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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 616

updated
Saturday, 4 July 2009

FOOTLIGHT NOTES
images of theatre and other popular entertainment
1850s-1920s

J.L. Toole

a cabinet photograph of John Lawrence Toole (1830-1906),
English actor manager, as he appeared as Jasper Phipps in
J.M. Barrie's farcical comedy Walker, London,
first produced at Toole's Theatre, London, 25 February 1892

(photo: Elliott & Fry, London, circa 1892)

'Cockneyanias' own comedian, who has just opened a theatre - which he calls Toole's - and who is appearing in some of the parts with which his name is familiarly associated, is probably a greater financial success than any other low-comedian. Toole, who is a Londoner - though his Patronymic suggests a connection with the Emerald Isle, made a certain reputation in Dublin, under the management of Charles Dillon, before reaching popularity in England. Those who only have made the acquaintance of ''Johnny Toole,'' of late years, express surprise at the reputation he has succeeded in making. They say he possesses a face, and voice, and figure capable of much comic expression; that he knows how to angle skilfully for a laugh and to land it; but that whatever name he may give the character he appears in, he is still Toole, toujours Toole: and eternal Toole is capable of wearying. Well, this is the fault of the public, who have petted Toole, who pay to see Toole, and who are not happy if the individuality of Toole is disguised in a character. Mr. Toole was an able actor and capable of great things, but the public spoiled him, and he has become so used to playing Johnny Toole that he cannot play anything else. When Mrs. Boucicault played Eily O'Connor 2,000 times she became uncertain as to her individuality; she didn't know whether Eily O'Connor was presenting the sorrows of Mrs. Boucicault, or Mrs. B. those of Eily O'Connor. So with Johnny; he has arrived at the conclusion that Doublechick, or Chawles, or Cranky, or Paul Pry aim at performing Toole; so that we must not blame the poor man who is the victim of too much public appreciation. Toole belongs to the old school of comedians who are almost extinct, like the old school of tragedians. True, we have a Toole school: - actors who grimace after the manner of Toole and ring similar vocal changes, but these imitators do not please, for they lack the unction of Johnny, and they have not his humour or his skill.'
(The Owl, Birmingham, England, Friday, 10 March 1882, p. 5)

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