Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 17 May 2008

Delia Mason (circa 1885-circa 1970),
English vocalist and actress,
as she appeared in The Three Little Maids,
London and New York, 1902/03

Delia Mason
Delia Mason as Edna Branscombe in Three Little Maids,
Prince of Wales's Theatre, London, 1902/03.

(photo: Biograph Studio, London, 1902/03)

'Edna May's Successor. - Miss Delia Mason, the successor to Miss Edna May as Edna Branksome [sic] in Three Little Maids now at the Prince of Wales's [first produced at the Apollo, London, 10 May 1902; transferred to the Prince of Wales's, 8 September 1902], had previous to her appearance in this play no experience of the stage except as an amateur. Her success is another testimonial to Mr. George Edwardes's capacity for discovering new talent. Miss Mason, who is a native of Coventry, won an open scholarship at the Royal College of Music and studied there for five years. She sang in the college performances of grand opera and took part in some theatricals at home in Coventry, showing under the teaching of Mr. Richard Temple at the Royal College an exceptional proficiency in singing for the stage. Miss Mason has no relatives in the acting profession, but her enthusiasm for her new life is as sincere as any manager could desire.
'Delia Mason's Talents. - Before joining Mr. Edwardes Miss Mason distinguished herself on the concert platform, singing at the Leeds and Birmingham festivals with great success and in the company of such celebrated artistes as Patti and Melba. At her home in Coventry she was the bright particular star of all the amateur theatrical performances, playing in Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, and the title-rôle in Carmen. it was at one of these performances Mr. Edwardes chanced to hear Miss Mason sing, and there and then he offered her a permanent engagement at a salary which very few ladies with years of stage experience are earning.
'Miss Mason's Brother a Professor. - After a little trouble - for Miss Mason's parents had set their hearts on a grand opera career for their only girl - they gave their consent, and Miss Mason accepted Mr. Edwardes's handsome offer, a step which she says she will never regret. On her first performance at the Apollo Theatre Miss Mason confesses to having felt just a trifle nervous, but after being on a few minutes she had gained the complete sympathy of the audience, and since then everything has gone well with her. She lives in a charming house at Windsor with her brother, who is a professor at Eton College. Miss Mason is a tall and extremely good-looking girl with laughing blue eyes and a complexion which speaks eloquently of her devotion to all healthy out-door forms of exercise. She is an expert swimmer and oarswoman and an ardent motorist, driving her own 10 h.p. Gladiator with a skill and ease which are the envy of all her motoring acquaintances.'
(The Tatler, London, Wednesday, 22 October 1902, p.148a/b)

'A Masterpiece of Musical Comedy at Daly's [New York, 1 September 1903]
'Mr. G.P. Huntley Needs No Further Introduction Here 'It is just possible that there have been better musical comedies than Paul Rubens's Three Little Maids, which opened at Daly's last night, but if there have, nobody in the audience could think of them at the end of the evening. That trio of diminutive maidens, unjaded by the recent run of 300 nights in London, tripped quaintly before the audience with a pout of the lips, a flash of the eyes, and a twinkle of angles [sic], and before the houseful of hardened playgoers could bet their cynical bearings, had them rippling and bubbling, and sometimes positively shouting with laughter.
'It was not the wit of any particular lines; it was not the absurdity of any particular situation; it was not the genius of any particular actor that wrought the magic. It was the marvel of a musical in which music and comedy were in just proportion, in which good looks, good dancing, and good acting worked together for the common weal.
'the story was of three simple little curate's daughters who went up to London to earn their livings, as curates' daughter must, by serving tea in a Bond Street tea shop; and how from the start they were rivals of three great big ladies of the fashionable world, and by virtue of their country freshness and innocence successful rivals. The various adventures are distributed with even skill through the lay, and so skilfully commingled with the wayside flowers of song, dance, and jest that the little piece had the harmony and consistency of a work of art in its kind. The delicacy of the roseleaf is on every touch of character, and finish of the lapidary on every facet of wit.
'Particularly to be noticed is the manner in which the chorus is handled. Instead of the lumbering, obvious accessory, lugged in and chased out, it is an integral part of the story and of the scene. The costumes - country sporting suits and lawn gowns, Dutch peasants' dress, automobile cloaks, evening garments - were of the prettiest and pleasantly varied. The three scenes, and particularly that of the tea shop - a rich and quaint Dutch interior - were all that the eye could desire.
'It must be reported that in a performance that lasted from 8 until close unto midnight there were moments, especially in the later acts, that impressed the most enthusiastic as thin and long-drawn-out. At the end of a long run a play is often thus spun out with business not vitally necessary. For a beginning here a much short version would have been better, reserving the surplus for those who will almost certainly go to see it again and again.
'In Mr. G.P. Huntley we have gained a comedian of the first order. He had not been on the stage ten seconds when he had the house at his feet. His part was that of a twentieth century Dundreary, full of amiable vanities, absurd stupidities, and obvious blundering, with an underlying of horse sense. His remarks on golf, intermingled with the lingo of billiards, threw a light of fresh humor on a subject we had thought exhausted. And they were but an incident. Never in recent memory has so long an evening of silly ass conversation been so unflaggingly amusing. Except for an early engagement in one of the first American tours, Mr. Huntley was a stranger here; but from the moment he appeared last night there was no question that he is destined to fill a place in the hearts of all American admirers.
'Mr. Maurice Farkoa, who is obviously foreign as his name, and - unless he be French - of quite as indeterminate nationality, sang and made love with the finish and exquisite humor of Parisian vaudeville comedy - a kind of piece to which the play is the nearest possible equivalent in terms of pinkly proper English taste. As a golf caddy and later as a tea shop boy, Mr. George Carroll added a welcome touch of grotesque comedy.
'But the three little maids! Miss Maggie May takes the place which Miss Edna of the same name (but no relation) held in the London production, and, it is said, is the only new-comer in the cast [sic; Elsa Ryan played Hilda Branscombe; Maggie May was a member of the chorus and understudy]. Her sisters are Miss Madge Crichton [as Ada Branscombe] and Miss Delia Mason [as Edna Branscombe]. The good looks of the trio are undoubted, but what one remembers about them is the grace of their acting and dancing, the charming and unpretentious melody of their songs.
'Altogether an almost perfect evening. And if there is too much of it - there is enough of the same to make less!'
(The New York Times, Wednesday, 2 September 1903, p.3c)

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© John Culme, 2008