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no. 466

Saturday, 12 August 2006

Betty in Mayfair,
a musical play (adapted from John Hastings Turner's
three act comedy, The Lilies of the Field),
with music by H. Fraser-Simson and lyrics by Harry Graham,
produced at the Adelphi Theatre, London, 11 November 1925

Betty in Mayfair, an advertisement

an advertisement for Betty in Mayfair
with photographs of Mary Leigh and Evelyn Laye

(photos: ? Stage Photo Co, London, circa 1925;
The Play Pictorial, 'Betty in Mayfair' edition, no. 286, vol. XLVIII, December 1925)

'Those who saw Mr. J. Hastings Turner's charming comedy, The Lilies of the Field at the Ambassadors Theatre [5 June 1923], will find an addition charm in its musical development at the Adelphi, for though we have not the lamented Meggie Albanesi and Edna Best as the twins, we have Evelyn Laye, of the silvery voice, and Mary Leigh, the personification of piquant humour, in their stead, and the comedy suffers naught in their hands, for both Miss Laye and Miss Leigh are charmingly fitted by nature to interpret the roles of the sisters, while both possess that sense of humour which enables them to get the most out of the situations allotted them by the dramatist. The success that Betty in Mayfair has achieved is due, primarily, to the author; secondly, to Mr. H. Fraser-Simson for the sympathetic spirit in which he has set the pretty lyrics by Harry Graham. To these good qualities must be added the stage production by Mr. Fred. J. Blackman, who has placed the "lilies" in appropriate settings without destroying their native beauty by over-painting.
'Betty and Kitty are twin daughters of the Reverend John and Mrs. Head. The Reverend John is a pious divine of the reflective order, who likes to indulge in simple meditations what time he is preparing his Sunday discourse. His congregation, we assume, are leisurely rustic folk, even as the Reverend John is a leisurely parson. If the twins are a trifle too well-behaved to be cut-and-out tomboys, they have still that boisterous yearning for the world and its wondrous delights that is summed up in the magic word - London.

Betty in Mayfair

Betty: 'One the day that I was born, Kitty somehow managed to be present.'
Kitty: 'Fearing you might feel forlorn, I cleverly contrived to be there!'

The Vicarage, Wildeleete, Gloucestershire,
with Mary Leigh (Kitty), Evelyn Laye (Betty) and chorus singing 'Two Hearts';
a scene from Betty in Mayfair, Adelphi Theatre, London, 11 November 1925

(photo: Stage Photo Co, London, 1925)

'What, then, is their excitement when the right mother-in-law decides to give one of them a season in town. Which of the fair charmers shall it be? The choice falls on Betty. Prior to her departure, however, there arrive at the Vicarage two young gentlemen; one, Mr. Barnaby Haddon, is an enthusiastic antiquarian - he loves the past, and all it represents, as much as he dislikes the modern girl and her methods. Betty, in a spirit of mischief, determines to play up to the young antiquarian, and is presented to him as a demure maiden in mid-Victorian costume, with manners to march. Barnaby Haddon is delighted. Here is the beautiful human embodiment of the lovely world of long ago. He follows Betty to London, where she has to maintain her Victorian pose, although her spirits begin to fail her, for that which she began through sheer mischievousness has taken a serious turn, inasmuch as she finds she is really in love with Barnaby. Her conscience pricks her for her deceit, and she makes confession to her sister in a pretty little scene in which we get a glimpse of the true Betty. She had been playing her role in the right spirit in her grandmamma's house, except for her confidence in Withers, the butler, to whom she unburdened herself, and who buoyed up her sprits with a particularly good morning cocktail, one after his own heart - he generally finished the glass.
'At the Grosvenor Square mansion there is a big reception, in which all the guests are attired as we knew society folk in the 'eighties, both men and women; full skirts and bustles, ridiculous looking frock-coats and side whiskers, plus the constrained manners of both sexes, with their petty formalities and ceremonial graciousness (and, dear little ladies of the Russian boots and bobbed hair, their timid mannerisms were as prettily attractive as your pert winsomeness; while as for you, messieurs, you are "also rans" compared with your bewhiskered predecessors. You see, mes amis, I lived in those days and wore little side whiskers).

Mary Leigh, Jack Hobbs, Betty in Mayfair

Bryan Ropes: 'I say, may I see the garden now?'
Kitty: 'Have an ice instead'

Mary Leigh (Kitty) and Jack Hobbs (Bryan Ropes)
in a scene from Betty in Mayfair, Adelphi Theatre, London, 11 November 1925

(photo: Stage Photo Co, London, 1925)

'In the last act we find ourselves amid the brilliant illuminations of Ranelagh Gardens, where the fashions shown take us back to the 'sixties or early 'seventies, with crinolines abundant in their full-blossomed gracefulness (I maintain that ladies could be graceful in crinolines) and Betty looked particularly graceful; but her charm found no favour in the eyes of her reverend father, who had awakened to the true situation, and would no give her in marriage to Mr. Barnaby Haddon, for would it not be a union based on lies and deceit? Betty's heart and better nature told her the same, and to such good purpose that, despising the conventions of sex, she slipped down her crinoline in the Garden of Ranelagh, and stood revealed in the short dress and silk stockings of the "flapper" of the twentieth century. And then Barnaby makes confession that he prefers the present to the past, and there will be wedding bells in Mayfair, or the echo from the bells of the vicar's church in pleasant Gloucestershire.'
(B.W. Findon, The Play Pictorial, 'Betty in Mayfair' edition, no. 286, vol. XLVIII, December 1925, p. 2)

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Several original cast recordings of songs from Betty in Mayfair were issued on the Columbia label, of which the following three mp3 files are examples. They were recorded in London on 24 November 1925.

Mary Leigh, 'I've Got a Secret' (WA-2620-1, Columbia 3835)
Mary Leigh and Jack Hobbs, 'The Countryside' (WA-2618-2, Columbia 3836)
Mary Leigh and Jack Hobbs, 'I Love You' (WA-2617-1, Columbia 3838)

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