Posts Tagged ‘Rudolf Friml’


Adele Rowland, ‘whose ingratiating comedy methods are largely responsible for the popularity of Katinka,’ New York, 1916

April 5, 2014

Adele Rowland (1883-1971), American actress and singer, ‘whose ingratiating comedy methods are largely responsible for the popularity of Katinka.’ (The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 15 January 1916, p. 2)
(photo: White, New York, probably late 1915/early 1916)

Katinka, a musical play by Otto Hauerbach, with music by Rudolf Friml and Lyrics by Otto Hauerbach, opened at the 44th Street Theatre, New York, on 23 December 1915, with Adele Rowland playing Mrs Helen Hopper, one of the principal parts.
Adele Rowland made two trial recordings for the Victor label, with Rudolf Friml at the piano, in New York on 20 January 1916: ‘I Want to Marry a Male‘ (from Katinka), and ‘Your Photo,’ neither of which appear to have been published. Miss Rowland did, however, make several more recordings for Victor in 1919, one of which was ‘When You See Another Sweetie Hanging Around (That’s the Time You’ll Want to Come Back to Me).’


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)

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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!’


January 19, 2013

Thelma Fair (fl. early 20th Century), American actress and singer,
was also seen on tour in the United States during 1904 as Euphemia in the musical comedy,
The Office Boy, a part originally played by Louise Gunning when the piece
opened at the Victoria Theatre, New York, on 2 November 1903.
(photo: Sarony, New York, 1905)

Otto Hauerbach and Rudolf Friml’s The Firefly on tour in the United States, the cast headed by Edith Thayer, supported by Maxwell Moree, Paul Vernon, Thelma Fair, Etta Hager, et al
‘Fort Wayne theatregoers and music lovers were treated to a delightful surprised yesterday at the Majestic theatre when the comic opera, The Firefly [first produced in the United States at the Lyric Theatre, New York, 2 December 1912], with Edith Thayer, a dainty little lady, and by the way, the possessor of quite the best voice that has come this way for some time, was the attraction.
The Firefly is a charming and colourful little thing, with a real story that is very pretty and music that is real music. The book is by Otto Hauerbach and the music by Rudolf Friml. The singer in question is Edith Thayer. As to Miss Thayer you may say that you never heard of her, perhaps, but you will hear of her some day, and that a not very distant day, for a woman with such ability as an actress and such a voice in spite of her diminutive figure, is as certain to be heard in grand opera as the sun is certain to rise to-morrow. Edith Thayer – it is an easy name to remember; and it’s worth remembering, too, for she will some day be the ideal Mimi of La Boheme, or a most charming “Madame Butterfly.”
‘In the meantime she is making a bewitching Nina, and a cute little Tony in this pretty operetta, The Firefly It is positively not an exaggeration to say that this is the best musical show that has played in Fort Wayne this season. It contains enough good music to supply three musical comedies of the ordinary kind, and its story has material sufficient for a dozen.
‘Miss Thayer gives one a real surprise at her first coming from the wings and filling the auditorium with its volume and charming your ear with its beauty. You picture in your mind the possessor of such a voice. You are sure that she is an Amazon of Juno-like physique. Imagine your surprise when a petite elf of less than 100 pounds in weight and less than five feet in height steps upon the stage, this wonderful volume of delightful music issuing from her lips! You are captivated from the start, and when your learn that she can act as well as sing, or better still, when you learn that she can sing so effectively and with such colourful power so difficult a thing as the aria in the last act, you cannot refrain from applauding enthusiastically. She was the experience of the audiences that witness the performances yesterday afternoon and last night.
‘Miss Thayer is supported by a remarkably fine company. Hers is not the only voice in the cast, for there are many others, not the least of which is that of Miss Etta Hager, who took the audience by surprise at the opening of the second act with the song, “Sapphire Seas.” The tenor is a good looking young fellow, Burton Lemham by name, who has a voice that is sweet and melodious and who acts the part of hero with becoming grace One of the really fine performances of the cast is that of Paul Vernon as an old German music teacher, who makes Nina his protege. He had a rich, sonorous bass voice as well as being a good actor, and he makes of the character a real lovable old fellow. Charles M. Bowers also has a splendid voice and with Thelma Fair, who, by the way, is a clever actress, sings the hit of the show, a song called “Sympathy,” which will be whistled over the city by tomorrow. Bert Wheeler and Irene Samsel are clever dancers who get a generous hand for their clever rendering of “The Latest Thing from Paris.” Alice Gallard is very good as Mrs. Oglesby Vandare, the inevitable widow in search of No. 2.
‘The comedy hit of the cast is the work of Maxfield Moree as Jenkins, Mrs. Vandare’s private secretary. He is funny to look at, his dancing and antics are genuinely funny, and his is supplied with many funny lines and much funny “business” by the author of the play. Had Miss Thayer been out of the cast and her part in the hands of a less clever actress, he might easily have made his part the star role of the show.
‘The pieces [sic] abound in tuneful music, much of its being strikingly original. A number of the songs are exceedingly pretty, and the finale to the second act reaches the dignity of light opera, and approaches grand opera.
‘The production is well mounted and the company is backed by a chorus of good voices. Arthur Hammerstein offers here an attraction of which he might feel justly proud, and which is calculated to inspire confidence in him as a producer.’
(Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Monday, 13 April 1914, p.8f)