Sunday, February 28, 2021

Players of the American musical theatre: 1920s

A little selection of photographs from American musicals of the 1920s .... and occasionally 1910s ..

The first pair are from what might better be called an 'Americanised' musical, as it was a botched version of of a German piece:

RIQUETTE Operette in 3 acts by Rudolf Schanzer and Ernst Welisch. Music by Oscar Straus. Deutsches Künstlertheater, Berlin, 17 January 1925.

 First produced by Heinz Saltenburg at the Berlin Deutsches Künstlertheater, Riquette starred Käthe Dorsch as the Parisian telephone-girl of the title. Riquette is a poor lass with a young brother to support, so when she gets a proposition from well-off young Gaston, she says `yes'. The proposition is, however, an odd one. Riquette is to be a ‘beard’, his mistress only in appearance, to cover up his affair with the married Clarisse. Clarisse sets off for a holiday in colourful parts (a second act must take place in colourful parts, and this time it is a spa in the Pyrénées) and Gaston and Riquette follow at an almost discreet distance, but the lady's husband is not wholly fooled. He hires the little telephone attendant Picasse to follow Madame. Picasse disguises himself as an Albanian Prince for the purpose, only to discover, as the fun starts to fizz, that there is a vengeful and real Albanian on his heels. Needless to say, by the end of the evening, Riquette has replaced Clarisse in Gaston's affections.

 Riquette had a goodish Berlin run of three and a half months before giving over the Deutsches Künstlertheater stage to Hugo Hirsch's Monsieur Trulala and then to Straus's Teresina with the other major star of the Berlin musical stage, Fritzi Massary, at its head, but thereafter it had a rather curious career. It doesn't seem to have headed right away for Vienna, yet it was promptly produced in both Britain and in America, albeit with rather strange results.

 The American version (ad Harry B Smith) was originally announced to star Britishers Stanley Lupino and June, but in the event it was Vivienne Segal who was in the title-rôle when the show opened at Detroit, only to be replaced by Mitzi as Riquette wended towards Broadway. It wended slowly, for E Ray Goetz was taking the same route with Naughty Cinderella (a version of the French musical comedy Pouche) and the two pieces were said (although it is difficult to see any more than the already well-used fake-girlfriend motif in common) to be based on the same original. Since the musical content of Naughty Cinderella was limited to Irene Bordoni's usual handful of songs, however, Goetz’s production was adjudged a play and the `musical' rights held by the Shuberts were apparently not infringed. The Shuberts retorted by making their Riquette into a Naughty Riquette (even though she didn’t seem to do anything naughty), but they kept her away from Broadway, playing lucrative dates such as Philadelphia, until more than a year had passed. Once the now `naughty' show arrived in New York, with Straus's score, by this stage, decorated with extra numbers by Al Goodman and Maurie Rubens, it was in a state to play for 11 weeks.

 In Britain, Jimmy White produced the show (ad Gertrude Jennings, Harry Graham) with Annie Croft in the title-rôle and Jay Laurier heading the comedy, with a run at Daly's Theatre in view. Unconvinced by a pre-London Christmas season played in Scotland, he abandoned Riquette in the frozen north, but comedian Billy Merson picked it up, chopped it up, and put such pieces of it as he fancied into a show which he called My Son John (ad Graham John, Desmond Carter, Graham, add nos Vivien Ellis) which, with Miss Croft again featured, eventually played for 255 performances at the Shaftesbury Theatre (17 November 1926).

 Hungary got a production at the Városi Színház (ad Jen*o* Hoppe) which seems to have been more faithful.

USA: Detroit 17 August 1925, Cosmopolitan Theater 13 September 1926; Hungary: Városi Színház Rikett 4 December 1925; UK: Kings Theatre, Glasgow 21 December 1925; Austria: Raimundtheater 1927 

These photos show Stanley Lupino, and Mitzi, with juvenile man Alexander Grey and Audrey Maple as the other 'other woman'.

HAJOS, Mitzi [HAJÓS, Magdalena, aka Mizzi] (b Budapest, 27 April 1891; d New Preston, Conn, June 1970). A little, spitfiring soubrette who moved from Europe to America, and was there turned into a durable musical comedy star.

 After attending drama school in Budapest, Mizzi Hajós made her earliest appearances on the stage at the local Magyar Színház (A Gyurkovics lányok 1908) and then in Vienna. She played in the Leo Ascher burlesque Hut ab! (1909, Lotte) at Venedig in Wien and starred as Mary Gibbs in the Viennese version of Our Miss Gibbs at the Établissement Ronacher before -- at the age of 19 -- being taken to America.. She appeared there at first in vaudeville in an adaptation of the Ronacher burlesque of Rostand’s Chantecler called A Barnyard Romeo (1910) playing a little white pheasant (‘in coagulated English’) to Stella Mayhew’s duck and William Morris’s rooster, and moved on to play Fifi Montmartre in the Shuberts' revusical La Belle Paree (1911) at the Winter Garden, and to tour in Christie MacDonald's star rôle of Princess Bozena in Werba and Luescher's Broadway hit The Spring Maid (Die Sprudelfee), and had her first Broadway lead rôle in the same producers' production of De Koven's Her Little Highness (1913, Anna Victoria). That show, and the reduction of it, Queen Ann, played by the little singer on the vaudeville stage, disappeared quickly, but her next appearance, in the title-rôle of the extremely Hungarian Sári (Der Zigeunerprimás, 1914) hoisted her briskly to star status. Over the following years, with the aid of Sári impresario Henry Savage, she staunchly maintained that status, billed as the `baby star', `the paprika primadonna' and finally, from 1916, simply as `Mitzi' (‘Americans don’t know how to pronounce either of my names..’) through a series of mostly unexceptional rôles and shows which nevertheless packed in the audiences in the long series of tour dates she trouped year after year.

Anne Caldwell and Hugo Felix's Pom-Pom (1916, Paulette), a piece adapted for her benefit from the Hungarian operett Csibészkirály, had her cast as another Continental heroine, this time an actress mistaken for the pickpocket she plays on stage, Head Over Heels (1918, Mitzi Bambinetti) had her playing an acrobat to Jerome Kern music, while Zelda Sears and Harold Levey's Lady Billy (1920, Countess Antonio) cast her as an aristocrat disguised for much of the evening in boy's clothes. The same team of writers dipped into fantasy with a second vehicle for her in The Magic Ring (aka Minnie an' Me, 1923, Polly Church). A move to the Shubert management for Oscar Straus's Naughty Riquette (Riquette, 1926, Riquette Duval) gave her some worthwhile music and yet another long and successful tour, whilst The Madcap (1928, Chibi) cast the now 37-year-old star alongside Sidney Greenstreet as a teenager pretending to be 12 in a musical version of Régis Gignoux and Jacques Théry's Parisian play Le Fruit vert. She returned to Broadway for the last time as a star as Sári in a 1930 revival, and thereafter appeared only as a featured player on the non-musical stage. In her retirement she worked in the offices of the Shubert organisation, until she was firmly (and unwillingly) retired in 1952.

 Mitzi was married to stage and screen actor Boyd Marshall (1885-1950) who played alongside her in Lady Billy (John Smith) and The Magic Ring (Tom Hammond).

LUPINO, Stanley [HOOK, Stanley] (b London, 15 May 1894; d London, 10 June 1942). Startled-looking little star comedian and author of two decades of British musicals.

 The son of dancer George LUPINO [George Emanuel Samuel Lupino HOOK] and a member of a famous family of dancers and acrobats, Lupino worked as a child in an acrobatic act and in pantomime, and as a young man in revue, variety (his first musical comedy appearance being in the one-act Go to Jericho in a variety house) and at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in animal rôles in pantomime. He had his first good musical-comedy rôle in 1917 at the age of 24 supplying the supporting comedy in the Gaby Deslys vehicle Suzette (Tibbs) and he made a notable success later the same year in the principal comic part of Arlette (Rono) in which he made the hit of the evening with his performance of Ivor Novello's  song `On the Staff'.

 Established as a leading comic, he mixed musicals and revues over the years that followed, appearing at the Gaiety in The Kiss Call (1919, Dr Pym), in Oh! Julie (1920, t/o Mumps), His Girl (1922, James Hicks) and Cochran's remade Phi-Phi (1923, Mercury), before making his American début alongside Vivienne Segal (pre-Broadway) and later Mitzi in the local version of Oscar Straus's (NaughtyRiquette (1925/6, Théophile Michu). He remained in America to play in the Jenny Lind biomusical The Nightingale (1927, Mr Carp). During this period he won his first West End credit as a writer when he supplied some material to C B Cochran's many-handed musical version of the famous comedy Turned Up.

 Back in Britain, he was seen in the farcical Up with the Lark on the road before he teamed up with rising producer Laddie Cliff as co-librettist and co-star of the new style dance-and-laughter musical So This is Love (1928, Potiphar Griggs). The piece was a substantial success, and many of the team it created continued together over the following years, playing in a number of further shows in the same vein, written and directed by Lupino, produced by Cliff and starring the pair as chief comedians (Jerry Walker in Love Lies, Reggie Powley in The Love Race, Percy Brace in Sporting Love, Tommy Teacher in Over She Goes, Bertie Barnes in Crazy Days) with decided success.

 Lupino also rewrote the already rewritten libretto of the American musical So Long, Letty! for Cliff, in an unsuccessful attempt to get it into shape for town; wrote, directed and starred in Hold My Hand (1931, Eddy Marston); wrote and then rewrote Paste/That's a Pretty Thing, which was ultimately played at Daly's Theatre without him in the cast and without equivalent success, and was credited with the `book' to the wartime revue Funny Side Up (1940) produced at His Majesty's Theatre with a score made up of a mass of songs mostly culled from the backlists of American publishers.

 After his winning partnership with Cliff and their series of shows together was ended by the little producer-dancer's premature death, Lupino went on to star at the Hippodrome in The Fleet's Lit Up (1938, Horatio Roper) and took the leading comic rôle in his own Hollywood saga, Lady Behave (1941, Tony Meyrick, also director). But he himself was taken ill during the run of this last show, and died at the age of 48. He was represented posthumously as an author in two further shows, a remake of That's a Pretty Thing calledLa-di-da-di-da and The Love Racket, both successfully produced by his cousin, Lupino Lane, in 1943.

 Lupino worked widely in early British musical films, both as an author and an actor, writing the screenplay with Arthur Rigby and Frank Miller for the cinema version of Love Lies and starring in that piece as well as in the screen versions of The Love RaceHold My Hand and Over She Goes.

 Lupino's wife Connie EMERALD [née O’SHEA] (b ?1889, d December 1959) appeared in supporting rôles in several musicals in the provinces (The Belle of New YorkOur Miss Gibbs, Kathie in The King's Bride, Bon Bon in The Algerian Girl), in Australia (The Swiss Express), in London (The Prince of PilsenNobody's Boy, and alongside her husband in the majority of his 1920s and 1930s shows) and in New York (Naughty Riquette). 

MAPLE, Audrey [SCHROEDER, Elsie] (b Trenton, NJ 16 February 1888; d Greenwich, Conn 18 April 1971) played for thirty years on the musical-comedy stage in America. The daughter of musician cum restaurant manager,  Robert Schroeder and his wife Malvina Lavinia née Maple, she began her career as understudy to Louise Gunning in Tom Jones, played on the Poli circuit (The Pianophiends 1907, A The Love Waltz, 1908) and then moved to New York featured as Chrysea ('I Like London') in the American production of The Arcadians in 1910, and as Geraldine in The Firefly, duetting 'Sympathy' with Melville Stewart. She played in Madame Sherry, Katinka, High Jinks, Peggy, The Dream Maiden and in 1914 she teamed with Fletcher Norton in vaudeville The Last Tango. Which makes it rather strange that one finds her in the New York census of 1915 listed as Mrs George E Griffths, wife of an English broker and a housewife! The housewiving (and Mr Griffiths, 'manager in investment securities' whom she sued for divorce for desertion in 1928) evidently didn't last long, for in the years that followed she featured in such shows as the vaudevile skit Miss Captain Kidd, the musicals Tonight's the Night, Molly O ('AEsop was a very moral man'), Goodnight Paul, Oh so Happy in Chicago, as leading lady of Her Regiment opposite Donald Brian, as Mercedes in the Winter Garden Monte Cristo jr, Tangerine, Hitchy Koo of 1922Princess April, Naughty Riquette, My Princess, Sunny Days, Angela and The Street Singer around America, all the time shearing years of her age and apparently living the life of a good time girl. In 1924-5 she was raided by the police, and was cited as co-respondent in the divorces of two New York millionaires. The marriage to Griffiths produced a daughter, Audrey who died, aged 3, on 22 September 1919. Her second marriage, in her fifties, to Ernest Arthur Zadig (2 October 1842), engineer, was more enduring.

Of Alexander Grey, I can discover little. Of Mitzi's leading man in this tour of Lovely Lady rather more.

Jack SQUIRES [SQUIRES or SQUIER, John Joseph] (b Camden, New Jersey 26 February 1890; d 109 West 45th St, New York 21 June 1938) had a consistent career as a musical comedy and revue juvenile. He was voted always a pleasant performer who owed, perhaps, much of his success to his easy manner and his good looks.

I first spot him, through 1917-8, as the juvenile leading man in Poli's musical theatre stock company, and playing a double act with one Dorothy Arthur. Mr Squier-Squire was apparently a married man, so maybe Miss Arthur was Mrs Dorothy Squires. (Oh, dear!). He toured in the George White Scandals and was cast for his first New York (supporting) role as Bryce Forrester in Pitter-Patter. His credits over the next decade inlcuded The Naughty Diana with Ilse Marvenga, Marjorie, Happy go Lucky, Yours Truly, Artists and Models, Woof Woof and Simple Simon. Between these engagements, he toured in such pieces as The Chocolate Soldier, Very Good Eddie, Rio Rita and The Laugh Parade, as well as this Lovely Lady. He was later hired (1930) to support Mitzi and her husband in a revival of her biggest success, Sári.  

In 1938, he found himself a new career as a player in short moving pictures (Pardon my Accident, Sing for Sweetie, The Candid Kid, The Miss They Missed, Getting an Eyeful, Dynamite Delaney), but it was not to develop. Jack died of a heart attack, aged 48, in that same year. He was buried in the Catholic Actors' Guild plot at Calvary.

A more familiar pair of pictures

Rose Marie, and its famous Totem-Tom-Tom girls. One of the most spectacular moments in 1920s musical theatre. These photos ar'n't from the original production, but from a 1926 revival produced by Arthur Hammerstein out of town with Virginia Johnson Paul Donah, Houston Richards, Marcella Shields, Walter Lawrence, Dolores Suarez, Paul Porter and ... the only name that means owt to me ... June Roberts, as Wanda, the dancing murderess.

June ROBERTS (b 1899; d ?) was the daughter of performers Mr and Mrs (Louisa) Will H Roberts, and she began her career as a kiddie dancer, 'Dainty June Roberts', alongside her parents, in vaudeville, most notably performing a scena The Doll Maker's Dream in which she 'aged 7' featured as the doll. She quickly became the main attraction of the piece and 'June Roberts and company' toured for a good number of years, until June was no longer dollsized, and she moved into revue (Hitchy Koo, Town Gossip) and musical comedy (Up in the Clouds, touring in Listen Lester). In 1922 she featured in the Siegfeld Follies, from where she was hired by Hugh J Ward for his musical comedy company in Australia. She (and little sister Dorothy) appeared in Australia in The Honeymoon Girl, Listen Lester, Tangerine, Little Nellie Kelly and The O'Brien Girl, returning to America in 1925. 

Then came
Rose-Marie. Hammerstein mounted his revival out of town, and June was cast as Wanda. The production was brought to New York in January 1927, but June was no longer with it. She was still playing her role, but at the Mogador in Paris. The spectacular Paris production of Rose-Marie must be the only one where the Wanda got star billing. June's fan dance and Totem-Tom-Tom were key elements in the show's huge success. And, of course, June stayed in France. She gave dance recitals of 'modern American dances', she repeated her Wanda and also played in The Desert Song with the Tournées Baret, she choreographed such shows as Le Chanson de Bonheur at the Gaité-Lyrique ...

My last sighting of her is in 1938. Did she go home when the war came? There are a June Roberts and a Dorothy Roberts around filmland in the coming years ... I don't know.

The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady was a touring vehicle for Pat Rooney, wife Marion [Lawless] née Bent (b Bronx 23 December 1879; d Bronx 28 July 1940) and son Percy ('Pat III')...

Produced in Philadelphia, the show toured without visiting New York.

A genuine 'musical comedy', and a genuine hit, was My Girl by Harlan Thompson and Harry Archer (Little Jessie James, Merry Merry) produced at the Vanderbilt Theatre 24 November 1924. Unpretentious, book-based, a small principal cast with no star names (Marie Saxon, Russell Mack, Harry Puck, Helen Bolton, Edward H Wever), it ran for 291 performances before heading for the country.

The players here are Edna Morn, George Sweet and Roger Grey.

Edna MORN [MEISCH, Edna May] (b Rochester 8 December 1891; d 14 July 1952), daughter of a hotelkeeper/carpenter, Charles Meisch, and his wife Josephine, began her working life as a stenographer, before taking to the stage in musical comedy (When Dreams Come True, Sári, Pom Pom. Flo Flo, Fiddlers Three, Three Showers). She toured for several seasons for George M Cohan and Sam H Harris in the title-role of Mary, and then played that same young lady opposite Eddie Dowling in the successful run of Sally, Irene and Mary (1922-3). Her tour in My Girl was, it seems, her last engagament. 25 August 1926 she married Harry J Martin, manager of the Louisville Brown's Theatre, and retired to motherhood.

I gave up on George Sweet, because there are several of them, but the tall Mr Grey or Gray is an interesting chap ..

Roger GREY or GRAY (b Omaha, Neb 26 May 1881; d Los Angeles 20 January 1959), son of a lumber merchant, and originally an express messenger, had a long and variegated career in showbusiness. He began doing a tramp act in vaudeville, moved into musical comedy and comic opera, and at one time toured his own little Roger Grey Opera Company with a large repertoire of musicals. He toured as 'Mutt' in the Mutt and Jeff musicals, in The Gay Musician, The Mayor of Tokio, Little Johnny Jones, A Royal Vagabond, So Long Letty, The Sun Dodgers, Little Jessie James  played stock at Poli's, ran a little company and/or a double act in vaudeville, staged dances, and in 1925 'the amiable Roger Grey of the Oxford bags' took part in My Girl. I see him in Bye Bye Bonnie in 1927, touring in Hit the Deck in 1930... In the 1930s he voyaged to filmland and appeared in a number of moving pictures through into the 1940s. He authored a musical That's It played at Pittsburgh 18 July 1921.

He married actress Marion Rudolph (1907), and subsequently Jessie Roberts.

This photo is from New York's Lyric Theatre production of Kissing Time. Based on a German-language musical, Mimi, by the father of the American 'intimate' 1920s musical comedy, Adolph Philipp, with a score by Ivan Caryll, the composer of the era, the piece had a disappointing run  of less than two months, before hitting the road. 

The featured dancers in the show were Carl Hyson and Evelyn Cavanaugh, who came with their own choreography, and the eleven chorus ladies were dignified with character names in the best modern fashion.

Not all shows, however, got this kind of production. I happed today on these two unidentified photos of pieces from the same period, which don't seem to have had the same dollars and design lavished on them ...

And one from the 1930s ... 

Two of the Albertina Rasch dancers (and two 'Boys') in the New Amsterdam Theatre production of Moss Hart and Irvng Berlin's Face the Music. This doesn't look as if it is the routine to 'Dear Old Crinoline Days' (but who knows?). The other featured dance number was 'On a Roof in Manhattan'. Costumes by Kiviette.

And here is good ol' Joseph E HOWARD in his 1913 show A Broadway Honeymoon ...the lady is Mabel McKane. Leading lady was Emma Carus.

HOWARD, Joseph E[dgar] (b New York, 12 February 1867; d Chicago, 19 May 1961). Lifelong performer and songwriter who spent a while in the musical comedy spotlight in Chicago.

 A vaudeville performer as a child soprano, then as a teenager, and later a burlesque-house player in a team with his wife, Ida Emerson (Howard and Emerson’s Own), Joe Howard began writing songs not only for his own use, but to supplement his uncertain stage income. He composed a rash of cheerfully rhythmic and down-to-earth numbers in the later years of the 19th century, from which `Goodbye, My Lady Love' (1904, initially heard in Howard’s Trocadero summer show and re-used by Jerome Kern as a period number in Show Boat) and `Hello, Ma Baby' (ly: Emerson) have survived the most strongly.

 Howard entered the musical theatre in Chicago when he supplied first some additional songs for Raymond Hubbell's score to the burlesque Chow Chow (1902, also director) for the Orpheon Music Hall and then two full scores, written in collaboration with lyricist Raymond Peck, for The Paraders (1902, ‘Coney Isle’) and Tom Tom (1903, ‘The Ragtime Chinaman’) at the same house, now rechristened the La Salle. Howard and Emerson also appeared in the shows. Real success, however, came when he joined two young local writers, Will Hough and Frank Adams, to write the musical comedy His Highness the Bey (1904), for what was still then the quiescent Chicago theatre. The show was distinctly successful, the La Salle dropped its vaudeville-house tag and went theatre-straight, and the trio followed up with a whole series of lucrative hit musicals which were largely responsible for putting the city on the map as a producing centre. These shows toured long and extensively with popular road performers and some rising stars in the main rôles (the young John Barrymore played juvenile in A Stubborn Cinderella), but they were, not unexpectedly, sneered at by determinedly parochial New York, in spite of being as tuneful, as amiably foolish and, occasionally, more original than the bulk of east coast musicals of the time.

 Howard, in the meanwhile, continued his own career as a performer, expending an attractive tenor voice and an appealing personality on a variety of vehicles, including several musical comedy-dramas of his own writing and/or composing (Jack Dunning in The District Leader, Jack Farnum in The Flower of the Ranch etc). At one stage, in 1907, when he was making his official début as a star (ie billed above the title) in Chicago, he had his name showing on the bills of three of the city's theatres at once -- for his appearance in his musical comedy melodrama The Flower of the Ranch, and for his scores for A Stubborn Cinderella (Princess Theater) and Honeymoon Trail (La Salle Theater). However, when he was declared bankruopt in Iowa Falls in 1912, the performer declared that he had lost $100,000 in producing his shows over the four years preceeding.

 Although Howard's songs, topped by The Time, The Place and The Girl's `The Waning Honeymoon', were whistled for a decade throughout Chicago, the nearest thing to a single hit song, on a wider basis, which he produced during the years of his Chicago collaborations was `What's the Use of Dreaming?'. This did not, in fact, come from one of the team's shows, and when the Adams/Hough/Howard series finally did come up with a real hit, in The Prince of Tonight, the first of their shows not to be enthusiastically received by Chicago, it finally ended up as the subject of a lawsuit. It eventuated that Howard -- in a manner not uncommon at the time -- had bought the tune of `I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now' from the penniless Harold Orlob and had put his name to it. Orlob was brought in as part of the writing team the following year and, soon after, Howard split away. After a couple of further Chicago successes with The Sweetest Girl in Paris and the 13-week run of Lower Berth Thirteen, he went back to writing and performing in his old style, both on the stage and in vaudeville. He did so for another 50 years, right up till his death in his nineties, and finished his days literally on the stage, collapsing and dying during a performance.

 Howard was first married to performer-songwriter Ida Emerson, who after their burlesque years played in the early La Salle shows. His second wife was another musical-theatre player, Mabel BARRISON [Eva FARRANCE] (b Toronto c 1882; d Toronto, 31 October 1912), who played a small part in Broadway’s original Florodora (1900), in The Little Duchess (1901), suceeded Lotta Faust in The Wizard of Oz, was one of the original `babes' of Babes in Toyland, and starred alongside her husband in several of his stage shows (The Flower of the Ranch etc) and in vaudeville (My Big Sister’s Beau etc). A third Mrs Howard, Irma Kilgallen, daughter of a wealthy steel manufacturer and previously the Countess Mauritio de Beaufort, shot herself in Omaha four weeks and one meeting with her husband after their marriage.

 A film of his life, rather unfortunately (given the facts) entitled I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now, was produced in 1947. Mark Stevens played the part of Howard, with his singing voice being provided by Buddy Clark.

1899 An Alderman’s Election (Ida Emerson) burlesque Dewey Theater 2 January

1901 Fol-de-Rol (Emerson) burlesque Dewey Theater 30 September 

1902 The Paraders (Raymond Peck) La Salle Theater, Chicago 21 December

1903 Tom Tom (Peck) La Salle Theater, Chicago 1 February

1904 His Highness the Bey (Hough, Adams) La Salle Theater, Chicago 21 November

1905 The Isle of Bong-Bong (Hough, Adams) La Salle Theater, Chicago 14 March

1905 The Land of Nod (Adams, Hough ad Hobart) Opera House, Chicago 17 June; New York Theater, New York 1 April 1907

1905 The Umpire (Hough, Adams) La Salle Theater, Chicago 2 December

1906 The Time, the Place and the Girl (Hough, Adams) La Salle Theater, Chicago 20 August; Wallack's Theater, New York 5 August 1907

1906 The District Leader (w George Collin Davis, Arthur Gillespie) Wallack's Theater 30 April

1907 The Flower of the Ranch Kansas City 15 September; Majestic Theater, New York, 20 April 1908

1907 The Girl Question (Hough, Adams) La Salle Theater, Chicago 24 August; Wallack's Theater, New York 3 August 1908

1908 Honeymoon Trail (Hough, Adams) La Salle Theater, Chicago 23 March

1908 A Stubborn Cinderella (Hough, Adams) Princess Theater, Chicago 31 May; Broadway Theater, New York 25 January 1909

1909 The Prince of Tonight (Hough, Adams) Princess Theater, Chicago 9 March

1909 The Golden Girl (Hough, Adams) La Salle Theater, Chicago 16 March

1909 The Goddess of Liberty (Hough, Adams) Princess Theater, Chicago 15 August; Weber's Theater, New York 22 December

1909 The Flirting Princess (w Orlob/Hough, Adams) Princess Theater, Chicago 1 November

1910 Miss Nobody from Starland (Hough, Adams/Howard Johnstone Mitchell) Princess Theater, Chicago 31 January

1910 The Sweetest Girl in Paris (w Gus Sohlke/Collin Davis, Addison Burkhart) La Salle Theater, Chicago 28 August

1910 Lower Berth Thirteen (w Gus Sohlke/Davis, Arthur Gillespie) Whitney Opera House, Chicago 16 October

1911 Love and Politics revised The District Leader Cort Theater, Chicago 3 April

1912 Frivolous Geraldine (w Herbert Stothart/Theodore Stempfel) Olympic Theater, Chicago 21 December

1913 A Broadway Honeymoon (w Stothart/Collin Davis/Collin Davis, Thomas T Reilley) Joe Howard's (Whitney) Theater, Chicago 3 October

1914 The Manicure Shop (ex-All for the Girl) (w Stothart/Stempfeldt) Suburban Garden, St Louis 29 June

1915 The Girl of Tomorrow (Stothart/w Joseph Knowles) La Salle Theater, Chicago 18 October

1917 What is Love? National Theater, Washington 2 July

1918 In and Out (Davis) Belasco Theater, Washington 22 July

1920 Chin Toy (Isidore Benjamin Kornblum) vaudeville piece Yonkers 6 January.  Second edition, November.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A curled darling of the salons: Who was 'Léonce Valdec' and what became of him?

This morning I came upon a photo which set me wondering afresh on a mystery I had tackled a few years back...  so I thought, while the drills are drilling, and my kitchen arising from its ruins ... try again, Johnny. 

Well I'm sad-happy to report that I found nothing new ... and I don't suppose I'll get round to tackling Mons Valdec again .... so I post my findings here, in the hope that someone, somewhere, one day will find it useful or, better still, fill in my gaps ...

VALDEC, Léonce (aka WALDECK) (b Cognac c1841; d unknown)


For fifteen years, the light baritone known as ‘Léonce Valdec’ was the darling of the Paris salons. I would have expected his history to have been paragraphed by the fashionable papers, his death garlanded in obituaries, his name to have appeared in many a memoir … but no. Hardly a mention, outside his concert reviews. Very little clue as to who, precisely, he was: and when there is, the clues are contradictory.


Clue number one comes from an unlikely place. The 1871 British census. He (as Waldeck, which just may have been his name) happens to be in town, and tells us that he is 30, born in Cognac, has a 27 year-old wife named Maria who comes from Herne Bay and a two year-old son by the name of Albert, who was born in Paris. 


An issue of Comoedia from 1933, talking of the colourful Count Max de Waldeck, assures us that the singer was his son, and that he committed suicide. Both pieces of information, if true, would surely have been mentioned before. The allegedly 85 year-old count (who, equally allegedly, lived to 110) did apparently have a son by his 17 year-old English wife, and that son did indeed sing, but he was named Gaston not Léonce, was a basso profondo, somewhat younger, and when he gave a concert one kindly journal commented: ‘M G de Waldeck, qu'il ne faut pas confondre avec le gracieux baryton Valdec, est fils du célèbre peintre de Waldeck qui vient d'accomplir sa cent-huitième année…’. So we’re back where we started.


There are other, possibly misleading, little ‘facts’ dropped here and there. I see him called a pupil of Romain Bussine, and a ‘lauréat du conservatoire’. The two fit together, but both are mentioned only once, that I can find, and I don’t find him in the Conservatoire lists. In fact, the only Cognaquois mentioned are an actor and a bassoon player.


He first comes to the fore in May 1868 when he mounted a concert at the Salle Erard. ‘Le bénéficiaire, un baryton d'avenir, M Léonce Waldeck, n'a pas eu à se plaindre du public qui lui a largement prodigué ses applaudissements, ainsi qu'aux frères Lamoury. à Mlles Louise Mürer, L Duval et Blanche Bragel …’. However, I don’t see him in public again until February of 1870, when, at the same venue, he hosted another concert with Anna Fabre, Louise Mürer, MM Leon Desjardins, Paul Bernard and Castel. He sang Schubert’s ‘Le Roi des Aulnes’ and Madame de Grandval’s ‘Le Bohémien’ and the press nodded ‘on a pu apprécier la fraîcheur de la voix, et le style elégant du jeune chanteur ..’. When he sang a few days later at Bernard’s concert they confirmed ‘‘un baryton très sympathétique de goût irréprochable’.

Whether the 'handsome' Waldeck had yet begun his conquest of the salons of Paris and its countesses and duchesses, I do not know, but in 1870 he crossed the channel to partake of the London season. He began singing for Benedict at a Dalston Hospital Benefit (30 March), then at Clara Schumann’s concerts, as featured vocalist alongside Edith Wynne. I’ve picked up a good number of appearances during the season – Amy Perry’s concert with the Doria sisters and the pupils of Lansdowne Cottell, the New Philharmonic concerts singing Gounod’s ‘Le Vallon’ alongside arias by Pauline Lucca, a Benefit for a Day Nursery, or Marras’s at home (‘O Lisbonne’, Mireille). ‘This gentleman is likely to prove a great acquisition to the platform’ quoth the press, ‘his pronunciation is pure, his intonation pleasing, his style gentlemanly, and his voice both rich and sympathique’. He sang for Kuhe, Madame Celli, Cottell again, at the concerts of Annetta Zuliani, Emma Wildish (Gounod’s ‘Voulez-vous aller’), Mary Elizabeth Walton, Julius Benedict, Antoine de Kontski, Henry Holmes … ‘pure tone and admirable expression’, ‘a pleasing French baritone’ and on 6 July gave ‘his second morning concert’ (I seem to have missed the first) at Cromwell House. He sang, a selection of top instrumentalists played, and Emily Muir came in to sing the Noces de Jeannette duet with him. He seems to have closed his season 16 July, singing ‘David Before Saul’ at Store Street.

‘M Léonce Waldeck, a baritone of considerable merit, gave a song from Martha very pleasingly. He has a sympathetic voice of good quality, and sings accurately and with judgment, barring a tendency in forte passages to force his tone into a passionate vibrato’ wrote The Examiner after Lansdowne Cottell’s concert. That passion (and vibrato) would help him to become a favourite of the ladies …


I don’t know whether the Waldecks went home after the London season. The Franco-Prussian war had just exploded into action. Anyway, I see no trace of our ‘baryton martin’ until April of the new year, when he turns up in Dublin, equipped with two songs by Charles Salaman (‘I would tell her’, ‘A Voiceless sigh’) and giving a concert (21 April) at Cramer and Wood’s Rooms.

Back in London, he sang in more public concerts (Silas, Billet, Romano, Mme Celli, Alfred Gilbert, Henri Logé, E Guerini), and doubtless as many private ones, as well as revisiting Dublin (Gounod’s ‘Noel’ and Chanson du printemps, The Scented Vine’ &c) and appearing in London with Salaman as guests with the Dublin Glee and Madrigal Society.

H appears to have stayed over this year, for he turns up at the Albert Hall in December singing with Lemmens-Sherrington and Edward Lloyd in a performance of Carter’s Placida and in February of 1872, he gave a concert with Salaman in Brighton.

London during the war of 1871 proved a grand place for linking up with the high society French, and, during 1872, Waldeck appeared regularly with Juliette Conneau, sometime lady-in-waiting to the Empress Eugénie, as well as with the high society lady who called herself ‘Haydée Abrek’, pianist de Kontski and such associated persons as Jules Lefort, basso Monari and Irish amateur William Maitland. At de Kontski’s concert they performed his opera Les Deux Distraits (11 March 1872). During the season of French plays at St James’s Theatre, Waldeck was engaged to sing between the acts (‘La Romance de Boabdil’). The concert engagements proliferated, ranging from charity dates, to the concerts of such as Wilhelm Ganz and Luigi Arditi (‘Vainement Pharamond’, Joseph). 

He also, round this time, got to know the London-based Gounod and his singing girlfriend, Mrs Weldon, and performed with them regularly.  On 7 June 1873, at Tavistock House, together with Mrs Weldon and Werrenrath (another hanger-on of the composer) he took part in the first full performance of the composer’s ‘Biondina’ songs. The curious Mrs Weldon refers to Waldeck (and others) dismissively in her biography, but at the time they were only to happy to use him and his rising fashion. On 28 June 1873 Waldeck (‘an agreeable and accomplished concert singer with a sympathetic baritone voice and a cultivated style’) gave a concert at the Olympic Theatre. Gounod played piano, Mrs Weldon sang, Waldeck sang Gounod music and duetted with the lady. In July, they returned to Paris, where Mons Valdec (as he had no definitively become) was seen again in concert with Mrs Weldon.


It seems that the change of name came along with a change of status. Instead of being a charming amateur (and the word ‘sympathique’ litters his notices) he was now singing professionally. 

From March 1874, the press speaks of him in a different tone: ‘Un jeune artiste français, M. Léonce Valdec, doué d'un remarquable talent de chanteur et d'une excellente diction musicale, est en ce moment à Paris, de retour d'Angleterre, où il vient de faire une brillante saison et a su se conquérir de chaleureuses sympathies …’. And there is a mention of ‘la voix sympathique et parfaitement stylée du baryton Valdec, encore un amateur devenu artiste, et des meilleurs…’. ‘On parlait de son prochain engagement à l'Opéra-Comique.’.


They only spoke of it. And this ‘incident’ gives us the one (apart from Mrs Weldon) ‘picture’ of Valdec that we have. The writer Henri Maréchal recounts in his memoirs the tale of the abortive Opéra-Comique affair. He describes: ‘Un baryton mondain don’t le succès était alors très vif dans beaucoup de salons parisiens. D’aspect agréable, elégant, doué d’une toute petite voix, prenante par le charme de son timbre, il soupirait avec goût les cantilènes amoureuses à la mode …’, before going on to tell of the singer’s haughty demands (a letter from Jules Barbier reprinted long after give a comical picture of these) and the quick deflation of the idea of casting him on the stage. He also added that the singer was living hand to mouth, and had billeted himself on a rich friend … er.. what about the wife and child?


In the years that followed, Valdec knew his greatest vogue. He appeared again and again at the Salle Érard, the Salon Pleyel and the Salle Herz in concerts of his own (6 May 1874 ssq), and as the frequent guest of others. He made a considerable success with the song ‘La Fauvette’ by Louis Diémer ‘qu'il détaille de la façon la plus intelligente’, ‘remarquablement rendue’, gave new songs by Widor, Clemence de Grandval (including an aria from her Stabat Mater), Faure (‘Le Message’, ‘Alleluia d’amour’), older ones by Gounod (‘Le Vallon’), Schubert (‘Ave Maria’, ‘La Truite’), occasionally touching on the operatic with Le Medecin malgré lui or, a favourite, the Zauberflöte duet. When the Paris season ended he headed to the provinces – Nantes, Le Mans, Limoges, Valenciennes, Arras, Orleans – returning as ever for the high season with more songs with which to delight the fashionables and the critics into reviews such as ‘Valdec a chanté avec son goût accoutumé deux romances délicieuses de M. Magner, qui, lui-même, l'accompagnait … On ne peut dire mieux que M Valdec, et sa voix exquise en fait un des meilleurs chanteurs de salon que nous ayons jamais rencontrés’.

Faure’s ’Dans les ruines d’une abbaye’ and ‘Fleurs du matin’, Paul Bernard’s ‘Faucheuse’ (‘un véritable succès’), Niedermeyer’s ‘Le Lac’, Pergolesi’s ‘Tre giorni’, Joncières’ ‘Invocation du Dimitri’, Diémer’s ‘Adieux à Suzon’, Pessard’s ‘Dites, la jeune belle’  … Valdec had his sphere. But he apparently had others ambitions: ‘Malgré ses succès dans les salons, M. Valdec aurait l'intention d'aborder la carrière théâtrale et serait prêt à accepter un engagement pour une de nos scènes de genre’. It didn’t happen. Back to the country, and the material he had made his great successes with: ‘Le concert donné le 8 septembre à Étretat, par M. Léonce Valdec, le baryton des soirées parisiennes, a été, sans contredit, le plus réussi de la saison. À M Valdec, on a bissé la Truite, de Schubert, dont il a fait une chose à lui, et ‘Bonjour Suzon’ de Faure’.

During the season of 1877, Valdec was seen regularly on the Paris platform: for Albert Sowinski, Luisa Valli, Pauline Boutin. Alice Sydney Burvett, Doquin Ardiun, Louis Breitner, Therese Castellan, Léopold Déledique, Mlle Fanchelli and doubtless many others, as well as his own soirée (‘Très remarquable le concert du sympathique baryton Léonce Valdcc qui sait aussi bien dire que chanter. Rappel après chacun de ses morceaux’). He seems to have been a favourite with Mme de Grandval, whose songs he continued to give, and at who concert he appeared singing the composer’s duet ‘Le Forêt’ with her.

At the end of the season this year, a notice appeared: ‘M Léonce Valdec, le baryton si souvent applaudi dans les concerts, donnera cet hiver des leçons de chant chez lui, 4 rue Bochard-de-Saron (Avenue Trudaine)’. 


But he didn’t reduce his performing: the Concerts du Châtelet, the Concert Carvalho with Mme Carvalho singing Gounod and Shubert, the Concerts Cressonnois at the Théâtre Porte Saint-Martin (‘La Romanesca’, ‘Guide à bord ta nacelle’) … He scored a new success with Madame de Grandval’s ‘Scrupules’ (‘avec charme exquise’), gave Meyerbeer’s new ‘Poème d’Octobre’, Diémer’s ‘Les Ailes’ … and only Orléans was heard to mutter ‘Il manie habiliment une voix qui manque, malheureusement, de sonorité’. Orléans, it appears, wasn’t into the ‘baryton de salon et charme’.


Paris was. When he gave his concert of 1879 it was adjudged ‘une des meilleures de la saison’, in 1880 he was simply dubbed ‘le chanteur de salon par excellence’ and toured in concert for impresario Ullmann. And the chansons kept coming, from the pen of Mme de Grandval (‘La vase brisé’, ‘Au bord de l’eau’), Diémer (‘nouvelle Sérénade espagnole, délicieusement chantée par M. Valdec’), Nadaud (‘Insomnie’), Delibes (‘Regrets’), plus the usual dose of Gounod (‘A Venise’, ‘Gallia’).


In the first months of 1882, Valdec presented a series of eight Parisian matinées, and in June he paid one more visit to London. However, I spot only two professional appearances. 1883 brought a second series of matinees, and an announcement that he was starting a concert and touring agency. It seemed he was running down his career. When he sang for Lebouc in December 1883, the usual review was slightly muted: ‘M Valdec, chargé des intermèdes de chant, a rendu avec succès le charmant air de Suzanne de Paladilhe, et le Départ, scène de Gounod, puis des mélodies de M Albert Renaud qui ont produit bon effet’.

His appearances got less frequent in 1884. His own concert was held not in the old venues but in the Salle Flaxland, he was still paragraphed as ‘le chanteur attitré des salons parisiens’, but it seems to have been more by habit than actuality.

My last sightings of Léonce Valdec are 30 March 1885, giving a concert at the Salle Duprez, and in May the same year singing at the concert given by George Hesse at the Salle Érard. And then … simply no mention. No advertisements. Nothing.


I suppose he died. Sooner rather than later? Was he indeed the one who committed suicide? Or did he simply, as Maréchal says rather indefinitely at the end of his Opéra-Comique tale ‘die in poverty soon after’.  You would have thought some music journalist would have noticed. But I have just these two (contradictory) references … one in 1920 and one in 1933. Half a century after my last real sighting. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Army, the Navy, the Church, and the Stage ... and carpenters in my kitchen


Well, three out of four ...

Tuesday 23rd February. 8am, the first tradesman (electrician) arrived to do his bit towards the transformation of my kitchen. The carpenters and due any moment ...  outside the sky is white with several varieties of floating vegetable matter .. so I am being chef de chantier for the day while amusing myself with the past. Little bits of the past, because I don't want to get into something longwinded, only to have the proofs of the GILBERT AND SULLIVAN book land on my desk ...

Today's investigatees ...

Arthur Manley Hil and wife, Alice

Francis Knowles

A G Girdlestone

Two churchmen and one army ...

There's not a lot of story in Arthur Manley HILL (b Chapel Allerton 21 January 1843-d Roborough 14 November 1933). Son of a Devonshire military man (eventually a  General), John Thomas Hill (1811-1902), A M Hill was launched on the military by the purchase of a commission as an Ensign in the 5th Fusiliers in 1860. He purchased a lieutenant's rank in 1864, while stationed in Ireland, where, in 1866 (1 August) he married Alice Honoria [Laura] Browne, daughter of James Arthur Browne of Browne Hall, County Mayo,  In 1868, he got out of the army and moved eventually back to Devon, where he lived out his life as a 'gentlemen' at the family home of 'Good-a-meavy House'.
The handsome young couple pictured above were to have eight children, of whom five survived to adulthood:

(1) Reginald Charles James (b 26 June 1867; d 15 April 1942) of globetrotting propensities. He married Elizabeth Robertson Savage in Bloemfontein in 1899, fathered a son, John Adrian Aimé (1900), and moved to the plantations of Colombo where John ran the Remuna Estate in Horana. John died in 1930 and the elders returned to Britain.

(2) Arthur Lloyd St Leger (b 1869; d Roborough 23 August 1921) gent seems to have just been a gent. He didn't marry.

(3) Frederick Thomas Cecil (b 17 July 1874; d Gallipoli 7 August 1915). The disadvantage of being a career army man, is that you sometimes get killed in battle. Frederick, a major in the 6th Yorks and Lancs Regiment fell at Gallipoli. He was married to Marie Joséphine Elizabeth Léontine de Foresta.

(4) Gerald Ernest Montague (b 21 February 1876; d 2 October 1954) was awarded the DSO in his capacity as an officer in the 2nd East Lancashire Regiment. He retired with the rank of Lt-Col.

(5) Lillian Helen Gwendoline (1877-1955) married a somethingth son by the painful-sounding name of Ricketts by whom she had two children. When her husband succeeded to a baronetcy she acceded to Burke and Debrett, but without him. He promptly walked out. She finally and very publicly divorced him in 1936. Her son, [Sir] Robert Ricketts married a daughter of Stafford Cripps. 

Diving for cover from all those titles, I happend upon plain Francis KNOWLES (bapt 4 June 1848; d The Rectory, Gimingham, Norfolk 24 October 1931) son of grocer/draper William and Martha Knowles of Hoyland Nether, Yorks. Well, he became not just plain Francis. He was 'the reverend Francis Knowles MA (Cantab)'. Yes, a clergyman. St Catherine's College, Cambridge. Subsequent posts at Ely, Pererborough, curate of Christchurch, Leicester which he left in 1879, allowing us to date our photo, curate/vicar of Silsden, finally coming to rest at Gimingham, where he officiated for some 40 years.At 50, he married vicar's daughter Mary Tatlock (d 25 November 1922).

And so to my third gentleman. This one would surely be someone cute and curious ... but ... Arthur Gilbert GIRDLESTONE (b Alderley, Cheshire 1842; d Vicarage, Brixton Hill 13 December 1908) was another clergyman!  And not just a clergyman, but a clergyman son of a clergyman. Father Charles was rector of Kingswinton and Arthur, an only child, became curate there. He later became vicar of All Saint's, Brixton. He was a serious alpinist and wrote a book on 'The High Alps without Guides' in 1870.

My father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather, mountaineers all, would have loved this gent. I also, I feel ..

Well, there are carpenters all over the kitchen (I personally disposed of the mummified rat!) ... the whirr of battery-screwdrivers resounds in the air ... I guess its time to come back to the 21st century ...

The stage? Well, I researched a couple of Edwardian performers this morning for folks on the grand Family Treasures Reinstated ( site ...

The Navy? Well, maybe I'll do sailor lads tomorrow!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Ephemera from the fires of hell...


I don't shock or amaze easily. But when I saw this piece of 1917 New-Yorkish music sheet on ebay this morning I could scarce believe my eyes

1917. When America's youth were in Europe fighting alongside the British and the French to save civilisation as we knew it, and the songwriters of the day were turning out patriotic ditties by the ton ..

a 'working class' Polish Jew chose, instead, to indulge in that favourite American pastime of meddling in other countries' business, and published, under the banner of the Hebrew Music Company, this tirade ...

See the dreamy picture of the idealised Bolshevik yiddish lady, with her ancient Greek gown and her wedge-heeled shoes, as she plays piano in her middle-class drawing room, while middle-class mamoushka and papouschka look benignly on, and I suppose that's the boyfriend in the background. Are they supposed to be Russians? Jews? Americans? Or all three?

Dream on, Mr Morris Rosenfeld! Well, dream is all he had the time to do. Mr Rosenfeld, who became the trendy-drawing room-socialists' token yiddish poet of his time, didn't live to see the horrors that Russland's Freheit would bring, not least to the country's Jewish population. He died in 1923, aged 61. By which time, I imagine, he was no longer a presser in a sweat-shop .. but having his photo taken. Yes, that moustache woul have gone a bit limp in the ironing room!

I guess there is a heap of ephemera in existence .. both hopeful and deliberatly deceptive ... from what history has shown to be 'the losing team'. From Perkin Warbeck to Oliver Cromwell to Marot to Barry Goldwater. But ephemera from the actual moment ... well, I find it particularly chilling.

E-bay has just e-mailed e-me. Offering me a 20% reduction on this lot. I should buy it, and donate it to the Black Museum ... but paypal won't let me join, so I can't.  Perhaps Arthur Scargill or Ken Livingston would like it ...  or the Grand Duchess Anastasia? ... after all, it is a fascinating piece of ephemera!