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I present Miss Lily Elsie (1886-1962) and Mr Joseph Coyne (1861-1947) in The Merry Widow in 1907

This Edwardian production in which Lily Elsie made her name, was the beginning of a glittering career for the actress on the musical stage. Everyone wanted to see the show which had music by Franz Lehar and lyrics by Adrian Ross. Based on the Viennese operetta Die Lustige Witwe by Victor Leon and Leo Stein, it was adapted from Henri Meilhae’s play L’Attaché d’Ambassade. Apparently, King Edward VII saw it four times.   LilyElsie.com

Joseph Coyne was an American-born musical actor who started his career in Vaudeville. He first went to London to appear in 1901 and spent most of his career on the British stage. “It is no good their pretending to be any one else. We go to see themselves, and all we ask is that the authors and others shall give them every chance of being themselves in the most pronounced and personal fashion,” said one critic about Coyne. Wikipedia

The Merry Widow Bicycle Playing Cards
The Merry Widow Bicycle Playing Cards by FirstNightDesign

I’m particularly fond of the image because I love the damage that age has wrought and was not inclined to repair it digitally when I first added to my Zazzle store a few years ago.

The Merry Widow iPhone 5 Case
The Merry Widow iPhone 5 Case by FirstNightDesign

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


When I was in a production of And Then There Were None in 1982 in the seaside resort of Southwold — I played the housekeeper who (spoiler alert!) dies in the opening scene — it was still going under its politically incorrect title of Ten Little Niggers. Even at the time we thought that was a bad idea, but the producer of this seaside rep was insistent.

I very much enjoyed watching the BBC’s giallo-inspired, and star packed, dramatisation of And Then There were None, released in the UK over the Christmas break. A superior piece of storytelling, the production was praised for re-invigorating the Christie formula, stripping back the fustiness to let the sheer bloodthirstiness of the piece shine through.

The series made me wonder whether “the golden age” of detective fiction as popularised in the 1920’s and 30’s in itself deserved something of a re-appraisal. Although extremely popular, the particular brand of English country house detective story epitomised by And then There Were None, has never enjoyed critical approval.

As Raymond Chandler put it in his classic essay on The Simple Art Of Murder, “the classic detective story, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing”.  While some authors may be better stylists than others, the same cast of…

Source: Agatha Christie and “cosy” crime | The Badger’s Sett


This is an adaptation of an original 1890s Criterion Theatre programme in my collection. I confess to being potty about it. The original image is the central strip which I copied, pasted and extended to form a background so that it was a classic card-shaped design. The Art Nouveau shapes and swirls are a treat and enable one to breathe in the theatrical atmosphere of late 19th century London.

The Criterion Theatre in September 2007 [Wikipedia]

The Criterion Theatre in September 2007 [Wikipedia]

This small, Grade II* listed theatre in Piccadilly Circus — it has an official capacity of 588 — opened on the site of an old hunting inn, the White Bear, in 1874. It has played host to some notable performances and productions, not least Charles Wyndham as David Garrick (1888),  John Gielgud in Musical Chairs (1932), Terence Rattigan’s French Without Tears (1936-1939), Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1955), which transferred from the Arts Theatre with Peter Woodthorpe, Hugh Burden, Timothy Bateson, and Peter Bull, and Joe Orton’s Loot (1966) with Michael Bates and Kenneth Cranham.

Did you know that one has been able to hear the underground rumble of Piccadilly Line trains since 1906 when the station and line originally opened? It gives productions a certain something! To read more about the Criterion’s history, click here.

I’ve just discovered that John Gielgud’s performance in the above-mentioned Musical Chairs was criticised by Noël Coward. Gielgud wrote to him thus:

To Noël Coward

May 1932, London

Thank you very much for writing as you did. I was very upset at the time, because as you know I had always admired you and your work so very much and also because in a way I have always thought my success in the theatre only began after the Vortex time – this play was my own discovery and I had much to do with the casting and getting it produced, so naturally I was very anxious you of all people should like it. But you are quite right, of course. I act very badly in it sometimes, more especially I think when I know people who matter are in front. And such a small theatre as the Criterion is difficult for me, who am used to the wastes of the Old Vic and His Majesty’s. If I play down, they write and say I’m inaudible and if I act too much, the effect is dire. Now and again one can strike the happy mien and give a good performance. But then, it is no use trying to excuse oneself. I played ever so much better today after reading your letter, and I am really glad when I get honest criticism, though sometimes it’s a bit hard to decide whom to listen to and whom to ignore…
[Daily Telegraph – Gielgud’s Letters, introduced and edited by Richard Mangan, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson]

And here are Sir Charles Wyndham (1837-1919) as Garrick and Miss Mary Moore aka Lady Wyndham (1861-1931) as Ada Ingot in David Garrick at the Criterion Theatre in 1886, which is available as a greeting card.

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


Portrait for Noël Coward's last Christmas Card

Portrait for Noël Coward’s last Christmas Card

“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


Theatrical Attitude © Sarah Vernon

Theatrical Attitude © Sarah Vernon

This enchantress  was the famous late 19th and early 20th century actress and singer Miss Marie Tempest [1864-1942], who is referred to in the description on the back of my original print as ‘the prima donna of the English stage’ and possessing ‘a very beautiful voice which has had the training it deserves’.

I imagined a faded portrait in a frame that has suffered neglect and fire damage with a hint of gold breaking through. Naturally, I imagined no such thing but this is what came out when I faffed around in Photoshop with a couple of textures from 2 Lil’ Owls: 2LO Confetti 6 (Normal), 2LO – Crackle 11 (Multiply).

Theatrical aficionados might be interested to learn that the actress was the original Judith Bliss in Noël Coward’s Hay Fever. She was made a Dame in  1937.


“Hitler has taken nearly everything from me but my life, but you can’t live on regret. You’ve got to live for the present and future, not the past.”
She was forced to sell her art collection after losing her home in a German air raid during WWII. IMDb


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Sarah


ONE FROM THE ARCHIVE 2014.

First Night Design

Cry of the Peacock © Sarah VernonThe Cry of the Peacock © Sarah Vernon

When I prepared this post last night, the title of the artwork was Marmalade Peacock. Marmalade Peacock? It’s the first phrase that came to mind because of the background. And I’m thinking Frank Cooper’s Original Oxford Coarse Marmalade! It was my father’s favourite but what he didn’t realise was that my mother used to get a cheaper equivalent and transfer it into a Cooper’s jar. Of course.

When I woke up this morning, a song from Sandy Wilson’s musical, Valmouth, sung by Cleo Laine, was playing on an endless loop in my head and I knew I would change the title to The Cry of the Peacock. Valmouth was based on Valmouth and Other Stories by Ronald Firbank, which was about an imaginary spa resort frequented by those of a certain age. It was not well-received with ‘reactions ranging from outrage to derision’ when…

View original post 203 more words


Take a black and white scan of actress Miss Lillah McCarthy (1875–1960) as Viola in Twelfth Night (1912) from an issue of Play Pictorial in my theatre collection. Throw on some magic in the form of textures by 2 Lil’ Owls (Owls Beguiling-18, 2LO – Crackle 11, and 2LO Confetti 6 along with a Cretan seascape photograph shot from on board a fishing boat,  plus a texture from Angie Makes (bluewatercolor), and Viola is transformed, translated. I’m thinking of Quince to Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (’Thou art translated’, Act 3, Scene 1) when I use this word in the title.

Miss Lillah McCarthy was the first wife of the playwright Harley Granville Barker, thrown over for a rich second wife. She created the role of Ann in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, among much else.


‘And let me see thee in thy women’s weeds.’
Orsino to Viola in Twelfth Night, Act 5, Scene 1


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Sarah


Originally posted on WildeTimes.net.

A Private View at the Royal Academy, with captions pointing out Anthony Trollope, Prime Minister William Gladstone, Robert Browning, the Countess of Lonsdale, Lord Leighton, Lillie Langtry, Oscar Wilde, Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, and John Everett Millais

The opening of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London on the first Monday in May marked the beginning of ‘the Season’ for the élite of Victorian Society. This set in play three hectic months of balls, concerts, dinner parties, operas, horse riding in Hyde Park, the Derby and races at Royal Ascot, the Henley Royal Regatta and cricket at Lord’s. Young women pinned their hopes on getting engaged before the debutante balls, parties and concerts came to an end on 12 August, when fashionable people abandoned London and headed north to shoot grouse, partridges and pheasants as a prelude to fox-hunting.Whatever Oscar Wilde may have thought of fox-hunting (“the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable” as he called it in A Woman of No Importance), his social success is reflected in his appearance at the Royal Academy’s Private Viewing day in May 1881, an invitation-only event. At only 26 years of age, Wilde was a celebrity moving in the best circles, despite being an Irishman in xenophobic London.Wilde’s achievement is remarkable because in 1881 he had little writing to his name (his first and largely forgotten play, Vera, and a volume of poetry), yet he had made himself conspicuous enough as…

via The Apostle of the beautiful and the Season | WildeTimes.net.


My starting point for this piece was a divine original book-plate from 1899 of the British actress Miss Dorothea Baird (1875-1933), which I bought from collectors Vintage Views, along with a few other goodies which will be revealed in the weeks to come.

I will be posting the original on First Night Vintage at some point but here I have superimposed a vintage theatre programme from my archive for a production at the Lyric Theatre onto the curtains of the original. If I were to tell you the number of other images and textures I used, including Island in the Storm, you probably wouldn’t believe me!

Dorothea Baird first appeared on stage  in 1894 for the Oxford University Dramatic Society or OUDS as Iris in The Tempest. She performed in several Shakespeare productions in the following years, often with her husband, H. B. Irving, Sir Henry’s son. She also originated the part of Mrs Darling in Peter Pan (1904). It was a short but notable career, ending in 1913 when she retired and concentrated her energies on charitable causes.

Mr H B Irving Greeting Card

Mr. H. B. Irving (1870 – 1919) as Hamlet at the Adelphi Theatre 1904.

Mr H B Irving Greeting Card

The text below is an extract from what is printed on the reverse side of the book-plate and is an effusive, to say the least, appraisal of Miss Baird and her trumpeted performance in the title role of George du Maurier’s Trilby, produced at the Haymarket Theatre in 1895. You will not have read the like in the 20th or 21st century!

‘MISS DOROTHEA BAIRD made her first appearance on the stage in 1894, when she played Iris in “The Tempest,” and Galatea in “Pygmalion and Galatea,” at the performances of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. After that, Miss Baird went a-touring with Mr. Ben Greet’s company—whence we have derived so many stage recruits—and in her time played many parts. But to Londoners, Miss Dorothea Baird is Trilby; Trilby, in spite of her appearance as the heroine of Mr. Louis Parker’s play, The Happy Life,” at the Duke of York’s Theatre; in spite of her Phoebe in As You Like It,” at the St. James’s; in spite of her charming Diane in A Court Scandal,” at the Court Theatre. And, whatever may be the success in store for her, it is probable that it is of her Trilby we shall tell our grandchildren when we inform them in the usual way that acting was acting in our young days [….] From the above will be learned the impressions of the moment of a remarkable “first night.”‘

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Sarah


ONE FROM THE ARCHIVE. In view of my recent posts about Maude Fealy, I thought it was time to reblog this article from 2012, partly because I have nothing else prepared!

First Night Design

As I have recently said on Facebook, whenever I sell a theatre-related design on whatever product, my heart leaps. Theatre is in my blood, partly because I spent over 30 years as an actress and partly because I was, as the saying goes, ‘born in a trunk’.  This theatre term used to mean that you were born on tour of theatrical parents and that while other babies spent their days and nights in cribs and prams, you spent yours sustained by the smell of greasepaint and curled up in the theatre’s wardrobe skip, either in the wings or one of  the dressing rooms.  Now it has the more general meaning of having theatrical parentage. I am reminded of another phrase, which was coined by the playwright Tom Robertson, as revealed by Clement Scott in The Drama of Yesterday and Today [Vol. I] (pub. Macmillan & Co, 1899), and of…

View original post 335 more words


Following on from yesterday’s post about Maude Fealy, here she is again in a vintage postcard that asks, ‘Which is the prettiest of all?’ I’d say Maude!

This image is from my theatre collection and I’ve had it since my teens. Yesterday’s image was from The Graphics Fairy.

Clockwise:
Miss Phyllis Dare (1890-1975)
Miss Mabel Love (1874-1953)
Miss Edna May (1878-1948)
Miss Gabrielle Ray (1883-1973)
Miss Zena Dare (1887-1975)
Miss Maude Fealy (1883-1971)

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


Actress Maude Fealy Postcard
Actress Maude Fealy [1883-1971] Postcards

The American actress Maude Fealy was an exquisite beauty whose career encompassed everything from stage performances in the US, Canada and Britain, as well as silent movies and talking pictures.

She was born in 1883 in Tennessee and died in Los Angeles in 1971. Her mother, Margaret, was an actress and drama teacher so it comes as no surprise to learn that Maude made her stage debut at the age of three in her mother’s production of Faust.

She married an English drama critic in 1907, Louis Sherwin, who wrote for a newspaper in Denver. Her parents were not fans of their daughter’s husband and did everything they could to ruin the marriage; the result was successful and the pair divorced in 1909.

Her second marriage to actor James Durkin sparked the formation of a travelling theatre troupe called the Fealy-Durkin Stock Company. This marriage did not last the course and in 1920 she wed John Cort Jr but this marriage was annulled in 1923.

She continued to divide her time between stage and screen. Her work in Hollywood was helped immeasurably by her friendship with Cecil B DeMille with whom she had appeared on stage. She appeared in almost every one of DeMille’s films, among them The Buccaneer [1958] and The Ten Commandments [1956].

Returning to Denver in the 1940s, she founded a drama school, later going back to Hollywood to do the same.

It is a measure of her friendship with DeMille, who died in 1959, that it was he who left money in his will to pay her funeral expenses when she died in 1971.
Adapted from the mini-biography on IMDb.

See my other film and theatre-related products here.

Maude Fealy on IMDb
Blogging Maude

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


‘Like a Lapwing’ © Sarah Vernon

‘Like a Lapwing’ © Sarah Vernon


‘For look where Beatrice like a lapwing runs
Close by the ground, to hear our conference.’
Hero talking with Ursula about Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, 
Act III, Scene I


I was completely wrong when I published the Ruddy Duck post to say it was the fourth in my bird collection using images from The Biodiversity Heritage Library on Flickr; it was the third. ‘Like a Lapwing’ is my fourth!

To read more about lapwings, visit Wikimedia. Can you tell I don’t have the energy to add information about lapwings in my own words? Nor can I summon the wherewithal to find a better source of information!

The quote, by the way, is a favourite from Much Ado. My mother was lucky enough to see Peggy Ashcroft as Beatrice at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1950. “When Dame Peg made her entrance in the scene, she was exactly like a lapwing,” said my mother.

[Sir John] Gielgud revived his own colourful, ingeniously designed 1949 production a year later, casting himself as Benedick to Peggy Ashcroft’s Beatrice. On the first night the pair drank a bottle of champagne before going on – and according to Gielgud “never played so well in our lives”. London would see the show in 1952 and 1955. The Daily Telegraph

‘Like a Lapwing’ will soon be available to buy.

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah


As you can see, I’m still on my ocean-related kick with this new piece adapted from a photograph by Nicolai Bernsten at Unsplash.

I wanted to give it a painterly feel and used textures ‘2LO Confetti 17’ and ‘2LO Distressed 12’ from 2 Lil’ Owls to do this.


Rosencrantz: We might as well be dead. Do you think death could possibly be a boat?
Guildenstern: No, no, no… Death is…not. Death isn’t. You take my meaning. Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can’t not-be on a boat.
Rosencrantz: I’ve frequently not been on boats.
Guildenstern: No, no, no—what you’ve been is not on boats.”
Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


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Sarah


I’ve run out of bandwidth so I’m having to squeeze out a quick post that I prepared at Christmas when I sold 25 postcards of the male impersonator Miss Vesta Tilley, about whom you can read here. It was the best Christmas present!

Vesta Tilley Post Cards
Miss Vesta Tilley Post Cards

This is the original postcard from my theatre collection:

Vesta Tilley (1864-1952)

Miss Vesta Tilley (1864-1952)

As you can tell, and as is my wont, I gave her a new look with a different background, though I do intend to sell copies of the original when I get round to it. Hah! I wonder when that will be.

I trust you are all having a diverting May Day weekend! I’m spending it reading the first novel of Beguiling Hollywood’s inimitable Vicki Lester, It’s In His Kiss.

Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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