Sunday, February 11, 2024

Knüst in May: the Valli sisters


These photos came to hand today, so I thought I'd enshrine them in a little article of my manufacture from pre-Internet days ..

VALLI, Valli [KNÜST, Valli Marguerite Alice] (b Berlin, 11 February 1888; d London, 3 November 1927).

 Daughter of a Swiss merchant, brought up in London, with her two sisters Lulu Valli and Ida Valli, Valli Valli had a career as a child performer which included an appearance (with Lulu) at Berlin's Theater Unter den Linden in a British production of Morocco Bound (1895; `a notable feature was the remarkably clever song and dance of two talented children, the sisters Valli'), another as Alice in Alice in Wonderland, and the creation of the part of Mundel in Bach’s opera The Lady of Longford at Drury Lane in 1896 (‘a very youthful operatic vocalist’) amidst a number of otherwise straight dramatic engagements. Although she continued in later life to play in non-musical pieces, her adult career favoured the musical theatre, beginning with a small rôle in Véronique in London (replacing sister Lulu) and in New York (1905-6, Denise) and continuing through London take-overs in A Waltz Dream (Franzi) and The Merry Widow (Sonia), through a period in revue (Mrs Merry in Oh Indeed! 1908, Empire) to another George Edwardes rôle, this time in New York, the part of Lady Binfield created for Edna May in Kitty Grey (1909).

Valli Valli

She appeared in further Edwardes pieces in America (Alice in The Dollar Princess) and in Paris (title-rôle in La Veuve joyeuse revival) and also in vaudeville and the British music-halls (After the Honeymoon w Seymour Hicks, Lincke’s Am Hochzeitsabend as In a Mirror w Pope Stamper Palace Theatre 3 May 1909), but after her marriage to American music publisher Louis Dreyfus, she made the later part of her career in America. There she was seen in a botched version of Jean Gilbert's Polnische Wirtschaftcalled The Polish Wedding (1912, Marga) which failed to make it to Broadway, in Weber and Fields's Roly-Poly (1912), The Purple Road (1913, Empress Josephine, later Wanda), The Queen of the Movies (Die Kino-Königin 1914, Celia Gill), The Lady in Red (Die Dame in Rot, 1915, Sylvia Stafford) and Miss Millions (1919, ingénue Mary Hope). She was also seen on Broadway in The Cohan Revue of 1916 (1916, Jane Clay).

Sister Lulu, [Lulu Marianne Bertha KNÜST] (b London 17 June 1886; d London 12 May 1964) who was seen as early as 1894 in The House That Jack Built (Miss Truth) at the Opera Comique, appeared as an adult as Miss Yost and deputized for Marie Studholme as Cicely in London’s The School Girl (1903) and later took over Billie Burke's rôle of Mamie and played it on Broadway (1904, without its big song `My Little Canoe' which had been appropriated by the star) as well as appearing in such diverse pieces as The Silver Slipper (1902, tour), The Orchid (1905, t/o Thisbe) at the Gaiety, The Maid and the Motor Man (1907, Kate Wicks) and Véronique.

As for little Ida [Maude Ida Fredrika KNÜST], who had done so well as a child when she appeared as Mr Hook in Frank Curzon's children's production of Miss Hook of Holland, in Little Black Sambo and Little White Barbara (1904, Topsy) and in the Gaiety Theatre’s Two Naughty Boys (1906, Agnes), she muddied the waters by changing her name to ‘Phyllis Maude’ when she reached years of discretion, and as Phyllis Maude she apparently worked in America in supporting rôles.

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