Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Top of the bill: Gladys and Henry

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Another photo from the wonderful White studio of New York.

I'd never heard of a show called The Society Buds, neither did the names Clark and Bergmann (sic) mean anything to me.That of Jesse Lasky, of course, did, so, for all that this looked like a musical comedy picture, I guessed it probably came from a revue or even a variety show. But I thought I would just have a wee investigate ... Well, that wee investigate has led me down pathways unfamiliar. Into the fascinating world of what America oddly called 'vaudeville'. And there I have spent the whole of my day ...


The photo comes from the years 1914-1916. Those were the years during which Henry Bergman and Gladys Clark (Mrs Bergman) headlined the upmarket troupe -- two stars, eight girls, two comedy players, expensive scenery, costumes, arrangements -- playing a kind of potted musical-comedy in vaudeville houses around America. And with notable success. For some thirty years they were a top-billed fixture on variety bills, with just occasional ventures into the theatre, notably in Broadway's The Passing Show of 1917.
So, who were they? Well, in spite of his name, Henry was a kosher Brooklynite, born of a Dutch father and a German-American mother (Mary née Mallander) on 20 July 1887. And if I thought he would be easy to sort out, I was wrong. There seem to be Henry Bergmans all over the place in American 19th-20th showbiz and more than one respectable writer has confused one with the other! Gladys, in spite of the fact that her name was neither Gladys nor Clark, and that her tombstone lies as to her date of birth, proved much easier to extrude from the past. And her past was a little longer than Henry's, and rather eventful.

Ann McMahon was born in Selby, Yorkshire 7 May 1881, the daughter of a Bermondsey bricklayer named John McMahon and his wife Ellen née Flatley. I don't know why, or exactly when, all or part of the family McMahon -- Margaret, Joseph, John, Ann -- headed for America. It seems to have been around 1887. Anyway, wherever they are, I don't pick up Ann again till 1899, aged 18. She is already an 'actress', has become Annie, appropriated a middle initial 'V' and is in Boston getting married. No, not to Henry, who was at that date only 12 years old, but to a 33 year-old 'actor' named Frank Fisher from Allegheny. A year or so earlier, Frank had been doing the vaudevilles with another wife, Nettie (m Philadelphia 15 October 1889) whose name seems to have been Clark, but who worked as Nettie Crowell 'descriptive vocalist'. In 1898, they were touring together with 'The Bohemian Burlesquers'. Its all a bit complicated, but Frank was half of an act which traded as 'Fisher and Clark'. But it seems that Clark was male, and named George. The trade sheets were curiously wary about describing the act. Anyway, by 1899 Nettie and George were dead or gone, and Frank married Ann (Boston 21 May 1899) who thereafter became Gladys Clark. So the name of the act continued, and all seemed hunky dory until the couple reached Indianapolis in 1902 ..

'If the audience at the Grand Opera House misses one of the performers who is scheduled to appear, it will, perhaps, not be inclined to complain when It learns that the missing actor lies in his bed at the Lorette Hotel bleeding his life away. It is from the first act on the bill, that of Fisher and Clark, that the man is missing. He did a tramp specialty and some acrobatics, but now only the wife appears, sings two or three songs, does a hasty, but graceful dance: bows to the applause of the audience and hurries rapidly away to the bedside of her husband. If there are those in the audience who are disposed to be critical of the performance of Gladys Clark they may be kinder in their judgment when they learn that for thirty-six hours the little woman has not slept and has hardly eaten. Frank Fisher and Gladys Clark were married about three years ago, and they have been playing together on the vaudeville stage ever since. Last week they played In Chicago, leaving there Sunday night for Indianapolis. When Mrs. Fisher (the 'Miss Clark' is a stage name) woke in the sleeper, it was to find her husband covered with blood and nearly insensible. She managed to have him conveyed to the hotel, when it was found that he was bleeding from the gums, suffering from a rare and peculiar affliction. After some effort the bleeding was stopped, and Fisher and Clark headed the Grand's bill all right at the afternoon performance Monday. After the matinee the bleeding started again and Dr S H Malpas was called in. He pronounced the disease haemorrhagic diathlala, but the plain English of it was that the man was bleeding from the gums, and the flow of blood could not be stopped. All Monday night, with only brief Intervals of respite, Fisher bled. At times the flow was slow; at times the blood rushed forth in torrents; always it kept on steadily. Of course, it was out of the question for Fisher to appear yesterday afternoon, so Manager Zelgler was notified and requested to cancel the engagement. Instead. Mr. Zelgler realised that with the man ill, the couple would need all the money they could make, so he told the woman to go on by herself and do what she could to entertain the people, certain the audience would be indulgent if it only knew the facts. So yesterday afternoon Gladys Clark appeared alone, sang three songs, did a little dance and went back to her nursing... Gladys Clark is a young woman, alone In a strange city. Almost tired to death from loss of sleep and from bitter anxiety she still watches faithfully by the bedside of her husband ...'

Frank survived. The act went out again .. but sometimes it was just 'Gladys Fisher' or 'Gladys Fisher Clark'. In 1905 I spot them with Miner's American Burlesquers playing A Yankee Doodle Girl ... Well, I guess Frank died and the trades just didn't notice. He certainly disappears around 1906. And in 1907, she is still featuring with the 'American Burlesquers, in shows such as Miner's Mixed Pickles, but now alongside Henry Bergman. Bergman later said they had been wed at Camden NJ in 1906, so maybe the were. He would have been nineteen. But they got it right. They would sail past their golden wedding and now lie together in the churchyard at San Antonio, Texas, where they spent their final years.


But before that came to pass, they had a highly successful quarter of a century in show business to share.

So. Backtrack. Henry. Lots of little stories were printed in the smaller paragraphs of the theatre papers mentioning Henry, and he even got a little obituary in the San Antonio press, on his death. They tales are oddly contradictory, and I can only think that the various Henry Bergmans had already got muddled up. Fact: he was born in Brooklyn, and can be seen there as a schoolboy with his mother (widow), sister Julia (paper-boxmaker) and brother William (silkweaver) in the 1900 census. In 1910 he is 'married, actor' with Mama and William. But no Gladys. Apparently before he became 'actor' he was a newsboy on the corner of Gates Avenue and Broadway. 




They scored big in 1912 with a sketch entitled A Baseball Flirtation, topped that with a Lasky production The Trained Nurses ('If you don't want me, why do you hang around') 


and then came The Society Buds. Thirty minutes of musical sketch on the full stage. The music included 'My Old Kentucky Home' and four new songs, credited to Messrs Leo Edwards and Irving Berlin.





In 1916, they played a 'song revue' with an entire Berlin score, and his secretary Cliff Hess at the piano, in 1917 introduced 'new oriental ballad' 'From Here to Shanghai', by Berlin and in 1920 Berlin gave Henry a job in his office. However, the statement that he was 'credited with the introduction of many of Irving Berlin's tunes' including 'Always' (also claimed by others) and 'Remember' seems a touch excessive. 


1917 saw them in The Passing Show performing 'My Yokohama Maid' (Tierney/Bryant), Ted Snyder's 'Meet Me At The Station' and playing sketches, but the following year the trade press sighed that they had been 'rescued from musical comedy' and were back in their natural habitat, topping major variety bills. And that they continued to do for more than a decade longer. Latterly, Bergman managed the Milton Weil music publishers.


His obituaries claim that, as a 'veteran' he appeared in Roberta and 'starred in' The Great Waltz, but I don't see his name on the bills. They also claim that he appeared in Gus Edwardes kiddie shows, but Henry was 19 years old when Edwardes brought out School Days. A more possible tale says he made his 'debut' with Maurice Barrymore. Barrymore stopped performing when he went insane in 1901. When Henry was 13. The piece in question is named as Roaring Dan. I can't find it, but it may have been one of the sketches Barrymore played latterly in variety. 

Then, there is/are the other Henry Bergman(s). As early as 1896 there's a Henry Bergman playing a dramatic Cuban in that early example of the strong-backed American musical comedy Lost, Strayed or Stolen. Is this the same Bergman (1868-1946) who went on to become involved in American silent films? I suspect so. Even though Wikipedia says that that Henry didn't start on Broadway until La Femme à Papa in 1899. And I also wonder if this Henry-pic which adorns wikipedia's article on the film actor, may not be their Henry, but ours ...? Maybe not. Bit much chin.


Anyway, it seems as if a little bit of mythology has got attached to our Henry, at least. He and Annie (who, of course, was some seven years older than he) settled, in their retirement from the stage, in San Antonio where he 'ran the Aztec, Texas, Broadway and State Theatres for the Interstate Circuit'. He died there 6 November 1962, and Annie-Gladys 31 March 1965.

One more little puzzlement. Annie's death certificate was signed by 'Joseph McMahon', garage manager. Joseph was some sort of relation. He was living with the couple in 1920, aged 10 and born Massachusetts. Ellen née Flatley, aged 74, is there too. Later, he is listed as their son. And an actor. So, why is he not Bergman? Well, I found Joseph's death certificate, too, and there he is said to be by Thomas McMahon out of Mary Waldron. Who? Who is Thomas? Ellen didn't have one of those ...  Suffice it that he was some kind of family, and that he stuck with Henry and 'Gladys' to the end ...

              
A 1923 passport photo of the couple





So now I know (almost) all about Gladys and her Henry ... I've enjoyed meeting them. I have a feeling that they were very endearing people ...



Saturday, April 27, 2019

Photos theatrical ... puzzles aplenty


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In my attempts to identify these, some of the more enjoyable photographs which I found on e-bay yesterday, I've already posted a couple on facebook, with alas no results ... but I'm putting them on here, along with other little delights which have been identified, as a sort of blog-storage room, so that I shall be able to find them again, should a clue come up.

This lady and her show should have found a name by now, but no. It's New York. Photograph: White. Somewhere in the 1910s or 1920s. A Jewish (?) soubrette (?). I would say a small-scale show: it seems only to have eight chorus gentlemen. But the lady? Adele Astaire was suggested, but Stephen Cole says firmly it is not she (and he probably knew Adele) ... so the hunt goes on.


And how about this? Is it for real, or is it a burlesque. Could any costume designer seriously ask his period prima donna to wear this through-a-door-sideways-and-forget-stairs frock, fashioned from what is surely furnishing fabric or curtain material? And that pose? Arch or just drag-queen? Lady Bellaston? Lady Mary Carlisle? Operetta? Drama? Parody? It's White photographers again, so it can't be rubbish ...






The next two pix are English, and, again, I truthfully haven't an idea. Both are pantomimes: one Cinderella, and, I would guess, one Aladdin, from Blackpool, the vendor suggests. I like the Blackpool (?) picture: the chorines actually have proper ballet shoes on! Those were the days ..




The next picture I have managed to date. Leicester Square with Stagg and Mantle and the old Empire Theatre, before it got demoted by MGM to being a cinema, visible. The year is 1902, because one can see that the Empire is showing Our Crown, a bit of hip-hip-hooway scenic spectacular, inspired by the forthcoming coronation.




More edifying was the 1927 Broadway production of Kálmán's Zirkusprinzessin. Guy Robertson starred as 'Mister X' and Gloria Foy was the soubrette, Mabel Gibson. The horse was apparently called Fred.


From an earlier period come three cartes de visite. The first is from one of the French opéra-bouffe troupes which visited New York during the boom for such entertainments. Paola Marié and Madame Angèle as Clairette and Lange in the celebrated Quarreling Duet in the incomparable La Fille de Madame Angot. I couldn't find a photo of this scene when I wanted one for a couple of my books, so I'm saving this one!


Another lady I couldn't find was Lizzie St Quinten, a British musical performer who distinguished herself on both sides of the Atlantic and, confusingly, then apparently became Mrs John Wood. In 1879 she sang in Les Cloches de Corneville at the Globe, later in The Naval Cadets and Madame Favart, at the Alhambra in Mefistofele III, Jeanne, Jeanette et Jeanneton, at the Comedy in The Mascotte and Billee Taylor at the Gaiety. In the 1880s she sang with the Hess opera company in America. She ran a St Quinten comic opera troupe through America and Canada in the mid-1880s, was three years in Augustin Daly's company, then returned to England, in 1891, and continued to appear in variety and pantomime. In 1900 she toured the play The Little Intruder before being snapped up by the George Edwardes organisation to play character roles in his touring companies. My last sighting of her on the stage in at Manchester, in panto, in 1908. And who was she? The Elizabeth St Quintin born 27 October 1852 in Tottingham, Lancs ... or


Mathilde Sessi was no such a problem. She is one of the operatic stars whom I selected for thorough biographical treatment in my latest opus, Victorian Vocalists. Most photos of her emphasise her extravagantly long blonde hair, so it was nice to find this one of her (as Ophelia?) which shows us, instead, her face!


And lastly a 'theatre' which was, for a while, part of my life. The lovely little Garnier opera house at Monte Carlo is snuggled away inside the Casino building, just a hundred metres from my sometime home. I walked past it quasi daily, and on one occasion (I cant remember why) got to sing from its stage. The annual opera season there, alas, was brief, and I can, alas, remember only two performances there. Mirella Freni in La Traviata and Janis Martin and ?Lisa della Casa in Rosenkavalier. One of my most unfavourite operas and one of my favourites. Both gained from the size of the auditorium, but I remember little else ...

But all that was a very long time ago ... if not quite as long ago as this photo. Monte Carlo was still its once-glamorous self at the dawn of the 1960s. You could still stroll gloriously along here ... until the first of the grues (cranes, not prostitutes) put in an appearance and the destruction of that Victorian jewel that was Monte Carlo  began...


Ah, me, memories ...

Friday, April 26, 2019

A Swiss Mys-tery.


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A little gem-let in today's breakfast-time e-bay trawl.

Up to now I've solved much of this 150-year-old photo's identity. But I'm still lacking one important element, so I'm going public in the hope that some French scholar of C19th theatre and opérette can come up with the missing piece.

It's labelled 'Women in costume dressed as man w kettle and chef fun antique CDV'. Well, the gentlemen in question mightn't be very obtrusively masculine, but they are men if, I think, rather young ones.


What this is, is a Swiss 'summer show' photo. In the summers of the 1860s (and well beyond), when the Parisian theatres closed, its actors, singers, musicians et al took engagements at the summery spa and seaside spots. Some of the grandest venues hired genuine stars and produced full-scale dramas and operas, with which to entertain their high-class clientele, but your average holiday place would have an orchestra, and a small group of actors and singers, who with maybe the help of the occasional 'guest' would provide light-hearted fare to add to the balls and concerts which were such an important part of 'the season'.

This picture comes from one of those seasons, in the years 1868-9, at the Swiss spa town of Yverdon-les-Bains. That didn't take any puzzling out. It's written on the verso of the card, along with the names of the seven actors of the company. I'm afraid none of them is familiar to me. I don't think Yverdon ran to the glitteracti of the Bouffes-Parisiens.


When I first looked at the photo, I was puzzled. The man with the beard looked perfect for the kettle-maker, Marcachu, in Le Rose de Saint-Flour. But his rival, in that popular little 1-acter opérette, is a shoemaker, not a cook. And it can't be changed, because the fact is central to the plot. So, what was this scene ...

Then I looked at the back, and the first thing that grabbed my eye was the word 'Marcachu'. Bingo. I was right. Well, half right. So who is the chef, Soufflé? Where does he come from? He looks just like Drogan from Geneviève de Brabant. It would help if I could decipher the words in brackets, which are undoubtedly the name his show. Secret ... what?

So, alas, this is clearly not a scene from The Rose of St Flour. Its either a composite photo of one actor in his two roles in a spectacle coupé, or two of the company in their favourite roles ...

But it is a delicious glimpse of provincial theatricals, far away from the bright lights and glory of the city theatres, in the 1860s. And, now that I've semi-identified it ... I wonder how long it will be before someone shells out the $65US for this bit of ancient Offenbachiana, and how long before it turns up in a book ...



Thursday, April 25, 2019

The fisherman-poet of Gorleston, Suffolk

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Some time around 1890, a young fisherman from Suffolk paid out his hard earned pennies to the London Stereoscopic Company for the printing of this advertising card



The fisherman poet? another John Clare? Or another William McGonagle? Or ... so, while the chimney-sweep was occupying my living room, I thought I'd have a wee peep back to the 1880s and 1890s to see what the world had to say about Mr Hoyle and his rhymes. And I found ... nothing.

But I persisted a little, and finally the 1871 census rendered up a young William [Thomas] Hoile (b 1862), living in Gorleston with his mother Maria (née Betts) and his younger brothers and sisters. Father is not at home, because father is a fisherman.


By 1881, father has given up the sea and become a 'licensed hawker', and it is now the younger generation who have become the fishermen. And, at some stage, the eldest son began writing verse. I am certain that if one had access to the local papers of the period, they would hold some lines bearing the name of Hoile or, as he preferred latterly, Hoyle, but I have not succeeded yet in finding any. All I have found is a reference to his 'Fishermen's Alphabet' and weather verses in the Suffolk Archives, and a few mentions, in the early 1900s, of the Alphabet being recited by local gents at the penny readings and amateur concerts of Lowestoft and environs.

William wasn't around to hear them. Our last sighting of him is in the 1891 census. 23 High Street, Gorleston, houses mother and three siblings: William is at 53 Charlotte Street, lodging alongside Charles Cox, 55, wheelwright in the home of the widow Goreham, shopkeeper. He's still a fisherman. And doubtless a poet.

I don't know what happened. Only a death certificate would tell us for sure. But in August 1892 the fisherman-poet died at the Walrond Smack-boys Home, South Dene Road, at the age of 31.

The lyre is stilled ... but his advertising card lives on ...

Yarmouth fishermen

PS The fate of the poet is detailed in the Norfolk News of 3 September 1892. Alas, the British Library will only allow you to read it if you pay ... sad ... ah! the cost of knowledge in England ..



And twenty minutes later there arrives from ....  Ireland ...


Thank you, Dr Annie Stanyon Ley ....

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Why ... why did they die?

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I've thrown myself into our family history with a vengeance over recent autumnal weeks. And I've made enormous headroads into the Austro-Hungarian Jewish side of things. The Ganzl family tree has sprouted all sorts of hundred-and-fifty years old branches which I had never thought to discover. But now it is winter. Time to fly to my Winter Palace by the sunny seaside at Yamba. And to give this fascinating journey into the past a rest. To let it mull ....

But I'll say my temporary goodbye with one more little query ...

When John and I were little, we didn't quite understand about ancestors. 'All dead', father would say shortly. Mother occasionally mentioned her Scottish grandparents. You had to catch father off-guard to get a little story out of him. Why had he changed his name? We know, now, that it was because the unspeakable word 'Jewish' was involved.

We winkled out that his father's parents had died young. His uncles had been brought up by an Aunt.   After we got rid of the myth that they'd died in a car crash in Switzerland (in the 1880s? hardly), we came out with the story that Julie Gansl (sic) had died, and then Adolf had followed, shortly after, 'of a broken heart'.  It happens. But not usually when the folk are 40 years old. Anyway, the facts of their deaths were there. The unmarked graves in the Zentralfriedhof bear their ashes. The Währing Todesbücher hold the registrations. And they are simple enough to decipher, because I know what they say. Except for one column. The last. Cause of death.

Here's Julie's ..


Is that Krebsige .. something? Cancer?



And here is Adolf's ...




Gosizmpsorgfluss????

Hopefully somebody can put the Swiss carcrash and the broken heart into the realm of fiction for all time ...

PS Ten minutes later! All solved! Its that Marie-Theres Arnbom again, and Simon Srebrny and the wonderful folk of Jewish Genealogy Portal.
Julie indeed died of cancer ('Kresbische entartung der Organer') and Adolf of 'Gehirnschlagfluss'. A stroke. At forty. So maybe the broken heart story has an element of truth to it ...



Saturday, April 20, 2019

A grave day ...

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Well, at last I know. After years of wondering. Great-grandmother Julie Ganzl lies in an unmarked grave in the Vienna Zentralfriedhof.   Sad, but comprehensible. She and Adolf were broke. But now, at least, I know. The gap in the line ... that's she.




But today -- oddly enough, my father's birthday -- brings a glorious heap more ancient evidence of his family. My friends Georg Gaugusch and Marie Theres Arnbom visited the village of Mór last year, and as they are reputed Jewish-genealogical scholars, they brought back with them a welter of photographs of the tombs in the local Jewish graveyard ...








Alas, although in my youth I delved into Latin and Greek inscriptions, and even ventured a touch of Linear B, Hebrew is a closed book to me, so I can read only stones like that of NAFTHALI LÖWY who are good enough to add a little German or Hungarian.

Wait a mo. Napthali Löwy? I know that name. Hasten to Geni. 'Nafthali Löwy is your third great uncle'. Oh wow, and there is his wife Elizabeth .. geborene GANSL ...  'third great aunt' ....  




and here is Lotti Schlesinger, third cousin


Lájos Gansl, second cousin twice removed, and his mother Teni ...



and, I need a whisky, here is Leni Gánsl, née Lippmann. My direct great-great grandmother. Died of tuberculosis in 1886 


Whisky opened ... on we go! Well, the Gansl/Ganzl grave markers have been sort of modest alongside some of the splendid monuments of their concitoyens. But here, at last, is a showy one. 



Mór Ganzl. Died, 1902 eh. Aged 60? Hmm. I'm pretty sure this was Moritz the son of 'Hermann'  (Abraham Hirsch Gansl) who married Emma Mandl and was a bit of a personage at births and circumcisions. Not sure within a year or two of the 'aged 60', but those Hungarians are usually right. He was our gg Abraham-Adolf's cousin. I'll keep on looking! And YES! Here is Emma!!!!!



But what is this? Auschwitz? The wife of F Viktor Gansl ...  I don't have a Viktor yet ... and I have too many Auschwitzes ...  I'll carry on through the graves of more civilised days ..

Here is poor Ottilie (first cousin thrice removed), who died at twenty three ...


And here is gggrandfather's brother 'Isák' and his wife Hany née Bader ...



and their eldest son, 'Henrik'


Well, if poor Adolf-Abraham and Julie lie in unmarked graves in Vienna, cousin Henrik, who stayed home, left himself a fine monument ...

So did Moritz Grünfeld, who, Geni tells me, is my first cousin thrice removed's wife's father ..



There pile is getting smaller, but here's another important one. Regina, daughter of Josef and Leni (above), and thus the eldest sister of my great grandfather Adolf-Abraham sans-grave. Regi married Sandor Schlosz and three of her children survived to adulthood ..



and her husband


I'm sure I've missed some. The larger number of the inscriptions are in Hebrew ... If great-great-grandma Leni is there, I'd expect husband Josef Gánsl (b 1807) to be there too ....

And wait a moment, I've got a stray. When does THIS lady fit in ...?


Pause, for the reassembling of thoughts! Ah! Got her. Philipp, uncle of my Abraham-Adolf, Ganzl married Julie Schönberger of Mór, daughter Betti in 1851 etcetera.  Julie died 21 February 1875 ...

And here's F Viktor. He I can't fit in ... maybe he wandered in from Lovaszbereny ...?


No. Here he is in 1924, in Mór ... a general merchant .. along with, good heavens, that's Emma Mandl! Oh dear, they would both be dead within the year ..