lawrence not only has a good voice but is also a fine actress, particularly when portraying a London type of to-day. She is a trained dancer, and was under Madame Judith Espinosa for some time, and studied elocution with Miss Italia Conti. She has been on the stage since she was ten, and comes of a theatrical family. The late Pony Moore was her godfather, and her father was with the Moore and Burgess Minstrels and afterwards interlocutor at the Palladium. She bids to become as well known as either Marie Lloyd or Albert Chevalier, with whose work hers had much in common.’
(The Dancing Times, Christmas number, London,1920, cover and p. 209)


Gwen Farrar

July 14, 2013

Gwen Farrar (1899-1944), English duettist, ‘cellist, singer, actress and comedienne
(photo: unknown, probably London, circa 1925)

‘Miss Gwen Farrar is the daughter of Sir George Farrar, Bart., and became an established favourite immediately after the Great War in her partnership with Miss Norah Blaney. A very talented Actress, Vocalist and Instrumentalist, she delights in making weird noises with her voice much to the discomfort of her partner. She has deserted the Music Halls several times for Revues but always to return to her “first love.”’
(halftone cigarette card of Gwen Farrar, published in England during the mid/late 1920s by R. & J. Hill Ltd as no.23 in its ‘Music Hall Celebrities Past & Present,’ first series)

Norah Blaney and Gwen Farrar first performed together at various concerts and entertainments for the benefit of troops in France and Belgium towards the end of the First World War. ‘Miss Blaney played the piano and sang in a pretty, light voice, while her partner sang in deep, almost lugubrious, tones, played her ‘cello – quite seriously at moments – and made a most amusing play with it. A tallish woman, with a rather long, pale face with straight, bobbed black hair which divided into two angular locks on each side of her forehead, Gwen Farrar had an element of the clown in her which was emphasized by her broad, white collar and black pierrot costume. Her sudden changes of voice and unexpected movements, as when she brusquely took herself off the stage dragging her ‘cello along behind her or slinging it across her shoulder, were extremely entertaining. There was an acidity about her which, contrasted with the more conventional sweetness of her companion, showed that their turn belong to the sophistication of the [nineteen-]twenties rather than to the old world of the music-halls which it invaded.’

Gwen Farrar was one of the six daughters of Sir George Farrar, a prominent figure in South African mining and politics. Born on 14 July 1899, her education was undertaken in England where she eventually trained as a cellist. At his death her father left her a comfortable fortune which, together with earnings from her own successful stage career as a ‘noted feminine grotesque,’ allowed her to live in some style. She spent much of her spare time at a beautiful seventeenth century mansion she owned in Northamptonshire, while in London her base was a house at 217 King’s Road, Chelsea, ‘where she will be remembered as a hostess, sympathetic companion and unchanging friend.’ Gwen Farrar mixed with women of Radclyffe Hall’s set, and she was romantically linked at one time with the actress Tallulah Bankhead. Her recreations were tennis, motoring and riding, and as an expert horsewoman she won more than thirty prize cups at various horse shows.

About 1920 Norah Blaney and Gwen Farrar formed their partnership ‘“about a piano,” an act with [Blaney] as pianist, the amusingly nonchalant Farrar as cellist, and a constant flow of repartee.’ Over a period of four years from about 1921 to 1924 they appeared at leading London and provincial variety theatres, as well as in the cabaret show Pot Luck! (24 December 1921), for which the above photograph was taken, starring Jack Hulbert and Beatrice Lillie; and the revues Rats (21 February 1923), starring Alfred Lester and Gertrude Lawrence; and Yes! (29 September 1923), starring A.W. Bascomb, Norah Blaney and Gwen Farrar, all of which were presented by André Charlot at the Vaudeville Theatre, Strand, London. On 21 May 1924 they opened in another Charlot revue, The Punch Bowl, at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, with Alfred Lester, Billy Leonard, Sonnie Hale, Ralph Coram, Hermione Baddeley and Marjorie Spiers.

Blaney and Farrar were back together again from September 1925 in a series of variety theatre appearances. The following year they went to New York to join the cast of the long-running Louis the 14th (Cosmopolitan Theatre, 3 March 1925) starring Leon Errol, and then appeared in Palm Beach Nights. The pair then returned to London to go their separate professional ways, Blaney to play Huguette du Hamel in Rudolf Friml’s musical play The Vagabond King (Winter Garden Theatre, London, 19 April 1927) with husband and wife Derek Oldham and Winnie Melville; and Farrar to appear in the revue White Birds (His Majesty’s Theatre, London, 31 May 1927), starring Maurice Chevalier, Anton Dolin, Billy Mayerl, José Collins and Maisie Gay. She began a short professional partnership at this time with the popular pianist Billy Mayerl. Thereafter Norah Blaney’s work included various tours in musical comedies, and pantomimes; and Gwen Farrar’s in such pieces as Wonder Bar (Savoy Theatre, London, 5 December 1930), a ‘musical play of night life,’ and the ill-fated revue After Dinner (Gaiety Theatre, London, 3 November 1932) which ran for only fifteen performances. However, Blaney and Farrar were together again in The House that Jack Built (originally produced at the Adelphi Theatre, London, 8 November 1929) with Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge upon its transferral to the Winter Garden on 14 April 1930. Their farewell appearance was at the London Palladium in February 1932.

In addition to her continued presence in the theatre, Gwen Farrar appeared in three British films: She Shall Have Music (1935), with Jack Hylton; Beloved Imposter (1936), which featured the popular pianist Leslie Hutchinson; and Take a Chance (1937), with Binnie Hale, Claude Hulbert and Harry Tate. Miss Farrar’s health is said never to have been robust and she died after a short illness on Christmas day, 1944.

(Sources for the above include Who’s Who in the Theatre; and The Times, London, 27 December 1944, p.8b, and 15 December 1983, p.14g)

* * * * * * * *

For information on Norah Blaney and Gwen Farrar’s recorded output see Brian Rust with Rex Bunnett, London Musical Shows on Record 1897-1976, General Gramophone Publications Ltd, Harrow, 1977, pp.323-325, 425 and 425, which lists duets by Blaney and Farrar between 1922 and 1935, including ‘Second-Hand Rose,’ ‘The Hen-House Blues’ (complete with clucking effects), ‘Lookin’ Out the Window (Wearin’ Out the Carpet),’ and ‘Shall I Have it Bobbed or Shingled’ from The Punch Bowl; and duets by Farrar and Mayerl between 1926 and 1931, including ‘Masculine Women! Feminine Men!’


Private Lives at the Phoenix Theatre

March 20, 2013

an uncredited Press photograph of the Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London, during the run of Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward’s appearances in Private Lives, 24 September to 20 December 1930
(photo: unknown, London, 1930)


Elsie Prince

February 26, 2013

Elsie Prince (1902-1988),
English actress and singer
featured on the cover of the Sunday Herald Pantomime Annual, 1920-21,
when she appeared in the title role of the pantomime
Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, produced at the London Hippodrome, 21 December 1920
Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, a pantomime written by Lauri Wyle and F. Maxwell-Stewart, with lyrics by Clifford Harris, ‘Valentine’ and Donovan Parsons, and music composed, selected and arranged by James W. Tate, with music under the direction of Julian Jones, was produced at the London Hippodrome for the Christmas season of 1920. The leading parts were played by Lupino Lane (Pekoe), Nellie Wallace (The Widow Twankey), Elsie Prince (Aladdin), and Phyllis Dare (Princess Badr-al-budur). Miss Dare’s part was played at matinees by Gertrude Lawrence. Special features of the pantomime included The Curtain of Diamonds in Scene 6 (‘The Garden of Jewels’), composed of 100,000 glass lustres and six miles of wire; the ‘Squelch’ wringing machine in Scene 7 (‘Widow Twankey’s Laundry’), invented by David Devant; the Picture-Blocks in Scene 10 (‘Courtyard of Aladdin’s Magical Palace’), designed by H.M. Bateman; and Lupino Lane’s old-fashioned Star-Trap Act in Scene 12 (‘The Great Wall of Pekin’), in which he performed 74 traps in six minutes.

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp closed after 184 performances on 10 April 1921.

Elsie Prince
an autographed photograph of Elsie Prince
(photo: unknown, probably Australia, late 1920s)

‘English Actress Arrives.
‘Miss Elsie Prince, the vivacious young English artist, who became immediately popular in Melbourne by her performance in the leading role of No, No, Nanette, arrived in Sydney yesterday, and in this way forms the advance guard of the company in its Sydney season, which is to begin next month in brilliant circumstances, since No, No, Nanette has been chosen for the opening of the new St. James’s Theatre. This musical comedy, in its Melbourne run, emulated its London success, for crowded houses were the rule, Miss Prince, in the role of Nanette, had a material share in the prestige thus won for the piece in Australia. The new artist gained prominence early in her stage career, as she was only 17 when she was engaged five years ago as principal boy in the Wylie-Tate production of Aladdin at the London Hippodrome, in a cast which also included Miss Phyllis Dare as principal girl. Miss Prince has had considerable experience in important engagements in pantomime and other pieces in the English provinces; and returned to London recently to the Hippodrome for another of its successes. Brighter London [produced, 23 March 1923], in which she was playing a leading part when engaged by Mr. Hugh Ward for her present tour of Australia. Miss Prince, who from her experience of Australia, has grown to love this country, is eagerly looking forward to her meeting with Sydney audiences. Misses Kitty and Edna Prince, her sisters, are on the stage, and are now fulfilling engagements at the Princess Theatre, Glasgow, in the pantomime, Hankey Panky.’
(The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, 17 February 1926, p. 6c)