Friday, July 30, 2021

Panto 1910


I found this photo on ebay this week. Seasonal pantomime as it used to be, a century ago.  The year 1910, as I managed to winkle out ...

And I found a review, with cast list. This, the kind of review that pantomimes were worthy of in Edwardian Britain ...

So here we are, 'The Palace of Cards', the final scene from Jack Horner at the Prince's Theatre, Bristol, Christmas 1910.

And here is the review ... 

I wonder if photos of the other eleven scenes exist.

Esta Stella. Her publicity said that that meant 'star of the east'. It wasn't her real name, obviously. 

Her story is not easy to piece together. Her professional life, yes -- she carried on successfully for over a quarter of a century in music hall, and, latterly, revue --  but her private life.  I presume it is she, in the 1911 census, living alone (as she did till the end of her life) in Meadow View, Chertsey, to Madeline Stella, 27 years of age, born in Blackheath. What she does not tell us is, as what. She has scratched out what seems as if it might have been her real name of the census paper ...

The 1939 quasi-census shows Miss Stella living in an eight-room villa, still single and alone, Shepperton Villa, in Chertsey Bridge, Spelthorne. She gives her date of birth as 24 June 1881. Is that true?

So, we go to the birth records for ... ermm .. Kent or Surrey? .. but I find no Madeline ... well, try the other end. She suddenly stops appearing in the electors' registration list for Staines in 1939 .. dead, or just fled the war to kinder parts?

IT'S NOT SHE! Red-herring-time!

But bingo! Caroline Jackson of the Family Treasures Reinstated group came up with a newspaper clipping from 1972 ..

"The old-time revue and variety star, ESTA STELLA passed away on Monday, July 17, in Newhaven Hospital. She was 90, and had lived in retirement in Brighton for nearly twenty years. She was well known in the early part of the century for her many appearances in the late HARRY DAY'S revues, and as a star of the music hall, being known as "The Military Maid," with her singing and dancing act and also appeared in pantomime in the company of many old- time names. Her first husband was CON FREDERICKS, the American vaudeville performer."

Here I go again!!! Er .. first husband ...?

While I slept, Caroline and Gina squirreled away. Now it's my turn, while they (in England) sleep. Ive been on the trail since dawn and here is the result of all our lucubrations.

Esta STELLA [HUEY, Maggie Susanna Burton] sometime 'Little STELLA' (b 4 Nevin St, Liverpool 23 August 1881; d Brighton 17 July 1972).

Maggie was the eighth child (fifth daughter) of one William Duckworth Huey (1841-10901), the son of Duckworth Huey, hairdresser, of the London Rd, Liverpool who had died at the age of 32 (1 October 1850). William became a cook, a chef, a restaurant manager, a restaurateur, married Hannah Burton (1843-1913), had seven children, lost one, went bankrupt (1880), had one last child (1881), gave up cooking and became a clerk ...
Having had some dance training from her teenaged sister, Annie, she started in showbusiness as a juvenile, in concert and pantomime in Liverpool, as Maggie Huey. When she went on tour as Little Eva in Uncle Tom's Cabin she became 'Little Stella'. She and Annie played into pantomime at Croydon, Eastbourne, Sittingbourne, Greenwich and Hull, she was a juvenile vocalist and fairylike dancer on the halls, and for a while purveyed a male impersonation act... I wonder if she were the 'Little Stella' painted by James Sant RA. He seems to have painted both Babes in the Wood and Little Red Riding Hood as well ..

In 1898, she threw in the 'Little' bit, and became Esta Stella, and started out on the adult career which would take her through the next thirty years.

But I shall stick to the personal part. 

In 1901, I see her in the Kennington Road, in digs in the house of an Italian waiter, along with James Karno and John Dunning 'music-hall artists'...  

In 1911, she is with another music-hall family. Because she has married into it. 

The Norwegian gymnast Con Fredericks had come to Britain from Chicago, with his troupe, on several occasions from 1896. Latterly, part of the troupe was his son, Con[rad John] Fredericks junior (b 7 May 1883). Con jr and Maggie were married 5 December 1907. A daughter was born, and died at five weeks.

The couple can be seen, with the elder Fredrickses, in 1911. Both spouses, of course, continued with their careers, and the inevitable happened. Maggie went on tour in Hello, Everybody, for the provincial revue specialist, Harry Day (real name: Edward Lewis Levy), and fell. Con divorced her, but Levy's wife, 'Kitty Colyer' (Katherine Amelia Rea-Cox), apparently forgave him. 

They seem to have stayed married until his death 17 September 1939. And Maggie continued to work for Harry! She was still starring in Harry's Airs and Graces in 1918.

And called herself, in the 1939 listings, 'Stella Day, theatrical actress' widowed, 58. Address: 15 Cedar Avenue, Thornton Clevelys, Lancashire.

Both ladies lived to the age of 90. Kitty died in March of 1972, Maggie in July. Both calling themselves Mrs Day. 

Conrad remarried, an actress named Margaret Eva Douglas (b 15 June 1892), they had a son, Patrick Albert Conn (20 August 1916) and left for a two-year long trip to Australia and New Zealand. After which I thought  had lost them ...

But Caroline came up with the answer. Con simply changed his name.

In 1926, he is touring in revue with Whit Cunliffe, in 1930 performing an act 'The Funny Airmen'. Later he teamed with Renee Reel in a comedy act and appeared as a comedian in pantomime. In 1950, aged 67, he was touring in Emile Littler's Annie Get your Gun. And as Con Kenna he died at 72 Marchmont Street, London 28 March 1953.  He left 108L 10s 8d. His son, by Margaret Eva, Patrick Albert Con[n] Fredericks, born 20 August 1916, survived him, and died at Sittingbourne 1 May 1980. I see that, in 1939, Margaret, living with Patrick in Croydon, is Margaret E Thomas. Did Con have another marital flop? Margaret Eva Thomas died in 1975.

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