Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 25 October 2008

Maud Courtney and 'Mr. C.' (fl. late 19th/early 20th Century),
variety theatre entertainers,
billed as 'The Conquerors of Fun' and
'The Dainty Girl and Talented Tenor in a classy Vaudeville offering'

Maud Courtney
Maud (otherwise Maude) Courtney (1884-1959),
American-born vocalist and music hall comedienne,
'The Originator of "The Honeysuckle and The Bee"'

(photo: Lallie Garet-Charles, London, 1902;
this half-tone postcard was published in 1902 by the
Garet-Charles Studios, 46 Acacia Road, London, NW,
in its series, 'Garet-Charles' Pictorial Studies of the
Stage Celebrities of the Coronation Year.')

Maud Courtney, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 28 November 1884, was a niece of Peter McCourt, proprietor and manager of the Silver Circuit of theatres in the United States. She began appearing in public before her teens as an amateur reciter and singer. She later gained a reputation for singing old American war songs and is said to have made her professional debut at the Casino Roof Garden, New York, in June 1898. On 21 January 1901 she opened at the Victoria Theatre, New York, in George Ade's 'variety farce,' The Night of the Fourth, whose cast also included Harry Bulger, Walter Jones, Tony Hart and, as Keenan Swift, Joseph Coyne. The piece was subsequently toured, arriving at the Amphion, Brooklyn, in three weeks after its Manhattan premier. Afterwards Miss Courtney became popular on vaudeville bills as 'the girl who sings the old songs,' as when, in May 1901, she appeared at the Orpheum, Brooklyn: 'Old songs are recalled and sung by Maud Courtney, who gives verses from such familiar numbers of a generation ago as "Dixie," "My Old Kentucky Home," "Maryland," "Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching," etc. Miss Courtney sings these old ballads in a sweet and sympathetic voice that makes her hearers want to hear more the more she sings.'
(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 28 May 1901, p.6f)

Towards the end of 1901, Maud Courtney travelled to Europe, appearing in Paris and at the Palace Theatre of Varieties, London: 'Maude Courtney, the charming Brooklyn girl who used to sing war songs so pleasantly here, has made a hit at the London Palace with "The Honeysuckle and the Bee." The Topical Times [London] says: "Miss Courtney's performance is one of the most wholesome and pleasing which is has ever been my [joy] to come across," which proves that it is our Maude Courtney.'
(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, Sunday, 2 March 1902, p.49d)

Maud Courtney's career on the vaudeville and music hall stage continued for some years, making many appearances in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India and Australia. She was latterly joined in sketches at the piano by her husband, 'Mr. C' otherwise Harry Calvo, who later became an internationally celebrated film actor under his own name of Finlay Currie.

Maud Courtney

Maud Courtney

(photo: Hemus Sarony, Christchurch, New Zealand, circa 1911)

The Night of the Fourth, Amphion Theatre, Brooklyn, week of Monday, 8 February 1901
'Theatregoers who like fun of the fast and furious kind will find much that is diverting in The Night of the Fourt, Mathews and Bulger's new play. It is of the variety farce order and therefore built on the go as you please order. It is, however, produced on a pretentious scale, having better scenery and stage effects than the usual run of such entertainments. The company is a large one and contains a number of fun makers of repute. Philip H. Ryley takes the place of Mr. Mathews, who is said to be ill. He resembles him and copies his style, so that the senior member of the firm is not missed. Harry Bulger is a comedian of unchanging personality, droll mannerisms and quiet but effective humor. Walter Jones, one of the first comedians to portray the commonly accepted stage type of a tramp, takes a leading part in the performance and creates much laughter. Tony Hart resembles Edward Harrigan's deceased partner [of the same name] in many respects and acts with the warmth and geniality of that one time favorite. David Andrada, an Eastern District young man, cleverly enacts a character part and his finely trained tenor voice is heard to advantage in the quartet singing, which, by the way, is one of the features of the show. Miss Maude Courtney, a Brooklyn girl, made a hit with her singing of old songs, not alone because she has a sweet voice, but by her simple demeanor and gentle manners, in direct contrast to the forward and bold actions of one or two of her associates. The chorus is one of the best that has been seen in this borough for some time. The women are sprightly, they dance with more than ordinary skill and they sing well in the concerted pieces.'
(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 12 February 1901, p.9b/c)

Maud Courtney and 'Mr. C.' made their reapperance in Australia after an absence of six years at Fuller's Bijou Theatre, Melbourne, in March 1917.

Fuller's Bijou Theatre, vaudeville, Melbourne, December 1922
'There were several new appearances on Saturday at the Bijou Theatre, which was crowded at both performances. Maud Courtney and ''Mr. C.'' had a good reception, and keep the audience highly amused by their ''topical trifles.'' Bert. Terrell, described as a ''Dutch comedian,'' was another new arrival, and receive an excellent hearing. An enjoyable ''turn'' was that of the Jubilee Trio, who are skilful vocalists and harmonisers. Banyard and Moreni's Merry Maids Revue Company gave a new revue entitled Jewels. The duets and concerted numbers proved popular.'
(The Argus, Melbourne, Australia, Monday, 1 January 1923, p. 2i)

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© John Culme, 2007