Posted by: runawayrose | October 18, 2010

Music Hall War: The Music Hall Strike of 1907

The Music Hall Strike of 1907 started the way most strikes do: employees (actors in this case) were being underpaid and overworked.

Ideas of a strike started heating up when music hall owners started adding four extra matinées a week. This was an addition to the common one matinée a day. And most actors, musicians and stagehands were still being paid the same as if they were working the regular schedule.

On January 22, members of the Variety Artistes Federation started picketing in and around London. Music hall owners tried to hold on by putting on shows with other lessar known acts, but their efforts were fruitless. The strike lasted two weeks and at the end of it, the strikers got what they wanted. The performers not only won more money, but also minimum wage and maximum working week for musicians.

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Posted by: runawayrose | September 14, 2010

Ladies Taking on the Male Role: Male Impersonators

Shying away from the typical female roles in the music hall, a few women went a more different route: male impersonating. In doing so, these women stood out from the rest. The male audience respected them; the female audience saw them as a symbol of independence.

One of the most famous male impersonators was Vesta Tilley. Tilley would dress in full male attire, even down to her undergarments. However, she would not alter her voice, instead singing in a obvious female soprano.

When Tilley stepped down in 1920, there was Ella Shields, who has been around for a little while. Shields career started in 1910 when she filled in when one half of a two man act was out sick. She donned male attire and ended up being a big hit. Tilley is most famous for her song Burlington Bettie from Bow.

Male impersonating was not new to the theatre in the 19th century. In the 18th century Dorothea Jordan performed often in ‘breeches roles’ and was praised.

These male impersonators were most likely the inspiration for some more modern day entertainments such as Viktor und Viktoria and its more popular remake Victor Victoria while starred Julie Andrews in 1982.

The book and following TV mini series Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters also draws on this. Tipping the Velvet is about a young woman who falls in love with musical hall male impersonator.

Ella Shields singing Burlington Bertie from Bow:

Posted by: runawayrose | August 9, 2010

Famous Music Halls: Oxford Music Hall

Located in Westminster, the Oxford Music Hall opened its doors in 1861.

The hall was designed with three deep balconies on three sides and a broad stage set before an apse. The apse was replaced in 1873 by a square proscenium. The hall was basic, however the hall, bars, staircases and foyers gave an illusion to a much more grander and spread out space.

Oxford survived two fires in 1868 and 1872, but was rebuilt each time by the same architects, keeping the same basic design. Through the years, with the changes of music hall in general, a few changes were made through the 1870s, such as benches replacing tables and a promenade replacing the balconies. The early 90s saw a complete overhaul with the replacement of a complete stage and domed ceiling.

1917, however, saw away with Oxford as a music hall when it was converted into a legitimate theatre which saw some successful musical productions. In the early 1920s the theatre was renovated where it was used to show both films and plays.

The Oxford was closed and then demolished in 1926. A Kavvi now stands in the Oxford’s former spot.

Posted by: runawayrose | June 30, 2010

Sarah Bernhardt, “The Divine Sarah”

Sarah Bernhardt was born in Paris in 1844, the illegitimate daughter of courtesan Julie Bernardt from Amsterdam and an unknown father. Bernhardt was brought up in a pension and then later a convent. For a while she had considered being a nun, until one of her mother’s lovers suggested she be an actress.

Bernhardt’s childhood is often muddy due to the fact that she often exaggerated the truth. She even created false birth records with false parents at one point.

She was admitted to the Comédie-Française in 1862 and went largely unnoticed. That is, until 1863 when she was booted out for slapping the face of a senior actress who had insulted her younger sister (a diva in the making?). During a long period without acting, Bernhardt became a courtesan and mistress to Henri, Prince de Ligne and gave birth to a child. During this time, she acquired a coffin, in which she slept, in order to understand the more tragic roles she would play onstage.

Bernhardt’s reputation as an actress started in 1866 when she signed a contract with the Odéon theatre. Her greatest success came in 1869 playing Zanetto in Le Passant. She ended up being in great demand during the 1870s in both Europe and America and eventually became the most famous actress in the world.

In 1882 she married Greek actor Aristides Damala. It was not a happy marriage, but it was a short one when Damala died in 1889. During the last few years, Bernhardt was rumored to be having an affair with the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII).

Bernhardt continued on the stage into the 20th century where she then became one of the pioneers in silent film. In 1915, she had her right leg amputated, due to an injury from 1905. She used a prosthetic limb at first, but then discarded it, and continued a successful theatre tour in America.

‘The Divine Sarah’ as Queen Elizabeth I (1912)

In today’s terms, Bernhardt is what we would consider ‘quite a character’, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Some would just refer to her as fabulous! She is someone I would have loved to have met. She lived a unique life and made it more exciting by embellishing it. You can find out just how much by reading her autobiography My Double Life. Take care not to believe everything you read, but to me, it doesn’t matter. It gives a great view into the fabulous time in theatre and establishes Bernhardt as a larger than life figure.

Find out more about her, including every play and film she appeared in, at the following:

The Sarah Bernhardt Pages

Sarah Bernhardt

Posted by: runawayrose | March 27, 2010

The Murder of Stanford White: A Real Edwardian Scandal

Actresses from a hundred years ago were not safe from scandal any more than the actresses of today. One of the most famous scandals was that of  the murder Stanford White, which revolved around actress Evelyn Nesbit.

On June 25, 1906 Evelyn Nesbit and her husband, Harry Kendall Thaw, attended a performance of Mam’zelle Champagne in New York, where Thaw approached the table of Stanford White and shot him three times in the face, killing him.

Stanford White, an architect, was known to have seduced Nesbit when she was 16. Thaw, an extremely possessive husband and a quite unbalanced person, killed White in an act of jealousy.

Thaw was tried twice. The first trial was deadlocked and in the second trial Nesbit testified. Thaw was confined to a mental asylum and Thaw and Nesbit divorced in 1915.

Nesbit, a successful actress, enjoyed moderate success after the second trial. In 1916 she married her dancing partner Jack Clifford, who left her two years later. Her life was plagued by suicide attempts, alcoholism and an addiction to morphine, all of which she overcame. Later in life she taught cereamics and was a technical advisor on the film The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, which is a film that included all the major players from the murder – and the events before: Nesbit, Thaw and Stanford.

Nesbit died in 1967 at the age of 82.

Furthur reading:

American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the “It” Girl and the Crime of the Century By Paula Uruburu

Posted by: runawayrose | March 21, 2010

News from the Past: MRS. BROWN POTTER ARRIVES.

MRS. BROWN POTTER ARRIVES.; Actress Says She Sees No Reason for Changi… – Article Preview – The New York Times.

Posted by: runawayrose | March 20, 2010

Blog Pages

While I’m always thinking of new content for blog posts, I am also updating the Books and Text page, which you can find a tab to above. I’m always scouring the ‘net for free downloadable content.  I don’t post when I update this page, but if you check it every now and again, you may find something new.

In other business, I didn’t realize people were actually visiting this blog, but according to my stat counter, you are! I’m working on putting up a real post soon. Thanks for visiting!

Posted by: runawayrose | January 26, 2010

Theatre Beauty: Miss Kate Vaughan

Born in 1852 in London as Catherine Candelon, Kate Vaughan was an English actress and dancer, making her debut in 1870 as a dancer. She also performed burlesque at The Gaiety from 1876 through 1883 and again in 1886. She died in Johannesburg in 1903.

Some of her notable roles include in shows such as: La Dada at Varietes in Paris in 1876, as Cinderella in Cinderella at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in 1883 and Around the World at the Empire Theatre in 1886, among others.

Posted by: runawayrose | January 10, 2010

Music Hall Diddy: The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery

Originally written for Nellie Power, it is more associated with Marie Lloyd. Written in 1885 by George Ware.

I’m a young girl, and have just come over,
Over from the country where they do things big,
And amongst the boys I’ve got a lover,
And since I’ve got a lover, why I don’t care a fig.

The boy I love is up in the gallery,
The boy I love is looking now at me,
There he is, can’t you see, waving his handkerchief,
As merry as a robin that sings on a tree.

The boy that I love, they call him a cobbler,
But he’s not a cobbler, allow me to state.
For Johnny is a tradesman and he works in the Boro’1
Where they sole and heel them, whilst you wait.

The boy I love is up in the gallery,
The boy I love is looking now at me,
There he is, can’t you see, waving his handkerchief,
As merry as a robin that sings on a tree.

Now, If I were a Duchess and had a lot of money,
I’d give it to the boy that’s going to marry me.
But I haven’t got a penny, so we’ll live on love and kisses,
And be just as happy as the birds on the tree.

The boy I love is up in the gallery,
The boy I love is looking now at me,
There he is, can’t you see, waving his handkerchief,
As merry as a robin that sings on a tree.
Posted by: runawayrose | December 25, 2009

Famous Music Halls: Canterbury Music Hall

Considered one of the very first music halls, the Canterbury Hall – as it was originally called – was built in 1852 by Charles Morton in Lambeth. It proved so successful that he was able to replace it in 1854 and called it Canterbury Music Hall, seating about 1500 people.

Under Morton’s ownership, he constructed a large platform stage, but under new management in 1876, it became a three-tier theatre. Even further, in 1890 it was rebuilt as the Canterbury Theatre of Varieties and held 3000 people. By 1922 it was used as a cinema, but was destroyed by bombing in 1942. It was eventually demolished in 1955 and became a car park.

Famous people who frequented the building were: The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), Duke of Cambridge, and the Duke and Duchess of Teck. Charlie Chaplin had performed there, and also had mentioned seeing his father perform there.

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