Posts Tagged ‘Vaudeville Theatre (London)’


Irene Desmond, English musical comedy actress

January 5, 2015

Irene Desmond (1884-1975), English musical comedy actress, who appeared in supporting roles in The Belle of Mayfair (Vaudeville Theatre, London, 11 April 1906) and The Merry Widow (Daly’s Theatre, London, 8 June 1907).
(photo: unknown, probably London, circa 1907)

Irene Desmond, whose real name was Irene Marguerite Pix, was the elder daughter of John Henry Charles Pix (1851-1887), a German born stuff merchant and naturalized British subject, and his wife, Emilie (née Stead, 1860-), who were married in Yorkshire in 1881. The couple’s younger daughter was the actress, Gladys Desmond (Gladys May Pix, Mrs Herbert G. Reynolds, 1886-1945). Emilie (Emily) Pix subsequently married James Kelly in 1900.

Irene Desmond was married on 15 February 1910 at St. George’s, Hanover Square, London, to Sir Richard William Levinge (1878-1914), 10th Bt. Her second marriage was on 31 August 1916 to Robert Vere Buxton (1883-1953) whose maternal grandfather was John Laird Mair Lawrence (1811-1879), 1st Baron Lawrence of the Punjaub and of Grately.

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‘Sir Richard William Levinge, of Knockdrin Castle, Millingar, Ireland, was married yesterday, at St. George’s, Hanover-square, to Miss Irene Desmond. The Rev. David Anderson, the rector, took the service. The bride, who was given away but Mr. Close, wore a dress of soft grey crêpe de Chine trimmed with lace and chiffon, and a large black hat adorned with grey feathers, while she wore a long chinchilla stole, and carried a bag muff to match. After the service the wedding party drove to the Carlton Hotel, where luncheon was served, Sir Richard and Lady Levinge leaving early in the afternoon for their honeymoon tour.
‘Miss Irene Desmond was a well-known musical comedy actress. The time and place of the wedding were kept secret, and only a few select friends of the bride and bridegroom were present.’
(The Standard, London, Wednesday, 16 February 1910, p. 7c)


Miss A. Newton and Nelly Power in H.J. Byron’s extravaganza, The Orange Tree and the Humble Bee, Vaudeville Theatre, London, 1871

April 26, 2014

Miss A. Newton (1859?-1884), English actress, and Nelly Power (1854-1887), English dancer, burlesque actress, singer and music hall serio-comic, as they appeared respectively as The Princess Ada and Prince Precious in H.J. Byron’s extravaganza, The Orange Tree and the Humble Bee; or, The Little Princess who was Lost at Sea, which was produced at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, on Saturday, 13 May 1871.
(photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, 1871)

Other members of the cast included Charles Fenton as Kokonibbs, The Courageous (King of the Chocolate Islands), Thomas Thorne as Croquemitaine and David James as Tippertiwitch

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Miss A. Newton was the stage name of Amelia Smith, a daughter of Richard Smith, a carpenter/scenic artist, and his wife, Alice, who on 21 July 1867 married the actor Thomas Thorne at the church of St. Mary, Putney, south west London. She died on the 18 April 1884, lamented by her husband and a wide circle of family and friends.


Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedy, The School for Scandal, revived at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, 18 July 1872

March 30, 2014

the cast of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedy, The School for Scandal, revived at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, 18 July 1872
standing, left to right H. Elton as Careless, Charles Fenton as Moses, Marie Rhodes as Maria, Henry Neville as Charles Surface, William Farren as Sir Peter Teazle, John Clayton as Joseph Surface, Susan Rignold as Lady Sneerwell, A.H. Roberts as Rowley, H. Vaughan as Trip, Mr Mercer as Snake
seated, left to right Horace Wigan as Sir Oliver Surface, David James as Sir Benjamin Backbite, Amy Fawsitt as Lady Teazle, Tom Thorne as Crabtree, Martha (Patty) Oliver as Miss Candour
(carte de visite photo: Elliott & Fry, 55 Baker Street, Portman Square, London, 1872)

‘It is satisfactory to find that the rage for trashy extravaganza and ”sensational” melodrama, injurious though it unquestionably has been to the dignity and well-being of the stage, has not so completely demoralised the public taste as to destroy all appreciation for works of a more refined and rational order. That there are symptoms of a reaction in favour of such productions is to be inferred from the enthusiastic approval with which the plays of Mr. [W.S.] Gilbert have been received at the Haymarket, and those of Lord Lytton and the late Mr. T.W. Robertson at the Prince of Wales Theatres. Mrs. Swanborough has done well at the Strand with [George] Colman’s comedies. Shakspere [sic] himself, though still shamefully disregarded, is not altogether without honour in his own country, for Mr. [Charles] Fechter’s Hamlet drew an overflowing audience every night that it was presented at the Princess’s, and the tragedy would doubtless have proved attractive for many consecutive weeks had it not been withdrawn solely out of regard for the health of the chief actor, whose strength would have been overtaxed by frequent performance of so arduous a character. Nor are evidences of a healthier state of opinion wanting in other quarters, where distaste for the niaiseries of burlesque has been succeeded by a relish for entertainment of a sounder and more elevating description. At the Vaudeville, for example, the success by which the recent revivals of comedies more or less ”legitimate” has been deservedly attended has emboldened the managers to still more ambitious enterprise in the same praiseworthy direction; and not Sheridan’s masterpiece has been produced in a style which, if not exactly correspondent to the loftiest ideal of dramatic merit is nevertheless fairly promotive of intellectual enjoyment, and decidedly creditable to most of those concerned in the representation… .
The School for Scandal is one of those plays which seem to have been written to make the world happy,” remarks an acute critic. ”Few of our dramatists or novelists,’ he adds, ” have attended enough to this. They torture and wound us abundantly. They are economists only in delight;” but it must not be forgotten that the pleasure to be derived from the best of plays depends not a little upon the manner of its representation. In the present performance particular praise is due to Mr. William Farren, for his fine performance of Sir Peter Teazle – a part to which this artist may be said to have an hereditary claim, and in which he exhibits, in conjunction with a spirit and refinement all his own, not a little of the genial humour and patrician dignity traditionally distinctive of his father’s famous impersonation of the character. Old play-goers, even those most passionately attached to the glories of bygone times, will find no difficulty in admitting that in the absence of the father there can be found no better representative of the part than the son, who, while he gives impressive interpretation to all the essential attributes of the character – its lofty bearing, its high sense of honour, its nicely-graduated fun and pathos – also displays such grace of elocution as does full justice to the wit and sentiment of the matchless text. This is a great merit in a comedian, and its value is felt all the more vividly in a play like this, where the dialogue is of such beauty and brilliancy that every word of it is worth listening to. Miss Amy Fawsitt does not appear to be gifted with histrionic taken of a high order. She has no great skill in characterisation; but besides intelligence and good utterance she has freshness, vivacity, and good looks, and these qualities stand her in good stead in her representation of Lady Teazle. Whether she is right or wrong in supposing that Sheridan intended the rusticity of his heroine’s education to peep through her newly-acquired elegances is a point open to discussion; but certain it is that Lady Teazle, as impersonated by Miss Fawsitt, is no fine lady, but a rustic beauty to the end of the chapter. Mr. J. Clayton is a thoughtful, well-educated actor, who, not content with a spirited recitation of the text, always makes to himself a definite ideal of a character, and plays up to that ideal with consistent energy. His Joseph Surface is a subtle, plausible, insinuating scoundrel, whom to hear talk were indeed ”edification” but that his high-flown sentiments ”sugar over” vile devices. Miss Oliver is excellent as Mrs. Candour; Mr. Horace Wigan very good indeed as Sir Oliver Surface. The characters of Crabree and Sir Benjamin Backbite, ”the wasp and butterfly of the comedy,” as Elia [i.e. Charles Lamb] calls them, are admirably supported by Mr. T. Thorne and Mr. D. James retrospectively, the former depicting with capital effect the cold, black malice of a thoroughpaced traducer, with whom slander is the business of life; and the other picturing quite so amusingly the despicable proceedings of the frivolous scandalmonger, who sips scandal like tea, and utters his libels with the airs of a petit maître. Charles Surface is invariably such a favourite with the audience that the actor who essays the part may be said to have wind and wave with him in his sailing. Mr. H. Neville has the full benefit of this happy prepossession, and accordingly winds great applause in the part. Marie and Lady Sneerwell are underplayed, the latter so lamentably so as to hurt the general effect of the performance. The mise-en-scène might be better; and as for Charles Surface’s pictures they are of such a quality that he may well be pardoned for getting rid of them.’
(The Morning Post, London, Saturday, 27 July 1872, p. 5f)


Billie Burke and J. Farren Soutar as they appeared as Columbine and Harlequin in the harlequinade introduced on 22 December 1906 into the musical comedy, The Belle of Mayfair at the Vaudeville Theatre, London.

March 9, 2014

Billie Burke (1884-1970) and J. Farren Soutar (1870-1962), English actor and singer, as they appeared as Columbine and Harlequin in the harlequinade introduced into the musical comedy, The Belle of Mayfair (Vaudeville Theatre, London, 11 April 1906) on Saturday afternoon, 22 December 1906. Other members of the harlequinade were Arthur Williams (Clown), Sam Walsh (Pantaloon), Courtice Pounds (Policeman), Charles Angelo (Swell), Louie Pounds (Fairy Princess), Ruby Ray (Mdlle. Amorette), and Camille Clifford (La Pompadour).
(photo: Bassano, London, 1906)


Violet Grey, English actress and singer, circa 1918

November 20, 2013

Violet Grey (active circa 1908-1925), English actress and singer
(postcard photo; Wrather & Buys, 27 New Bond Street, London, W, circa 1918)

Violet Grey appeared at various variety theatres, such as the Wood Green Empire, north London, during December 1915 when The Stage described her as ‘a dainty lady with a pleasing voice and manner.’ She was also seen in a number of revues and pantomime, both in London and the UK provinces, including Harry Grattan’s revue, Tabs, produced at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, on 15 May 1918.


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!’


Camille Clifford

June 25, 2013

Camille Clifford (1885-1971), Belgian-born, Scandinavian/American-raised, English theatrical celebrity, as a Gibson Girl, in The Belle of Mayfair, Vaudeville Theatre, London, 1906
(photo: Bassano, London, 1906)

‘Miss Camille Clifford was so annoyed by a crowd at Bristol that she took refuge in a confectioner’s shop. We have known actresses to do the same even without the pressure of a crowd.’
(The Sporting Times, London, Saturday, 10 November 1906, p. 1b)