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no. 348

Saturday, 15 May 2004

Anna Judic in Le Docteur Ox,
Théâtre des Variétés, Paris, 26 January 1877

Anna Judic

Anna Judic (1850-1911), French actress and chanteuse

(photo: Gaston & Mathieu, Paris, circa 1875)

'Le Docteur Ox, a three-act operetta, music by Offenbach, and words by MM. Philippe Gille and Arnold Mortier, two of the wittiest writers on the Paris Press, has been brought out at this house with every promise of a long success. The story has been taken from one of M. Jules Verne's amusing scientific tales, and has been cleverly treated by the authors, who have introduced the love intrigue without which no operetta would be presentable. The scene is laid at a certain town of Quiquendone, in Holland, whose inhabitants, previously to the arrival in their midst of the learned Doctor Ox, have been the most peaceable and contented people under the sun. Never has there been the shade of a discussion in Quiquendone; the carters do not swear, the cabmen are polite to each other, the horses never run away, dogs do not bite, nor do cats scratch. Never is there "a case" in the police-office, there are no law suits, no policemen, and no one there was ever known to use his fists against his fellow-man. Ox is a daring experimenter, and he is anxious to know what will be the result if he charges the atmosphere of pacific Quiquendone with a quantity of oxygen gas. The effects are soon visible enough to the daring scientist, who has ensconced himself at the top of a high tower above the stratum of oxygen, with which he has, by some wonderful invention of his own, succeeded in impregnating the entire atmosphere of the place. The inhabitants suddenly change their character, and, from being mild as lambs, become pugnacious as terriers. They jostle each other in the street, quarrel without the slightest pretext, declare war against a neighbouring town, love making is carried on with a preternatural ardour that breeds constant scandal – in a word, Ox had transformed the Quiquendonians from the most inoffensive beings on the face of the globe into a race of demons. From the summit of his tower, where he is secure from the exciting fumes of his terrible oxygen, the Doctor calmly surveys the effects of his experiment. But even perched high up as he is in the world Ox has not an easy mind. He is pursued by a Princess of Astrakan, the beauteous Prascovia, whom he has deserted just as their wedding was to have taken place. The unfortunate chemist, go where he may, always finds the abandoned fair one on his track. Sometimes she is disguised as a gipsy, sometimes as a Flemish servant girl, and at last she appears in the garb of a page. Needless to say that Ox is overcome in the end by the persistent Prascovia. Lured by the sweet voice of the siren he is impudent enough to come down from his tower into the fatal zone of oxygen. Once in the exciting atmosphere he falls at Prascovia's feet, who pardons him and becomes his wife, after saving him from the fury of the Quiquendonians, who wished to tear him in pieces when they became aware that it was he who had changed their temperament. This is a brief analysis of the plot, but it will probably suffice to make you understand the story. There are many amusing scenes, and the piece is full of gaiety and humour. The interpretation is excellent. Dupuis is capital as the Doctor, Pradeau extremely droll as a fat burgomaster, and Baron, Dailly, Léonce, and Mdlle. Aline Duval are all equal to the oddities of the singular contrast of character into which the inhabitants of Quiquendone suddenly find themselves plunged. As for Madame Judic, who plays Prascovia, she may be said to have the whole weight of the piece on her own shoulders, and gallantly she bears the burthen. Seldom has she been seen to greater advantage, and from the moment when she first appeared in a costume which is the exact reproduction of Henri Regnault's famous picture of "Salomé," until the fall of the curtain, her impersonation draw forth series after series of enthusiastic plaudits. She sang and acted with all that peculiar archness and talent for which she is remarkable. Offenbach was, naturally enough, the fittest composer for the music of a work in which oxygen figures so conspicuously; but while in this instance, as in all others, he has written many pages of the usual gay and exciting character, he has also put into Madame Judic's mouth three or four melodies, full of charm and poetry, which the lady warbles in the most seductive style. Especially remarkable are a gipsy march and couplets, so full of melancholy grace and harmony, that the air is likely to become one of the most popular ever composed. Offenbach never wrote, and never will write, a more perfect morceau. No words could do justice to it, for it is so delicious that it should be heard to be appreciated as it deserves. This song is the bright particular star of the score, which contains besides, I need hardly say, numerous instances of the composer's verve and gaiety. There is a serenade for Depuis, which was loudly applauded, and it is extremely pretty. Altogether, Le Docteur Ox is a very pleasing, amusing piece, far above the recent average of works of the same kind, and it is so charmingly interpreted by Judic that its success is assured. It is mounted with great luxury, the Director of the Varietés [sic] having been prodigal in expense. The scenery and costumes are tasteful and brilliant, while the effect of the oxyhydric gas with which the stage is flooded is dazzling.'
(The Era, London, Sunday, 4 February 1877, p.7c)

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Gladys Cooper

Gladys Cooper as she appeared in Havana,
Gaiety Theatre, London, 1908

(photo: Bassano, London, 1908)

A sample of John Culme's hand made greetings cards,
currently available at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

The above greetings card and others like it have been made to celebrate Terence Pepper's current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, devoted to Bassano's early 20th Century photographs of theatrical celebrities. Images of Gabrielle Ray and Gladys Cooper are featured in the exhibition as are some of their contemporaries on the London stage, including Gertie Millar, Moya Mannering, Gaby Deslys, Olive May and Gina Palerme. The exhibition runs until 31 August.

A special CD entitled Gaiety Girls has been produced to coincide with the exhibition, available at the National Portrait Gallery bookshop and also direct from Tony Barker. With masterly transfers by Dominic Combe from rare original recordings, and twelve pages of sleeve notes by Patrick O'Connor, the CD comprises the following tracks:
Alice Delysia - I Know What I Want (1933)
Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale - Hold My Hand (1932)
Cicely Courtneidge and Harold French - A tiny flat in Soho Square (1927)
Dorothy Brown and Roy Royston - When I Waltz With You (1926)
José Collins and Kingsley Lark - The Last Waltz (1922)
Mamie Watson and Roy Royston - Japanese Duet (1920)
Marjorie Gordon - Tickle Toe (1918)
Ada Reeve - Is It Nothing To You? (1915)
Moya Mannering and Leslie Henson - Meet Me Around The Corner (1915)
Haidee de Rance and George Grossmith Jnr - They Didn't Believe Me (1915)
Connie Ediss - I Like To Have A Little Bit On (1911)
Olive May - The Lass With A Lasso (1911)
Gaby Deslys - Tout En Rose (1910)
Denise Orme and Arthur Grover - Swing Song (1906)
Delia Mason and Maurice Farkoa - My Portuguese Princess (1905)
Evie Greene - Try Again, Johnny (1902)
Ellaline Terriss - Gaiety Medley (1903).
The disc also includes the following unique recordings of broadcasts from the 1930s: Gertie Millar - Keep Off The Grass; Phyllis Dare and W. H. Berry - Let Me Introduce You To My Father; Ethel Levey - Ragtime Medley; and Evelyn Laye - The Call Of Life.

The National Portrait Gallery has also published a number of postcards for the occasion, taken from original Bassano negatives, which are available from the gallery's bookshop

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