Posts Tagged ‘Hammersterin’s (New York)’


Beth Tate, American vaudeville soubrette

November 8, 2013

Beth Tate (1890-), American vaudeville singer
(postcard photo: unknown, circa 1914)

‘Utica, N.Y., Feb. 1 [1911]
‘William Hurley, a Montreal business man, was married here last week to Beth Tate, who is appearing at Hammerstein’s, New York, this week.’
(Variety, New York, 4 February 1911, p. 10d)

London Pavilion, week beginning Monday, 4 September 1911
‘Marie Lloyd joined the Pavilion bill on Monday evening, and won enthusiastic favour for her chic and piquant rendering of her three latest numbers. One of these, in the character of a ”grass widow,” was a special favourite with the audience. Beth Tate, a Californian comedienne who is new to English audiences, scored an emphatic success on Monday with four songs, which she delivered in a most dainty and pleasant fashion. In a short speech of thanks at the close of her performance she expressed the hope that English audiences would ”keep her here.” She should be assured of that – with the right material. Such favourite and ”reliable” performers as the Two Bobs, Violet Loraine, Athas and Collins, Madge Temple, Helen Charles, Ernest Shand, and Dan Crawley also figure successfully in the Pavilion bill.’
(The Stage, London, Thursday, 7 September 1911, p. 13c)

An interview with Beth Tate at the time of her appearance at the Tivoli music hall, Adelaide, South Australia, August 1914
‘Miss Beth Tate’s characteristics on the stage are a quiet manner and well-worn very smart attire, as is evinced in her turn at the Tivoli, where she is starring. They are just as markedly her traits off the stage. She has that sweetest thing in a woman – a low, rich voice, and her words seem to flow gently, so softly are they pronounced, while every syllable is sounded; there is no consciousness of the harsh consonants, and the words do not, as Shakspeare [sic] directs, come ”trippingly from the tongue,” they are so even a tide. She has glorious dark eyes which kindle with feeling, and a very expressive face.
‘She speaks so like a reserved Englishwoman that for a moment, after meeting her, one wonders if it can [be] true she is American, and she is asked.
”’Yes, I am an American, from San Francisco. Speak like an Englishwoman? Perhaps it is because I like them so much. I think I am always quiet, and from the first I have got on well with the English people. No, I have not known them so very long. It is only four years since I began this work.
”’I do not know why educated Americans should have any distinguishing accent; but it is not surprising we have, is it? – for we are such a mixed community racially. I am an American, but I have Spanish and Jewish blood, and Scotch. I guess, for my mother’s name was Tate, and that is Scotch enough, isn’t it?”’
‘The very smart frocks she wears in her turn are mentioned, and she is asked if she will have her portrait taken in them to reproduce.
”’Why, certainly,” she says, good-naturedly, and changes from one gown to another without a murmur, posing just as is suggested with a quick sense of what is wanted, which is very helpful. She makes only one protest, and that is when the photographer wants her to assume the straight-front attitude and endeavours to smooth down the frock, and she quickly says:-
”’Oh, no. That is quite wrong. It must be that way. Why, they are putting bustles there now, and it was only with the greatest difficulty I persuaded my dressmakers not to insert a bustle in these frocks.”
”’Do you go to Paris for your dresses?”
”’No, Bond street (London) is good enough for me. As a matter of fact, if you know how to go about it you can get them cheaper in Paris, but I like my Bond street dressmaker.”
‘One frock is all beautiful diamente [sic] trimming, in front, and the remark is made that they glisten like the real thing at night.
”’You would not mind if they were real, I suppose?”
”’If they were I should not be here,” was the quick reply, ”but should be pleasing myself, doing what I like – serious drama. I have a great desire to make people cry. Not to hurt them seriously, but to arouse their emotions by my acting.”
‘She makes some half-dozen changes, and as there are inevitable interruptions the conversation is very disjointed, so a chat later on is suggested, and she cordially says, ”Why, certainly; I shall be charmed.”
‘So it is resumed later over afternoon tea. Miss Tate is a very modish little figure all in mole colour and a soft shade of rose; the flounced skirt of mole taffetas, and over it the little rose-coloured coatee with more touches. She tells of the charm England has for her, laughs quietly at a memory, and says:-
”’I must tell you a funny thing. Just before we came here we went to New York for a lovely five weeks’ holiday. The first week I went about and thought I was enjoying myself. The second I began to feel fidgety and unsatisfied. The constant noise and bustle got on my nerves – the music while we were eating, and at the best hotels and restaurants, just the same class we stay at in England; the clatter of crockery and all the rush and confusion – oh! I did get so tired of it. We ended by only staying three weeks,” she ends laughing.
‘We refer to herself and husband, for in private life this dainty little lady is Mrs. Hurley, her husband being Irish.
‘She talks quietly about her English experiences, and tells of a tour in South Africa, and of people she has met at different places, which have made her realise how small the world is after all.
”’How did you come to take up this work? Have you always been in vaudeville?”
”’Oh, no. I started in serious drama with a stock company under Mr. Fred Belasco’s management. You know of David Belasco? Well, this is his brother. My mother died when I was 13. I had never [seen] a theatrical performance up to then. The first one I did see was Miss Nance O’Neill, a beautiful woman, and I was mad to act afterwards. My father used to tease me about it, and tried to laugh me out of the fancy. He was a friend of Mr. Belasco, though, and every time I went to a matinee and saw Mr. Belasco I used to ask him to let me go on the stage. At last they gave way. I went into his company, just to walk on.
”’Very shortly afterwards my chance came. They were gong to stage Ghosts, and could not think of any one to play Regena. At last Mr. Belasco was struck by the fact he thought I looked like the part – young and girlish, you know. So he asked me, ‘Do you think you could play Regena?’ And with all the confidence of youth, I said, ‘Oh, try me; please give me the chance.’ I was quite sure I could act anything then. I could not go and ask to play such a part now, thought – an important role in an Ibsen play. You cannot when you begin to realise things, as you get older.
”’Well, I did play it, and I suppose I got through sufficiently well to please them, for after that I was given parts. It is hard work in a stock company always studying and rehearsing and often putting on a fresh thing each week. I stayed there 12 months and then went, still under Mr. Belasco’s management, to Los Angelos [sic].’
”’By-and-bye I begn to be more ambitious, and thought San Francisco not big enough for me, so I went to New York with an idea of conquering there. For some time I had not chance, then I was engaged for a part to tour, but I did not like the part, so gave it up and went back to New York. There seemed no opening for me, and at last I was persuaded to go into musical comedy. I had never known I could sing a song up to then, but you never know what you can do till you try. In fact, you can do anything you want if you only set your mind to it. The second piece I appeared in was The Girl from Rector’s, and I played the French maid. By the way, I followed Nella Webb in the part. Friends of mine were big publishers in New York, and they used to say to me, ‘Why don’t you get up some songs and go into vaudeville; you would do well.’ I would not think of it – did not think vaudeville good enough for me, then; but they kept on so much that they persuaded me to go down to the warehouse and try over some songs. They had me there coaching me up and rehearsing, and at last arranged for me to appear at a trial night.
”’This was on a Friday after the performance, and was about half-past 12. I sang before a lot of agents and managers, and they said I did very well. Next day an agent rang me up and asked me to call. It is a great thing to have them come to you. Generally it is the most difficult thing to get to see them at all. I went down and he offered me an engagement. I might say I was not earning very much in those days, and the terms he suggested seemed very big to me, and I jumped at them. I did not stop to consider that I should have to pay my own fares, buy my own dresses, and everything connected with the turn; my songs, music, and all the items generally covered by the management. The engagement was one that meant such jumps as from new York to Toronto (Canada), and then to Vermont (Virginia), a journey that would swallow a whole week’s salary for the fare alone. I signed the agreement and fixed everything without even letting Mr. Hurley know. He was not my husband then, but we were engaged, and he was away in Canada.
”’I got some pretty frocks, for I do not believe in going on as some do, in a make-shift way, saying, ‘Oh, anything will do for the stage’ – the front presentable, the inside anyhow. No; I believe in having good things. If I could not afford to have them I should choose songs which did not call for dress, but could be more suitably interpreted in a plain frock or character dress.
”’After New York, it happened my first move was to Toronto. I met Mr. Hurley there, and showed him the agreement. I am not a bit business-like or smart about such things. He explained at once hoe I stood and that I could not afford to go on like that. We were married then. When word came for me to go to Virginia he wrote pointing out that I simply could not make such a jump. This caused the cancelling of all the arrangements. The agents said, ”Suffering from swelled head,” and resolved to leave me alone, with the idea I would come to my senses. I waited, doing nothing, and when they found I could not give in they met me and I was engaged again.
”’An English manager saw me, and made me an offer to go to England, but the terms were not quite good enough, and I told him so. He said he would see about it. Another man came and engaged me at the terms. At the time I did not understand I was not going to the same management. It was not until I reached London that I found I was to appear on another circuit. From the first I have got on in England. I have been to South Africa, and could have stayed there longer, but did not think it wise to be away from London too long just as I was becoming known.
”’Yes, I have great trouble to secure songs. Sometimes I buy dozens before I find one that will do. Then very often I have to re-write much of them; that is, I have to alter a line here and there to remodel a verse. You see the song must tell a story and express a sentiment; each verse must have its point.”
‘As Miss Tate tells of her career there is never a touch of egotism or even self-satisfaction at her quick success, but at times a little scorn for her want of foresight and her youthful confidence and often a smile as she recalls an episode. She is still heart and soul a dramatic actress, and her great desire is to do big things in tragedy.
‘She prefer the theatre to the music hall because of the atmosphere gained by working with other people. She says:- ”They are generally nice. At any rate, there are always some nice people in a company you like to be with, and that makes it pleasant. At this work very often I do not meet or know any one else appearing in the theatre.”’
(The Mail, Adelaide, South Australia, Monday, 10 August 1914, p. 2e/f)

‘Back to American Vaudeville After World’s Tour
‘Following a tour of the world, Beth Tate, in the single woman class of vadeville, has returned to New York. She will open next week to break in on the Poli time with restricted material written by Blanche Merrill.
‘Miss Tate, before leaving for the other side, was noted among the single turns for her appearance and voice. Both are said to have been improved during her absence.’
(Variety, New York, Thursday, 3 May 1923, p. 4b)