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Footlight Notes Weblog
Wednesday, 23 November 2005
Helen Barry
Many thanks to Josephine Short for pointing out that the youngest daughter of her husband's great, great, great grandfather, the English actress Helen Barry, was born on 5 January 1840 rather than some thirteen years later as originally stated on Footlight Notes. JC

Posted by footlightnotes at 10:39 AM GMT
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Saturday, 1 October 2005
Archeophone's 'Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry'
A friend has written suggesting that I take a look at the details of a double CD soon to be released by Archeophone Records, titled 'Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922.' These discs include such rare treasures as recordings by Cousins & DeMoss (1898), George W. Johnson (various, 1890s), and Bert Williams and George W. Walker with their delightful if somewhat eccentric rendering of 'My Little Zulu Babe' (New York, November 1901), which they included in their show, Sons of Ham. In fact, the whole of Archeophone's catalogue is worth a look. - JC

Posted by footlightnotes at 10:00 AM BST
Updated: Saturday, 1 October 2005 10:01 AM BST
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Saturday, 23 July 2005
The British Music Hall Song - an exhibition
The Bodleian Library, Oxford, here in England has mounted a fascinating exhibition entitled 'Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay: The British Music Hall Song, 1850-1920.' It is to run until 29 October this year. Postcards, a CD and various other related items are available from the Library's shop. Further information. - JC

Posted by footlightnotes at 4:34 PM BST
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Thursday, 10 February 2005
Leann Richards's History of Australian Theatre site and Carrie Moore
Leann Richards has very kindly drawn attention to her interesting History of Australian Theatre site. Her most recent articles are two (part 1 and part 2) devoted to the Australian actress Carrie Moore, who also found fame in London. - JC

Posted by footlightnotes at 2:42 PM GMT
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Thursday, 23 September 2004
Recent searches on Footlight Notes
Recent searches on Footlight Notes include the names of G.H. Elliott ('The Chocolate Coloured Coon"), a favourite on the British music hall stage, and Charles Edward Clarke. JC

Posted by footlightnotes at 3:32 PM BST
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Thursday, 16 September 2004
Latest searches on Footlight Notes
The most recent searches by visitors to Footlight Notes have been for the English actress and vocalist Evie Greene (1876/78-1917), whose nephew was the actor Richard Greene (1918-1985), remembered by many for playing the title role in the popular television series, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-1960); the American actor Hale Hamilton, husband of the actress and singer Grace La Rue whose wonderful recording 1914 recording of Elsa Maxwell's 'A Tango Dream' is a revelation; the promising young Welsh actress Gaynor Rowlands, who died tragically young from appendicitis in 1905; and the American actress and singer Ida Adams. Among the searches, inexplicably, I also find the name of the Welsh preacher Evan Roberts, a man not usually associated with popular entertainment. JC

Posted by footlightnotes at 11:24 AM BST
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Sunday, 12 September 2004
Mamie May
'I have been trying for ages to find the lyrics and music to an old Music Hall song Mamie May....not Maggie....It was sung by G H Elliott, I wonder if you can help. I recently bought a CD with it on but cannot understand some of the words and I'm not clever enough to learn the tune without the "dots".

So writes a recent visitor to Footlight Notes but I can't reply to him direct because his message arrived without a return address. My answer is therefore as follows:

G. H. Elliott was by no means alone in singing and recording this song. Lil Hawthorne recorded it in London as early as 1904 and you will find various song sheets of it featuring the photographs of a number of different singers. As regards the words, you are in luck because one of the singers in question - Carrie Moore - happened to be Australian. The National Library of Australia has scanned its copy, which you'll find by clicking 'thumbnails' when you arrive at this link. JC

Posted by footlightnotes at 11:23 AM BST
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Friday, 25 June 2004
Patrick O'Connor's 'Gaiety Girls' talk
Patrick O'Connor's talk, 'Gaiety Girls', at the national Portrait Gallery yesterday was a great treat. He began with a tinted photograph by Bassano of Gabrielle Ray posed on a tiger skin, accompanied by an explanation of the rise in popularity of celebrity portraits in Victorian and Edwardian London. Then, passing from the emergence of Gaiety Girls, the so-called 'Big Eight' in their revealing costumes of fleshings and abbreviated jackets, who were the front row chorines at the old Gaiety Theatre and their more demurely attired sisters of the mid 1890s and later, he spoke of the transition from old-fashioned burlesque to musical comedy and operetta. This was the springboard for his real subject: the careers and personalities of a few outstanding actresses (he went out of his way, to a sigh of relief from his audience, to eschew the politically correct 'female actor'), all of whom were stars of the lyric stage during the early years of the 20th Century. These were Gertie Millar, Ada Reeve, Gaby Deslys, Cicely Courtneidge and Evelyn Laye.
Gertie Millar, that imp of vivacity whose memory dominates the Edwardian phase of the Gaiety's history, was represented by some well-chosen photographs and a snatch from a 1939 broadcast, made long after her retirement, of her singing her 1902 hit, 'Keep Off the Grass.' (The latter is available on Tony Barker's recently issued Gaiety Girls CD.)
It was difficult to tell who among Patrick's subjects was his favourite, but clearly Ada Reeve might easily have headed the list. He spoke of the wide range of her work and the extraordinary length of her career with obvious warmth. Again, he displayed some good photographs and played a telling recording, but his trump was being able to show a scene from the 1952 film, I Believe in You. Here Miss Reeve 'stole the show' as eccentric Mrs Crockett, a former artist's model, making a reluctant Cecil Parker look at her album of photographs of herself in her heyday. 'Is this you?' asks Parker incredulously, pointing to a particularly beautiful image; she replies, her elderly face filling the screen, 'Why? Don't you recognise me?' It was the cue for the stoniest of hearts to melt.
Next came the adorable Gaby Deslys, a French star of the musical theatre on both sides of the Atlantic who died tragically young at 39. Patrick thought that history had been unkind to her because by all contemporary accounts her talents far exceed her latter-day reputation as merely a pretty showgirl, famed for her beautiful, often wildly fanciful costumes. He played one of only three recordings she is known to have made, the exceedingly rare 'La Parisienne', made in London in 1910. Although she appeared in several films only a fleeting thirty seconds appears to have survived and this Patrick was able to show. It was a wonderful moment, when we were watching what appeared to be a giant flower. It was one Gaby's huge headdresses. It moved, revealing underneath her smiling face and flashing eyes - and then she was gone. All too brief, of course, but a thrill nevertheless.
Patrick also showed several early photographs of Cecily Courtneidge, an actress whose work on stage and film is still fondly remembered by many. Although her father, the theatrical impresario Robert Courtneidge responsible for staging The Arcadians, The Pearl Girl and other successful musicals, was keen for her to become a dramatic actress it was as an effervescent comedienne that she excelled. Patrick played her excellently absurd tongue twisting sketch wherein as a Mrs Blagdon Blogg she tries to order 'Two Dozen Double Damask Dinner Napkins' from a bemused haberdasher.
Last but by no means least on Patrick's list was the beautiful and talented Evelyn Laye. He let us look at several photographs of her from the Bassano archives, including one taken in 1917 that drew gasps of admiration. Not only was she physically striking she also had a remarkable singing voice that she used to great effect as the star of a number of highly successful musical shows. Patrick chose to play us a rare recording of her singing 'The Call Of Life' from Noel Coward's Bitter Sweet, and to show us a scene from the 1934 film, Evensong, whose cast included such luminaries as Emlyn Williams, Alice Delysia, Conchita Supervia and Browning Mummery. Here she sang two songs, one of which was Paul Rubens's 'I Love the Moon' that he had written for that other prima donna of the musical stage, his friend Phyllis Dare.
Patrick O'Connor wears his considerable knowledge lightly and I am sure that I wasn't alone in wishing that he had spoken for another hour and shown many more photographs. As it was he threw much needed light onto an often neglected area of theatrical history. Why, someone asked afterwards, hasn't a book been published to accompany the NPG's current 'Gaiety Girls' display? Why indeed! - JC

Posted by footlightnotes at 1:23 PM BST
Updated: Monday, 28 June 2004 6:11 AM BST
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Sunday, 20 June 2004
Gertie Millar, Ada Reeve, Gaby Deslys, Evelyn Laye and others at the NPG
Patrick O'Connor will be at the National Portrait Gallery this week, to discuss the lives of some of the early 20th Century actresses featured in the Gallery's current exhibition 'Gaiety Girls: Footlight Favourites from the 1900s - 1920s.' His talk will take place on Thursday at 1.10pm. Follow this link for further details.

Posted by footlightnotes at 5:50 PM BST
Updated: Sunday, 20 June 2004 5:50 PM BST
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Tuesday, 15 June 2004
Cora Goffin and Anthony Ainley
News of two theatrical deaths finds its way into London newspapers today: the actress Cora Goffin (widow of the theatrical impresario Emile Littler), aged 102 on 10 May; and the actor Anthony Ainley (a son of the celebrated Shakespearean actor Henry Ainley (1879-1945)), aged 66 on 3 May.

Posted by footlightnotes at 10:22 AM BST
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