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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 405

updated
Saturday, 18 June 2005

Valeska Suratt as the Duchess of Dunmow sings
'Why Do They Call Me a Gibson Girl?'
in the United States' production of
The Belle of Mayfair,
Daly's Theatre, New York, 3 December 1906

Valeska Suratt, Harry Burcher and chorus

Valeska Suratt, seated at table with Harry Burcher, with Gibson Girl chorus,
singing 'Why Do They Call Me a Gibson Girl?', words by Leslie Stiles, music by Leslie Stuart,
in The Belle of Mayfair, Daly's Theatre, New York, 3 December 1906

(photo: unknown, New York, 1906)

'The Belle of Mayfair is a typical English musical comedy of the sort made familiar by The School Girl and The Catch of the Season. Its humor, if not brilliant, is at least clean, its chorus pretty, its gowns marvelous, its dances well executed, and a few of its songs taking. So much for its elements of success.
'Unfortunately there is another side, for, on the whole, its music is reminiscent and colorless, its jokes forced, and its plot diaphanous. Whether or not its virtues will overbalance its defects enough to please Broadway audiences is yet to be seen, but one has a strong suspicion nowadays that Broadway amusement seekers are not particularly hankering after virtues in musical comedies - at least virtues of the accepted type.
'The plot concerns a man and a maid, the son and daughter of rival houses. The maid's parents hire a French fiddler to masquerade as a count and they then announce his engagement to their daughter, so as to get rid of the rival young man. In the end, however, all ends happily in the uniting of the young couple.
'The hit of the evening was made by Valeska Suratt [as the Duchess of Dunmow] in the song made famous in London by Camille Clifford entitled "Why Do They Call Me a Gibson Girl?' She sings this with a chorus of eight show girls dressed to represent different Gibson girls, and with their aid and that of Harry Burcher [as the Earl of Mount Highgate] executes tableaux of several of the artist's [Charles Dana Gibson] best known pictures. This song was encored again and again. Bessie Clayton's toe dancing was another pleasing feature, as were her duets with Ignacio Martinetti. Another hit was made by Irene Bentley [as the Countess of Mount Highgate] in her song, "And the Weeping Willow Wept." Christie MacDonald [as Julia] was charming and dainty as ever, but her songs hardly gave her a chance. Van Rensselaer Wheeler [as the Hon. Raymond Finchley] sang and danced well, and Richard Carroll was mildly amusing as Sir John Chaldicott. Ignacio Martinetti as Comte De Perrier gave the customary jack-in-the-box musical comedy Frenchman. Honore French as the Princess Ehbreneitstein, and Jennie Opie as Lady Chaldicott were good as far as they went. Annabelle Whitford made a handsome [Lady Violet Gussop]. The show girls were the handsomest seen on Broadway for some time, and their gowns were gorgeous.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 15 December 1906, p.3a)

* * * * * * * *

'Why Do They Call Me a Gibson Girl?'

I walked one day
Along Broadway
When I was in New York.
A friend of mine
Said, 'My! You're fine
You have the Gibson Walk,
You have the pose and Gibson nose,
And quite the Gibson leer.
You're surely heard of the man called Gibson:
(Chorus: He meant the fellow called Dana Gibson.)
What he meant was not quite clear
Until I landed over here.

Refrain:
So why do they call me a Gibson Girl,
A Gibson Girl, a Gibson Girl?
What is the matter with Mr. Ibsen?
(Chorus: Mr. Ibsen.)
Why, Dana Gibson!
Wear a blank expression
And a monumental curl;
And walk with a bend in your back,
Then they will call you a Gibson Girl.

Just walk around town,
Look up and down,
The girls affect a style
As they pass by
With down cast eye,
And a bored and languid smile.
They look as if
They'd had a tiff
With Mr. Beerbohm Tree.
They do their best, for they've seen the pictures.
(Chorus: They've missed the point of the Dana pictures.)
Which are intended, don't you see,
For all in perfect type should be.

* * * * * * * *


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