Odds & Ends
A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Research
November 1995, No. 2
LONDON POSTWAR THEATER - 1920
Seventy-five years ago Europe was still staggering from the recent war and
outbreaks of influenza. Unbelievable numbers of its young men were gone
forever. The survivors desperately needed distraction.
Light theatrical fare was called for, and provided. There was no Shakespeare
or Shaw being produced this year, although Shaw was finishing up his epic
play cycle Back to Methuselah. The two classics produced were a revival
of Francis Beaumont's 1609 comedy Knight of the Burning Pestle, and
a new version of John Gay's 1727 musical drama The Beggar's Opera.
A later version of Gay's play would give us Mack the Knife.
Lenox Robinson's family comedy The Whiteheaded Boy was intended as
a satire on the relationship between England and Ireland, but no one seemed
to notice, most taking it at face value.
Several popular and prolific playwrights were represented. A. A. Milne provided
Mr Pim Passes By starring Irish playwright Dion Boucicault and his
wife Irene Vanbrugh. A young newcomer named Leslie Howard was also in the
cast. This year Milne and his wife also provided a son, destined
to become Christopher Robin of the Winnie the Pooh stories. Noted
manager Basil Dean produced John Galsworthy's The Skin Game. Peter
Pan creator James M. Barrie was represented with Mary Rose.
Novelists, most of them unknown to today's readers, provided theatrical
fodder. H. De Vere Stackpole's The Blue Lagoon is one such property,
that filmmakers still will just not let die a merciful death. Gertrude Page's
novel Paddy the Next Best Thing was also dramatized, as was George
Du Maurier's Peter Ibbetson. But the staged novel that caused the
greatest excitement was Robert Hichen's Garden of Allah. The Drury
Lane Theatre was noted for its extravagant stage effects, and the management
did not disappoint. The lavish production included a live camel and the
climax was reached during an onstage sandstorm that left Londoners gasping
and buzzing for months. Yes, the 1936 Dietrich-Boyer film came from the
1920 seemed to be ripe for musical revues beginning with the letter "J".
The year saw Jig-Saw, Jumble Sale, and Just Fancy.
American actress Elsie Janis starred in the U. S. revue It's All Wrong.
Musicals - commonly know as musical plays at the time - were also popular.
Irene introduced theatergoers to the song Alice Blue Gown.
Others musicals were The Little Dutch Girl; London, Paris and
New York; The Naughty Princess; Oh, Julie!; Pretty
Peggy; and The Southern Maid.
A London Christmas season would be incomplete without the annual pantomime,
a satirical potpourri of comedy routines by noted performers, many of them
cross-dressing, threaded together by the plots of well-known fairy tales.
The "panto" was a tradition with many London families, and this
year they flocked to the London Hippodrome to see Aladdin. They missed
seeing Gertrude Lawrence. The soon-to-be star was an understudy, and none
of the headliners was gracious enough to break a leg.
There was one other relative newcomer treading the boards this year. He
had played an apprentice/amateur actor in Knight of the Burning Pestle.
A five-week lull occurring at the New Theatre, the owners filled the time
with a play called I'll Leave It to You. The newcomer performed in
the piece. He'd also written it. You may have guessed - it was Noel Coward.
All of the above mentioned productions, as well as many others, ran for
over a hundred performances. The Beggar's Opera ran for 1463. Source:
Who's Who in the Theatre, 17th edition, ed. by Herbert Ian with Christine
Baxter and Robert E. Finley, Gale Research (Detroit, 1981)
A search of Eagles Byte chronologies on the word "London" turns
up the following events for the years 1918-1920:
Germany's heaviest bombing of London takes place during this night.
Meat rationing goes into effect in Greater London.
Less than half of 42 Gotha warplanes attacking London make it through British
The Diaghilev Ballet Company opens a season at the London Coliseum.
The Spanish flu kills 2,200 Londoners during one week.
The Armistice is signed. Total war losses for the United Kingdom - 745,000.
A. A. Milne's Make-Believe opens Nigel Playfair's newly-renovated
Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.
Future author V. (Victor) S. Pritchett leaves London for Paris, where he
begins working as a glue salesman.
Suzanne Lenglen becomes the first non-English speaking tennis champion,
winning the ladies' singles at Wimbledon.
A giant victory parade is staged in London, as well as others all over Britain.
The Diaghilev Ballet Company returns to London with a production of Manuel
The Three-Cornered Hat. at the Alhambra Theatre. The designs
are by Pablo Picasso.
Jazz pianist-composer George Albert Shearing is born in London.
The first boxing match in Royal Albert Hall takes place. ** A Diaghilev
ballet season plays at
The League of Nations Council meets for the first time, at St. James Palace.
Croydon Airport becomes the London Customs Air Port and Hounslow Airport
Christopher Milne, son of A. A. Milne and the model for Christopher Robin,
is born in Chelsea, London.
George V unveils E. Luytens' Cenotaph in Whitehall and attends the burial
of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey.
Gustav Holst's The Planets is given its first public performance.
C. B. Cochran manages the Aldwych Theatre, through the following year. **
The name of
Camden Chapel is changed to All Saints Camden Town Church.
PEARL OF AN URL
Continuing with this month's London theater theme, our featured URL belongs
to London's West End Theatre Ticket Site.
They have a number of interesting destinations. "greenrm.html"
added to the URL will take you to the Green Room (the traditional actors'
lounge) for all the latest news of the London theater. Of special interest
to history buffs is the "we_venue.html" area, where you will find
capsule histories of all the West End theatres (to use the British spelling).
One omission from this area, that we can hope may someday be seen to, would
be a list of the productions at each of the theatres.
You were asked to name the poets who wrote the following (answers included):
- Great Central Railway, Sheffield Victoria to Banbury - John Betjeman
- North Philadelphia, Trenton and New York - Richard Lattimore
- Western Town - Karl Shapiro
Name the person of whom it was written:
What a wide world was in that little space,
Thyself a world, the Globe thy fittest place.
EB SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY (more detailed versions available)
- Fitzgerald, Percy - Romance of the English Stage (Philadelphia, 1875)
- Frohman, Daniel - Daniel Frohman Presents (1935)
- Fruhauf, Alice John - Making Faces: Memoirs of a Characaturist (1990)
- Garrick, David - Letters of David Garrick (1963)
- Grebanier, Bernard - Then Came Each Actor: Shakespearean Actors, Great
- Gutman, J. S. & Kellie O. - John Wilkes Booth Himself (1986)
- Higham, Charles - Ziegfeld (1972)
- Landstone, Charles & Williamson, Audrey - The Bristol Old Vic (1957
- Macqueen-Pope, W. - The Footlights Flickered (1959)
- Marston, Westland - Our Recent Actors (Boston, 1888)
Novelist Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters) whose Father Cadfael mysteries are
set in Medieval England, dies at the age of 82.
John Gardner, recently retired as associate curator of small craft at Connecticut's
Mystic Seaport Museum, dies in Haverhill, Massachusetts at the age of 90.
German-born U. S. architectural historian Howard Saalman (Haussmann:
Paris Transformed) dies at his home in Pittsburgh at the age of 67.
The New York Times announces that Radio Free Europe audiotapes covering
the period of the Hungarian uprising of 1956 have been uncovered in a German
archive in Coblenz. They are expected to show whether CIA broadcasts provoked
the Hungarian freedom fighters into action with the promise that U. S. military
aid was imminent.
The Nation's Report Card, issued by U. S. Education Secretary Richard Riley,
indicates that last year over half of high school seniors failed a basic
test on U.S. history; 36% and 39% of fourth and eighth graders, respectively,
flunked the test.
Culinary historian Helen Duprey Bullock (Williamsburg Art of Cookery)
dies at the age of 90 in a Washington, D. C. retirement community.
French philosopher-historian Gilles Deleuze (What Is Philosophy;
with Felix Guattari), depressed by a chronic respiratory illness, commits
suicide by jumping from his apartment window in Paris, at the age of 70.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres announces his government will
delay indefinitely a large dam project that threatens Stone Age carvings
at Foz Coa, in his country's northern region.
Novelist, playwright and journalist (In the Fist of the Revolution)
Jose Yglesias, dies of cancer in New York's Beth Israel Hospital at the
age of 75.
Charles Vevier, historian of American diplomacy, died on Thursday at New
Jersey's Englewood Hospital at the age of 71.
* * *
I hope you've enjoyed this issue of Odds & Ends.
Eagles Byte has a bibliography database of U. S. history books with over
5100 titles. Our British bibliography database contains over 700. Trying
to keep up with world history is beyond our capabilities, but we do have
a few books in our files and can look up others for you. If you'd like further
information and/or fees, feel free to e-mail me.
Melbourne, Australia, 1920s
ODDS & ENDS Index
© 1995 David Minor / Eagles Byte