Cigarette card for the week ending
Saturday, 19 September 2009

Wilkie Bard (1874-1944),
English music hall comedian

Wilkie Bard

Wilkie Bard

This colour halftone cigarette card dating from 1909 was issued in England in the Music Hall Artistes series (no. 13) by Cope Brothers & Co Ltd of Liverpool and London. The caption on the reverse reads: 'Wilkie Bard was born 35 years ago in Manchester. Worked for seven years as a cotton spinner at the mills of Haslams, Limited. Wilkie Bard says, "At that time I received 18s. a week, and was not worth it. Now I receive £200 a week, and I am worth it." This artiste is one of the cleverest character comedians of the day, and is in very big demand everywhere. He was a striking success at Drury Lane pantomime, 1908-09. His forte is tongue-twisting songs, his latest one being "She Sells Sea Shells."'

Palace Theatre, Manchester
'Mr. Wilkie Bard's most singular gift is a power to make the audience laugh at itself rather than at him. They do laugh at him hugely - here again they are scarcely allowed an opinion, - but it is when the entertainer nearly ''sells'' the entertained and himself enjoys a quiet grin that the roar comes with the greatest crash. Mr. Wilkie Bard is of the quiet school of comedians. He moves across the stage with leisurely step, makes very little use of gesture, and is unusually vigorous if he slaps a legging with a cane or makes a heave at his braces. The make-up is fantastical, but is never intended to distract attention from the play of a rather expansive and - by simulation - blank-looking face. A ditty is ''talked'' to the audience. The lines generally rhyme, the sentences sometimes have a connected meaning, but often they are irrelevant nonsense spoken with an orchestral accompaniment. With Mr. Wilkie Bard the unexpected phrase, uttered in queer little jerks, passes muster as humour. Because the audience cannot anticipate the entertainer's twists and turns they follow him as hounds follow a hare, and when he doubles and baffles them they count it the best of sport. He ''barges'' with an accommodating fireman in ''the wings'' and a confederate in one of the boxes with splendid suggestion of fresh impromptus, and he persuades the audience to sing his choruses by irresistibly good-humoured cajolery. The best of Mr. Wilkie Bard is that his fun is clean enough for a nursery, and perhaps because of this it is excellent entertainment for anybody capable of appreciating a good pantomimist.'
(The Manchester Guardian, Manchester, Tuesday, 25 September 1906, p. 12b)

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© John Culme, 2009