Monday, December 31, 2018

Littler watch ...

I will not be getting a job on the Antiques Road Show.

But I am getting closer to the identity of the Little Watch.

When I put him back in the bureau, there was another one. Even smaller. About the size of a florin.

Sweet. Similar. But, alas, minus one aiguille. If it were supposed to have two.

Littler Watch -- which is more decorative -- does not seem to have what my friend Allister tells me are the assay marks stamped on Little Watch: just that tiny I (or is it a gamma) and a a very faint 5-digit number. I86152 or Z.

No chain, and no key, because this one winds from the bezel on the top.

And this is a lady's watch. Because it is engraved (in German), inside the case, to our dear Rudi 24 May 1901 from her parents. That's my great grandparents and my grandmother. She would have been rising fourteen years of age,

Young Rudi (extreme left)
Well, perhaps the multifaceted Allister (he knows so much about so many thing and he's only a youngster!) can decipher this one! One thing we know ... whether it began life in Vienna or not, it was there in 1901, came to New Zealand some half-century later, and snuck into my bureau a few years ago. How? Easy, that one. When Rudi died, her small all (and nothing of value) came to her only son, Fritz/Fred. When Fred died, to his wife, Nancy. When Nancy, my mother, died, I was in Europe and her belongings were brought to Gerolstein where, in my absence, the heroic Wendy stashed everything tidily away ... the diaries, the photo albums from Austria, the books, the trinkets ... I guess there are still little boxes to be opened ..

But, for now, lets find out about Rudi's watch(es)!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Little watch ... what ARE you?

A few minutes ago I opened a drawer that I haven't opened in many ages, and there was this dear little pocket watch ... not much bigger than a half-a-crown piece

It seems to be made of base metal, it has a classic dial with no markings or name, a fine chain also seemingly of base metal and a weeny brass? and iron key. Now where in heaven's name did it come from. It seems so simple, so basic ... and so small. Is it a lady's watch, maybe? Which lady?

I am almost certain this is not from the Austro-Hungarian-Jewish part of my family. It looks ... well, much more like the practical Perthshire-Scotland side. But how to know? There are no marks.

Well, the man on the Antiques Road Show whips off the back to show wonders of mechanisms. So after a few megaminutes of probing to open the back without causing damage (a fingernail and a click did it, nothing fancy) I was presented with ... a blank iron back with two holes. This is so unfashionable as to be fashionable.

I took the tiny key and put it in the top hole. It wound up! And yes, 30 minutes later it is ticking away merrily. The middle hole changes the hands. And that's it.

But hang on. There ARE marks. But not a hope in hell that my bespectacled eyes can read them. There are marks on the key. It's a number 7. And I guess the 10 or so letters on the other side are a brand name ..

Is it QNS? ... no ..

And there are also marks on the case. Impossible. Oh! Quite by accident I have discovered that if I photograph the case with my trusty Canon ... the photo shows them up quite clearly!

Stamps of a buffalo (?) then an arrow or anchor, and what looks like a letter I or a windlass .. then a third row with what .. JT? ... and then a whole lot of numbers ... 69932 over ?34.  Well, that's about as  clear as linear B to me. I know. Bunny Campione would say straight off: 67th thousandth example of this watch made in 1934 in Puddlesby on the Marsh by Fred Schwarz ...

But why does a wee watch like this have so many marks on it?  It would be fascinating to know.

You know, I think it does come from England. And I don't have a single English ancestor. I think this comes from my godmother, Miss Ethel May Christie (d Nelson 6 December 1988), sometime Latin teacher at Nelson College for Girls and paying guest in the Gänzl-Gallas house when I was born. I have an inkling that it may have been her father's. Well, there's no one left alive who would know, so ...

But it's a darling, unpretentious wee watch and, hey, I only gave one tentative twist of the key and it's still going accurately 90 minutes later.

Any help delightedly received!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Cartesian chorine ... from a Pennsylvanian pub

As I flicked on to the facebook page of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Appreciation Group today I pulled up short.

Alan Durman has been posting a series of programmes from C19th productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas. Now, I am not a G&S specialist, like others in the group, but I flatter myself that my little foray into the Savoy (et al) world and its people has, this year, turned up quite a few trumps, and ‘outed’ a few shy players from behind their noms de théâtre. Anyway, when I glance at playbills of this kind and era, normally, I know who everyone is. 

Not today. The playbill was for Patience in New York, and there were two unfamiliar ladies in the roles of Angela and Ella. Sophie Hummel and Marie Hunter. Hmm. Probably picked-up locals rather than kosher Savoyards. I check out David Stone’s page. Yes. Their careers are totally on the left-hand side of the Atlantic. So, I decided to find out what I could about ... well, Sophie, first. And, look! I did pretty well. And she had a nice little career in the musical theatre, before quitting, aged 28, for married life as the wife of a New York shop-clerk.

Sophia Louisa Hummel(l) was born in Pennsylvania 19 January 1858. Her father, Gottlieb Hummell from Württemberg and her mother Katharine née Beckley, born Switzerland, had emigrated to America in 1851, and settled initially in Philadelphia, where the first of their eight children were born. However, before too many years, they moved to Elmira, NY, where Gottlieb became landlord of the Washington Hotel and where the couple lived out their lives. A selection of Hummells is buried in the local graveyard.

Sophie started work as a vocalist in 1879 when she joined Alice Oates’s touring English comic opera troupe, and from there she went on to chorus and mostly small parts with other good companies: at Wallack’s (The Grim Goblin), with Mahn’s company, supporting Jeannie Winston (Beatrice in Boccaccio), with John Duff’s companies (Olivette, Micaela), with the Carte/Rice Billee Taylor tour, again for Carte in Les Manteaux Noirs and Patience, and in productions of The Merry War, The Merry Duchess and in Alice May’s showcase Satanella.

In 1884 she toured with the Barton comedy company, before joining the company at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall. There, she became installed as a principal lady, appearing as Sidonia in a mashup of Zehn Mädchen, kein Mann, opposite Fred Clifton in a remake of Carte’s Dr Ambrosias, credited to Wilfred Bendall and Cunningham Bridgman, in the burlesque Na-non, and as Pity-Sing in a burlesque of The Mikado. Happily, K&B photographed their production for souvenir merchandising, alas without credits! I plump for 'Braid the Raven Hair' which mean it is Yum Yum (Laura Burt) in the middle ... but which of the other two is Pity-Sing ...?

During her K&B engagement, she took time out to play with Edward Harrigan in Are You Insured? …
But Pity-Sing was apparently her last role. 28 March 1886 she wed German store-clerk, Charles Kalman, one of nine brothers of a Beekman Place, New York family who seemed to be mostly shop-clerks, and left the stage. I see them in 1900 living with Sophie’s young sister, Katherine Neville, and her husband ‘book publisher’ in New York. Charles is now a ‘silk merchant’. In 1910 they are in Brooklyn …
Sophie died in 1914. She is buried back in Elmira … Charles married again, but he died at 30 East 60th Street 18 January 1923, aged 74. 

And that is the story of Sophie Hummel(l) … 

That'll do for today ...

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Peacock plus plate glass ... a smashing Christmas ...

It was to be a quiet Christmas period. On The day, Wendy visited her spread-out family, and Minnie and I sat quietly at home with my wonderful Christmas gift from Wendy (we don't 'do' Christmas, but she often cheats a delicious little!). Minnie had her newspapers to battle, and I lolled around the C19th with my new modem (the one from Noel Leeming had blown up on 23rd)..

What else could happen?

A delightful Boxing Day (no, Sean not THAT sort of boxing!), with a Wendy-made turkey lunch (all luscious local food) and the Westport races, which restore my love of harness racing after the garish froufrou of cupday and its like.

Then its 27th.

OK. That means I've got four days of blissful nothing before PGB arrives on his annual world tour (I don't know when he works!). I shall take the little green watering can and daintily water the pansies and snapdragons ...

Did I leave a door open? Most of our doors have bird nets on them. But I was THERE on the verandah. How did he get in.

So in I bowled to refill my watering can and AHHHH! There's a very large bird on the kitchen island. OK. Quietly, quietly ..  no use. With a squawk the monstrous creature took off. He should have gone to Specsavers (except they are loathed in this house). Not out the open door but straight into the picture window ...

Wendy rushed .. how's the peacock ...? I rushed .. wtf my window! ...

The peacock, slightly stunned, waddled off and out. Leaving only a little blood and a lot of shit on my 1980s London designer couch.  I called AMI. Five gold stars for AMI. They had a glass/window man here in a couple of hours. Wendy was feeding out, so I spent my time holding the ladder with my face far too close to a cute Sikh (I can't spell the name) backside.

The widow's in, but he needs to come back because the surrounds don't fit ... will he need a ladder-holder again?

Oyyyyyyyy. But big thumbs up to AMI Insurance and to Cranfield Glass for their prompt attention.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Wave that stick, Stan! A top conductor outed.

Oft have I bewailed the minginess of the moguls of Microsoft, who in their greediness have rendered all my old notes for British Musical Theatre and The Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre unreadable. But very oddly, today, I clicked despondently on a 'dead' document from 1999, and something called Text Edit leaped up and opened it! It was a list of all births and deaths of those of my 'encyclopaedia folk' (British department) which I had failed to find in those huge bound volumes which, in those days, one traipsed up the Strand to consult. In the last 20 years, I've sussed some of these tricky fibbing folk, such as Lionel Mackinder, and some of them got their truths squeezed into the 3-volume edition of the Encyclopaedia ... but I noted one or two or more that I hadn't followed up. It seemed like the moment to try.

Fred Stanislaus was simply one of the best musical-theatre conductors of his sadly short era. That name! Did he come from Bulgaria or Khazakhstan? Nope, he was pure Worcestershire. And I got him!

STANISLAUS, Frederic [SMITH, Stanislaus] (b Kidderminster, December 1843; d Hammersmith, London, 22 November 1891).

Conductor and composer for the 19th-century British stage.

‘Stanislaus’ was born in Kidderminster, the son of carpet-weaver Henry Smith and his wife Hannah, who had the whimsy to christen their offspring Horatio, Stanislaus, Genevieve, Francesca, Helena and Vincent. I Worcestershire wonder why. Horatio went into designing carpets, but Stan from his teens, set to study music.

At first a member of the CCC Minstrels, later (1864-5) employed as ‘piano and harmonium’ with the Draytons in their Liverpool-based operatic entertainment, at London's Globe Theatre (1865) as conductor for Hollingshead’s La Fille de Madame Angot, on the road with the Corri/Thirlwall opera company (1866-7), and as accompanist for Louisa Pyne’s operetta group (1867-9),. He accompanied J M Bellew’s Shakespearian readings and appeared as a solo pianist at the Boosey Ballad Concerts and the Liverpool concerts (1870), returning to the West End as the conductor for the production of Barbe-bleue at the Alhambra (1871), and for the Criterion Theatre’s productions of Les Pres Saint-Gervais and Giroflé-Giroflà (1874-5). In a very full and top-flight career at the baton, he worked as a theatrical musical director in Dublin, Manchester and London, toured further as an operatic conductor in the British provinces, with Julia Mathews in Mrs Liston’s Giroflé-Girofla company (1875), and again in her fatal American season (1875). He was musical director at Sadler’s Wells in 1880, conducted Broadway's Pirates of Penzance and the first British tour of the show for the Carte organisation (1880-1) as well as London’s Princess Toto (1881) and Dick (1884) for Hollingshead, and fulfilled the same duties for Brough and Boucicault’s new burlesque productions in Australia (1886-7). He conducted for the Carl Rosa light opera company in Paul Jones (1889) and Marjorie (1890), and for George Edwardes for the burlesque Joan of Arc (1891), supplying such occasional songs and music as were needed along the way. He also ventured into production, putting out a tour of Little Jack Sheppard in 1890 with his third ?wife in the star rôle which she had played in Australia. His last job, before his premature death, was as musical director for the London production of Miss Decima (1891).

His one major stage work as a composer was the comic opera The Lancashire Witches, produced in Manchester to some considerable praise.

In spite of this success, however, Stanislaus did not follow it up with any further pieces of equal significance, and the bulk of his composing output consisted of ballads and dance arrangements in the popular style.

Stanislaus was ?married to burlesque actress and principal boy Fanny ROBINA [Fanny COOPER] (b London, 22 December 1861; d Nottingham, 13 February 1927), the daughter of top-flight music-hall duettists George Newman [George John COOPER d Southwark, 2 November 1871) and ‘Miss Mortimer’ (Margaret JONES, d London, 10 December 1874), who appeared in a number of musicals both in Britain (notably as the original Faust in the Gaiety's Faust Up-to-Date and on tour as Little Jack Sheppard) and in Australia (Young Fra Diavolo, Dick, Little Jack Sheppard, Ganem in The Forty Thieves) before continuing a career in the music-halls.

1867 The Lady Volunteers (Andrew Campbell) Saturday Evening Concerts, Glasgow November
1867 Poor as a Rat (Thomas Knight Summers) 1 act Kinnaird Hall, Dundee, 12 December. Originally attributed to 'Herr Wilhelm Kloss' a Birmingham pianist.
1872 How I found Crusoe (comp and arr /Alfred Thompson) Olympic Theatre 28 December
1873 LittleTom Tug, or The Freshwater Man( comp and arr/F C Burnand) Opera Comique 12 November
1879 The Lancashire Witches (R T Gunton) Theatre Royal, Manchester 20 October
1882 Vulcan, or the Hammerous Blacksmith (comp and arr/Augustus Harris, E C Rose) revised Venus Opera Comique March 23
1884 Called There and Back (comp and arr/Herman C Merivale) Gaiety Theatre 15 October
1884 Im-Patience(comp, sel & travestied/Walter Browne) 1 act Prince of Wales Theatre, Liverpool 25 August
1886 The Palace of Pearl (w Edward Jakobowski/Alfred Murray) Empire Theatre 12 June

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

J J Dallas: a very model of a Savoy Rajah

When you start trying to salvage old documents, before the mean Microsoft people render them unopenable, you find all sorts of stuff that wasn't relevant to you twenty years ago, but now...   Now, however, there is Blogland and, as Cecily Cardew sang so sweetly to her diary in one of the musical versions of The Importance of Being Earnest, 'I must write that down before I forget' ...

I don't know why I didn't include the comical J J Dallas in my Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre. I see he was on the list of first reserves. And he seems to have missed out on Wikipedia-enshrinement as well. Anyway, he had a fine career, six children, invalid wife, went bankrupt -- a typical C19th actor's story -- played a whole series of Savoy Theatre comedy roles including the role of King Paramount in Utopia (Ltd) on Broadway

and Rutland Barrington's plum part of Punka in The Nautch Girl.

Still going in 1907, as Mr Tizzle in Nelly Neil....

Oh, I should add, for the record that his name was not 'Dallas'. And he was not, as Who's Who in the Theatre would have us believe, born in 1853.

John Joseph Allan, son of John James Allan, jeweller, and his wife Cordelia née Beaumont was born in Soho 4 April 1847. And he died at Eveline Road, Forest Hill, Kent on 24 August 1915.

Now, where was I going before I took that little side-turning onto an unmade road ...

Felix the composer ...

Through one of those circumstances that leads you down long trod and half-forgotten paths, I lighted this week on my thirty year-old old writings on the musician 'Dr Hugo Felix'. And to my horror, I found a mistake! So I thought I had better investigate further. The internet? Skimpy, erroneous and copied -- no-one really seems to know anything about him -- just 'facts' culled from other folks' writings. So I thought I'd better 'do' him properly ... here is the result ...

FELIX, Hugo [HAYMAN, Felix Hugo] (b Pest, 19 November 1866; d Hollywood, 25 August 1934).

Austrian composer of musicals for four countries.

The musician and writer who called himself ‘Felix’ (and it was no secret that was a pseudonym), was born in Hungary, to an Hungarian-Viennese father, who operated as a ‘merchant’ -- ‘kommissionshändler’, ‘kaufmann’, ‘weinhändler’ (etc), -- by the name of Mori[t]z Hayman, (d Ober-Döbling 7 March 1896) and a Slovakian-Viennese mother, ‘Hülsenfrüchtenhändler’(etc) Eugenie (Jenny) Bachrich (d Vienna 1 March 1908), sister to his sometime business partner. Felix was educated in Vienna, graduated from Vienna University with a Doctorate in Science, before eschewing a chemical career in Methyläthylessigsulfosäure, in favour of one in music. 

His first Operette, Die Kätzchen, was staged in Lemberg when he was 23 years old ('eines Wiener Musikdilantetten'), and had sufficient success (‘freundliche Aufnahme’) for it to be introduced to Vienna two seasons later, by Karl Blasel, in a production at the Carltheater (8 performances). The book was crucified by the Vienna critics, but Felix was noted as ‘ein schönes Talent’. 

He had two further pieces produced in Vienna over the next decade. The first, an Operette, Husarenblut, based on Csepreghi’s Piros bugyelláris, proved scarcely successful, but he did better with the ancient Corinthian Rhodope, on which he also was credited with the lyrics, and which, after its 31-performance first run in Vienna, went on to be played by José Ferenczy’s company at Berlin's Theater des Westens (23 June 1900) and Lessing-Theater, at the Central-Theater, Dresden with Annie Dirckens in the title-role, at the Hamburg Carl-Schultze Theater, and in other central European theatres.

He extended his libretto-writing by adapting the highly successful British musical San Toy for the German-language stage, and, in his position as choirmaster, then musical director, of the Carltheater, also fiddled with both the text and music of Gilbert and Carr’s His Excellency. Interpolated numbers by H Felix. He compiled a pasticcio based on the music of Strauss’s Indigo (ad Felix), to a self-made libretto extracted from the celebrated French vaudeville Cabinet Piperlin as, variously, Folio 24 and Madame Colombe, which was announced for production in February 1902 with a royal cast, then for August 1902 then …,and he was also credited briefly with a Loreley. Neither of them, however, ultimately seems to have made it to the stage. But in November 1902, he made thoroughly good as a composer and a writer when his musical comedy, Madame Sherry, a musical version of the Paris hit Mon Oncle, premièred in Berlin, scored him what would be the biggest international hit of his career.

Following the singular success of Madame Sherry in Europe, Felix left for Britain (where his musical had, notoriously, not been successful) and was said, there, to have been commissioned by George Edwardes to compose the score for his home-made European musical play, Les Merveilleuses, to a text by Victorien Sardou, anglicized by Basil Hood. Well, that’s how the story goes. But the same piece (ad H Felix, rather than Hood) had been announced seven months earlier and scheduled for Berlin’s Komische Oper, and the composer's surviving letters seem to show that it was completed well before Edwardes came into the picture. London’s Les Merveilleuses was well reviewed, but it did only fair business at Daly's Theatre (196 performances), where very extended runs had become the norm under Edwardes's management, and a production at Paris's Théâtre des Variétés, equally critically praised, also found only limited success.

Felix's next attempt at a musical for London, a piece written on the French musical comedy/Madame Sherry lines, was another, but again unsuccessful, adaptation of Le Cabinet Piperlin, here entitled The Antelope (22 performances), and his only subsequent contributions to the musical stage during his London years seem to have been the supply of the pretty 'Or Thereabouts' as an interpolated number for Gertie Millar in The Quaker Girl, and ‘Der Umberrufen Guards' (w Leslie Stiles) sung by Robert Nainby and May de Souza in the revised The New Aladdin. In 1913 he had a share in the score of the latter-day old-style musical comedy The Pearl Girl, which proved an agreeable success as produced by Robert Courtneidge (254 performances). 

But Felix had already cast his eyes on the green green banknotes of America.

Since Madame Sherry had been Americanized for its Broadway production to the extent of dropping almost the entirety of Felix's score (three fragments remained), the composer was first represented on Broadway by a musical version of Paul Gavault's hit comedy La Petite Chocolatière, produced first in Chicago, under the title which had been given to the play in London, Tantalising Tommy. It was a 31-performance failure in New York, but Felix, soon irrevocably fixed in America, did better with Pom-Pom, a remake of the Hungarian operetta, Csibészkirály, as a vehicle for Mitzi Hájos, Lassie, a version of Catherine Chisholm Cushing's play Kitty McKay, which won enormous critical and out-of town plaudits, but found the New York public diffident, and the Chicago-born The Sweetheart Shop which, although it had only a brief Broadway life, was a decided success on the road.

Photo the property and copyright of the dedicatee's grandson

A second collaboration with Mrs Cushing produced Marjolaine, a musical version of Louis N Parker's popular play Pomander Walk, which ran 136 performances at the Broadhurst Theater and found willing American audiences, but which failed when, later, produced at London's Gaiety Theatre. His last works -- the music and songs to Russell Janney's comedy-with-songs version of Don Quixote and musical versions of the famous play Peg o' My Heart and of Margaret Mayo's Polly of the Circus, each adapted by their original author -- were less appreciated.

Music men: Oscar Hammerstein, seated, with, from left, Jerome Kern, Louis A. Hirsch, A. Baldwin Sloane, Rudolph Friml, Alfred Robyn, Gustave Kerker, Hugo Felix, John Philip Sousa, Leslie Stuart, Raymond Hubbell, John Golden, Sylvio Hein and Irving Berlin.

In his last days Felix went to Hollywood to find work as an orchestrator and conductor, but it was reported in the press that, in the seven months of his stay there, up to his death, he earned but $15.

If his professional career had only a few real highlights, his private life had been, indeed, interesting. He was, for more than a decade, from early Carltheater days, the lover of Miss Marie Halton, the colourful international musical-theatre prima donna who starred in a number of his shows. They even went through a tardy register-office marriage ceremony in Kensington, London, on 20 July 1912. 

Miss Halton’s love life is one of the more surprising such stories of the turn-of-the-century theatre. A decade of Hugo was, to all evidence, sandwiched somewhere between a selection of wealthy American businessmen and the Duke ... no less … of Orleans. But once Mary and Hugo finally got married, after ten years together, it was under curious circumstances. Just days after the event, on 25 July 1912, Felix sailed for New York on the Cedric, for the productions of Madame Sherry and Tantalising Tommy, while Marie, now retired from the stage, stayed behind at Hyde Park’s 7 Lancaster Gate. He became an American citizen in 1915. But still gave his address as Lancaster Gate! However, his temperamental letters were, by now, no longer addressed to ‘my darling little feller’, but to ‘Dear Marie’. And, soon, she had a new decidedly young companion…

The odd ‘couple’ died on opposite sides of the Atlantic, in the 1930s, he first, in what seems to have been something like poverty, and she … well, she is another story. Which I shall tell …

1890 Die Kätzchen (Albert Klischnegg, [Ernst Niedl]) Polnisches National-Theater, Lemberg 23 January; Carltheater, Vienna 19 January 1892
1894 Husarenblut (Ignaz Schnitzer) Theater an der Wien 10 March
1895 Der Herr Gouvernor (His Excellency) German version and interpolated songs (Carltheater)
1898 Sein Bébé (Eugène Labiche ad H Paul) 1 act Carltheater 15 January
1899 Madame et Monsieur Papillon (A M Willner) 1 act Hungarian Embassy Benefit 15 March
1900 Rhodope (w Alexander Engel) Carltheater 1 February
1900 San Toy German version [w Carl Lindau] (Carltheater)
1902 Madame Sherry(Pigevol’s Onkel) (w Benno Jacobson) Centraltheater, Berlin 1 November
1906 Les Merveilleuses (aka The Lady Dandies) (Victorien Sardou, Basil Hood) Daly's Theatre, London 27 October
1908 The Antelope (Adrian Ross) Waldorf Theatre, London 28 November
1912 Tantalizing Tommy (Michael Morton, Ross) Criterion Theater, New York 1 October
1913 The Pearl Girl (w Howard Talbot/Hood) Shaftesbury Theatre, London 25 September
1916 Pom-Pom (Anne Caldwell) Cohan Theater, New York 28 February
1920 Lassie (Catherine Cushing) Nora Bayes Theater, New York 6 April
1920 The Sweetheart Shop (Caldwell) Knickerbocker Theater, New York 31 August
1922 Marjolaine (Cushing) Broadhurst Theater, New York 24 January
1923 Sancho Panza (Cervantes ad Sydney Howard, Melchior Lengyel) Hudson Theater, New York 26 November
1924 Peg o' My Dreams (Caldwell/J Hartley Manners) Jolson Theater, New York 5 May
1924 Polly of the Circus (Margaret Mayo) Alcazar, San Francisco 20 October