Billy has been neglected. In the 117 years since his death, his celebrity has faded. And yet, he was an actor for more than thirty years, including one with D'Oyly Carte at the Savoy and on the road, and a star comedian on four Continents for twenty of them ..
It wasn't ever the habit of the Carte organisation to 'borrow' established stars from other areas of the theatre. Very occasionally, from Mrs Howard Paul to Florence St John, but never -- in the company's heyday -- I think, in the roles of the leading comedian. Frank Wyatt was probably the closest. But in 1897, Mr Carte hired Billy Elton. The all-dancing, all-singing, leading low comedian of the Gaiety Theatre, London, of Wallack's Theatre, New York, and of unlimited colonial stages. Billy played Baron Puck in La Grande-Duchesse and the Duke of Plaza Toro in The Gondoliers and, then, returned to musical comedy and America and farce for the final years of his career. Yes, his Savoy experience had come, unlike so many, not at the beginning of his career, but at the age of fifty, with a huge career and thousands of delighted notices behind him.
William ELTON [SHUTTLEWORTH, William John] (b Salford 1 May 1847; d Blackheath, Kent 27 January 1903) was the son of William Shuttleworth (surgeon) and his wife, Eliza Anderton née Brown.
In the course of the his much-interviewed life and career, Billy told his career story a good number of time to the press. It wasn't always quite the same story -- a good anecdote was not to be missed -- and, obviously, the interesting bits were included to the exclusion of the less jolly -- but I have checked it all with contemporary sources and it adds up reasonably accurately. Here's one of his summaries
|Liverpool's Adelphi in 1863|
|My WC wall ...|