Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween!

It is no trick, but it might be a treat, to see this wonderful (and slightly creepy) photo from the 1905 musical The Pearl and the Pumpkin featuring music by John W. Bratton and lyrics by Paul West. The photo below shows Taylor Granville as Joe Miller, who is transformed into a Pumpkin early in the show. The transition of the headpiece into the face is very well done.

Taylor Granville as Joe Miller transformed into the titular pumpkin.

The show premiered at the Colonial Theatre in Boston on July 17, 1905. The New York run began at the Broadway Theatre on August 21, 1905, and closed on November 4, 1905, after 72 performances--a respectable run for a musical in the early 1900s. A number of songs from the show were recorded, too—I will share a few in the future. The show toured the northeast for the rest of the theatrical season. A second touring season was announced, but was seemingly cancelled.

Of special interest is that the scenery, costumes, and props were all designed by W. W. Denslow, who designed the character costumes for The Wizard of Oz. As these posts continue, it will be interesting to compare Denslow's design aesthetic of the two shows.

In the meantime, though—Happy Halloween!

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Majestic Sight

Majestic Theatre at Columbus Circle (circa late 1903.)

The Broadway Wizard of Oz musical opened at the Majestic Theatre on Columbus Circle on January 21, 1903. In fact, Wizard was the show that inaugurated the theatre.

Many online sources confuse this original Majestic Theatre with the current one, which was built in 1927 and housed the premieres of Carousel, South Pacific, The Music Man, and The Wiz—and which has been the home of Phantom of the Opera for the last three decades

The original Majestic, the one built in 1903, was demolished in 1954 and replaced by the New York Coliseum. In 2000 the Coliseum was itself torn down and replaced by the Time Warner Center, which, interestingly, much more closely matches the original curving facade of the Majestic Theatre.

There are a handful of period photographs of the Majestic in 1903 and 1904 showing advertising either for The Wizard of Oz or for Babes in Toyland. By all accounts the 1354 seat theatre was a state of the art venue - with no columns obstructing sight-lines, an electric stage lighting system, and air conditioning.

The northeast facing walls of the theatre provided space for painting large-scale ads for the shows that played at the theatre. You can see a wonderful example below, catching the painters covering the Wizard of Oz advertising with Babes in Toyland advertising in October 1903.

Babes in Toyland advertising replacing Wizard of Oz advertising in October 1903.

But there is still another way to catch a few glimpses of the legendary Broadway landmark. You can see the Majestic for a few fleeting seconds in the 1949 technicolor movie musical On the Town (see below) when a taxi drops off the three sailors at Columbus Circle.

Majestic Theatre visible in background in the 1949 film On The Town.

The Majestic almost has a starring role in the 1954 Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon film It Should Happen to You in which Gladys Glover (played by Holliday) tries to make a name for herself by renting ad space on the side of the Majestic Theatre to launch her career as a celebrity.

Majestic Theatre is prominently featured in the 1954 film It Should Happen to You.

The Majestic underwent multiple name changes over the years and by 1954 it was known as the NBC Television Theatre and was the home of Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows.

Majestic Theatre renamed NBC Television Theatre

I had never heard of It Should Happen to You until several years ago when a friend told me of the connection to the Majestic Theatre. If you like classic old comedies in the Frank Capra vein, I highly recommend it. Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon are wonderful. The film has a very funny screenplay by Garson Kanin, and it's directed by George Cukor! What's not to like? I'm surprised the film isn't better known.

We'll explore the Majestic Theatre in more detail in future posts.

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bang on My Chest If You Think I'm Perfect!

There is a lot of mistaken information online and in books about the original Broadway musical The Wizard of Oz. Some of it is simply from passing on other people's faulty research—and some of it is just made up crap such as pollutes the Wikipedia entry on the show.

Researchers and writers on vintage musical theatre, on The Wizard of Oz, and on L. Frank Baum have often relied solely on secondary sources—and then the research begins to take on a life of its own. It's like that old party game of whispering a secret phrase in someone's ear such as "Mary has a crush on Bart." And by the time the secret makes it around the room, evolving as it passes from person to person, it has morphed into "Harry wrecked mom's car!"

One of the most common mistakes people have made (and continue to make) is mislabeling photographs, misidentifying actors and actresses. Such erroneous photo identifications appear in books, at major institutions, and they litter the internet. Every picture of the Cowardly Lion is not Arthur Hill, every Scarecrow is not Fred Stone.

Before I start trying to fix everyone else's errors I think it best to clear up a couple of my own, all from my Grammy Award-nominated 2 CD set Vintage Recordings from the 1903 Wizard of Oz.

On page 4 of the booklet called "The Records" appears a photograph of the Wizard and a man drawing a sword, whom I mistakenly identified as Pastoria. The man drawing the sword is actually Harold T. Morey as Brigadier-General Riskitt (in disguise) at the beginning of Act II.

Caption should read "The Wizard of Oz and Brigadier-General Riskitt (in disguise)."

In the same booklet, on page 19, I feature a photo of the Wizard's all-girl Phantom Patrol. I should have made clear that my description of the "Phantom Patrol" scene only refers to the pre-Broadway version of the show. 

The Wizard's Phantom Guard - second from left, Georgia Baron is the Captain of the Guard.

For the Broadway version of the show (seen in the photograph above), a much more plot-oriented pantomime was developed by Julian Mitchell.

One of my most embarrassing mistakes occurs in the centerfold of the other booklet, "The Lyrics."

In 2003 I wrongly believed this to be a photograph of Isabel D'Armond, who played Dorothy in Company No. 2. The costume is from the "Ball of All Nations" scene in Act II.

But the young woman in the photograph is in fact Anna Laughlin, the original Dorothy.

When I first acquired the photo I don't think I'd ever seen Anna Laughlin in that costume before, and the teeth and the smile looked to me much like Isabel D'Armond.

I really like the photo. You can see the uncropped original image below.

Anna Laughlin in her "Ball of All Nation's" costume in The Wizard of Oz (1903).

In the synopsis of the show on page 3 of the "Records" booklet I wrote that the Good Witch of the North sends Dorothy home to Kansas. This was based on a synopsis in the original Broadway program. But that January 1903 synopsis was written before the Broadway script was finalized, and from the premiere on, Dorothy does not return to Kansas. She remains in Oz with her sweetheart Sir Dashemoff Daily.

As long as I'm pointing out these few errors I will mention one typographical error, too. In one place in the booklets Sir Dashemoff Daily accidentally became Sir Dasmeoff Daily. And I failed to mention that the photo of Bessie Wynn in the kilt—in the section on non-Wizard of Oz recordings by Miss Wynn—shows her as Tom-Tom in Babes in Toyland.

Mea culpa.

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dorothy's Wardrobe Deluxe

My fellow blogger Bill Campbell over at The Oz Enthusiast is almost as obsessed with the 1903 Wizard of Oz musical as I am. He's a fellow collector of stage-oriented Oz material and he's even built a tremendously fun toy-theatre version of the show.

In researching for the toy theatre, Bill became quite interested in Carolyn Siedle's costume sketches for the 1903 Wizard of Oz. On a recent trip to New York, Bill took photos of most of the surviving costume sketches and assembled them all in a blog post. He later did another blog comparing and contrasting the sketches with the finished costumes as seen in assorted production photos. But at least one of the sketches was rather a stumper for Bill - an unknown Act III dress for Dorothy.

Costume sketch for Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz Act III by Caroline Siedle.

The image shows Dorothy in a sort of "baby-doll" dress. It's short, like a very young girl's would be at the time, all white, with assorted ruffles and bands of applied ribbon, and most oddly, black knee-socks with little white shoes. It's not a look we've associated with Dorothy in that show and doesn't match any of actress Anna Laughlin's Dorothy dresses that we know from the Broadway stage photos.

Bill wondered if it was a preliminary design, perhaps cut from the show. But I had an idea it might be something else. I suspected that a number of the sketches were not from the Broadway version of the show but from the revised version of the show dubbed "Edition de Luxe" prepared in the Spring of 1904. The show got many new songs, many new costumes, and a general freshening. So I started digging through my photo archive trying to prove my theory. Finally I remembered a photo from Act III of the Hurtig and Seamon touring production circa late 1906. And there is Anna Wilkes as Dorothy Gale kneeling during the finale, and I think she is wearing this mystery frock.

Anna Wilkes as Dorothy in the finale of The Wizard of Oz Act III circa 1906.

The hat seems similar enough, but the banding on the hem seems spot on. The Hurtig and Seamon production is also just a bit dowdier than the original Julian Mitchell version. Hence the slightly frumpy look (though she is kneeling and pleading for help from the Witch of the North).  Below you can see Anna Laughlin in the original Act III dress at the same moment from the show.

Anna Laughlin as Dorothy in finale of The Wizard of Oz Act III circa 1903.

 I strongly suspect that Anna Laughlin made the request for a new Act III dress in the "Edition de Luxe." The original dress above looks heavy and hot, while the little white frock looks quite breezy and cool. A good thing when playing in warm theatres, under the lights, with no air-conditioning.

One reason I think the request may have come directly from Anna Laughlin is that the new Act III dress bears a striking resemblance to a dress Anna Laughlin had worn onstage back in August of 1900 in The Casino Boy. She was only sixteen.
Anna Laughlin in The Casino Boy, August 1900.

So the mystery of the ruffled white dress is solved. But did Dorothy wear the little white shoes and black stockings? That remains a mystery!

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Property of Anna Laughlin

One of the more unusual collectibles related to the 1903 Wizard of Oz I have access to (technically it belongs to my husband) is a first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, containing first state text and second state color plates, published by the George M. Hill Co. Alas, it is a wreck. It's mostly unbound, it's missing the spine, it's missing three color plates - did I mention it's a wreck?

What makes it of interest in relation to the show is that this copy of the book previously belonged to Anna Laughlin who created the role of Dorothy Gale. The book is signed by Anna Laughlin twice on the front free end paper. The first signature reads: N. Y. City -  S. H. P. May 11, 1902 - Property of Anna S. Laughlin. I don't know who or what "S. H. P." is. Eric, my husband, chooses to think it is the person that gave her the book.

Anna Laughlin's two signatures in her personal copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The first announcement that Anna Laughlin had been cast as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz appeared in the May 3, 1902, issue of the New York Dramatic Mirror.
New York Dramatic Mirror - May 3, 1902 Announcing casting of Anna Laughlin.

The clipping above states that Anna Laughlin will close her engagement with The New Yorkers on May 10th.

The day after the newspaper announcement Anna Laughlin received her copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, possibly as a gift from the mysterious "S. H. P." in the inscription. That same day the following appeared in the New York Sunday Telegraph:

New York Sunday Telegraph, May 11, 1902
I'd like to think Anna Laughlin read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz while on the train to Chicago. She was born October 11, 1883, in Sacramento, California. So she was only eighteen when she got this book and became the first Dorothy. The book is signed a second time with Anna's married name. She married a diamond importer named Dwight Monroe just as she was finishing up her run in The Wizard of Oz. They had one child, Lucy Monroe, who was born on October 23, 1906. Lucy went on to become a popular radio singer. Anna Laughlin died on March 6, 1937.

This book contains one other curiosity. At both front and back of the book it has "Poppy Field" endpapers, which were designed by W. W. Denslow for the 1903 Bowen-Merrill second edition.

1903 pictorial endpapers added to Anna Laughlin's George M. Hill first edition.

These handsome end-sheets, created for the second edition of the book, were clearly added to this otherwise first edition, first-state George M. Hill printing. The second edition was published July 15, 1903. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had been out of print since before the show opened in Chicago.

Illustrator W. W. Denslow was living in New York City during the original Broadway run, and I'd like to think he showed up at the theatre one night with some proof sheets or extra copies of the end-sheets and showed them to Anna Laughlin, Montgomery and Stone, and especially the Poppy Girls. In any case, Anna Laughlin was so taken with them she obtained two copies of the loose end-sheets and had them mounted into her copy of the first edition.

The book came from an eBay seller with no knowledge of how and when it left Anna Laughlin's possession. But I assure you it has a good home.

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

I was NEVER in the Chorus!

There is a great deal of confusion on the internet, on eBay, at IBDB, and at various online stores, regarding actress Grace Kimball—or rather, actresses Grace Kimball—as there were actually three of them—a dramatic actress and two different chorus girls.

The original Grace Kimball, born in 1868, was a leading dramatic actress who had appeared with Charles Frohman's company in The Victoria Cross (1894), with E. H. Sothern in The Prisoner of Zenda (1895), and Heartsease with Henry Miller (1897). She had retired from the stage in 1898 after marrying Lawrence McGuire. But in 1902 she resumed her acting career, appearing in The Liars and Camille, among other plays.

Grace Kimball - Dramatic Actress
Grace Kimball, the chorus girl from The Wizard of Oz, was born in Chicago on March 23, 1882. Her real name was Grace Orpha Jones.

Grace Kimball as Gentleman of the Wizard's Court.
This Grace Kimball appeared in The Girl From Up There (1900) with Montgomery and Stone, followed by The Liberty Belles (1901), which also featured future Wizard of Oz cast members John Slavin and Lotta Faust. In 1901 she co-wrote the song "In a Cosey Corner" with John W. Bratton, which proved a hit.

Just prior to being cast in the 1902 Chicago production of The Wizard of Oz, Grace Kimball had been with Anna Held's The Little Duchess company, with fellow chorister Mabel Barrison. The two chorus girls were fired from the tour of The Little Duchess after taking up with two "Stage-Door Johnnies" and missing the train. Luckily, both Kimball and Barrison were soon hired for The Wizard of Oz in which Grace Kimball played Peter Boq the Munchkin, a Snow Girl, a member of the Phantom Patrol, a Gentleman of the Wizard's Court, and a Cavalier in Act III. Her friend, Mabel Barrison, created the part of Tryxie Tryfle.

On August 20, 1902, chorus girl Grace Kimball had an encounter with Grand Duke Boris Vladimorowitch (a cousin of the Czar), who had decided to sample The Wizard of Oz. The Grand Duke was so enraptured he invited three of the chorus girls—Grace Kimball, Georgia Barron, Clara Pitt—and the Witch of the North Aileen May—back to his hotel suite at the Auditorium Hotel. One of the four girls declared, "We can get an ordinary American Johnnie to pay for our little morsels of food three times in any day of the year, but how many times can we open oysters and things with a real duke? Tell me that."

Grace Kimball as a Snow Girl in The Wizard of Oz (1902).
The four girls and Duke Boris had a late supper at the Auditorium Dining Hall. The Grand Duke told the girls how charmed he was, bowed lowest before the blushing Miss Kimball, and asked if he might not drink her health from her slipper. She said yes, and the story appeared in papers across the country, where it was read by millions.

Unfortunately the various newspaper articles often confused chorus girl Grace Kimball with dramatic actress Grace Kimball. The latter was not amused to be linked to such a sordid romp with the Czar's cousin. She sent out a press release. Below is the publication in the Denver Post, August 31, 1902.

Request has been made for the publication of the following explanatory note, designed to set those right who may be puzzled in regard to two stage people who bear the same name. The request comes from the representative of an actress whose standing is unquestioned, and the statement is in these words:
"There are two Grace Kimballs in the theatrical realm, and one of them has been causing the other a vast amount of annoyance. One is a chorus girl, the other the well-known actress who was leading lady with Henry Miller, E. H. Sothern, and in Charles Frohman's Never Again company. The chorus girl in Chicago the other night is said to have filled her slipper with champagne, and Grand Duke Boris, a cousin of the czar, drank her health from the misfit goblet. It is perhaps unnecessary to call the attention of an indulgent public to the fact that this elegant international episode took place without the knowledge of the original Grace Kimball, who is naturally horrified to see her name in big type in the newspapers as apparently figuring in this rather peculiar incident. Miss Kimball the actress has been engaged as leading lady of the Fawcett stock company in Baltimore, and is not and never has been in the chorus."

Grace Kimball - Dramatic Actress.
The December 15, 1902, issue of the Rockford [Illinois] Republic was still covering the actress's consternation with the chorus girl.

"In the opinion of Grace Kimball there should be some law to prevent chorus girls from stealing the names of players who have become well known. Everyone remembers how annoyed Francis Wilson was when a chorus girl commenced to call herself "Frances Wilson." Then there was a girl named Maggie O'Brien who changed her name to Zaza Belasco. Also a chorus girl has recently been discovered here who calls herself Marie Cahill, after the prima donna of that name. Now Miss Kimball who won her reputation with E. H. Sothern and Henry Miller, is much annoyed because of a girl of the chorus who bears the same name, possibly with every justification, but nevertheless under annoying circumstances. This Grace Kimball is the young woman from whose silken slipper the Grand Duke Boris is said to have drunk champagne last August."

Shortly after the Duke Boris incident, the chorus girl Grace Kimball was given the part of Tryxie Tryfle in The Wizard of Oz after Mabel Barrison left the show. Grace Kimball again played Tryxie when The Wizard of Oz opened on Broadway in January 1903.

After her time in The Wizard of Oz, Grace Kimball appeared in Reginald De Koven's Red Feather (1903) where she met her future husband Walter Stanley Hawkins, who was also performing in the show. They were married in New York during the Broadway run of Red Feather. Kimball next appeared in Weber & Fields Higgledy-Piggledy for two seasons.

May 12, 1901, Boston Post.
I mentioned up top that there were in fact three Grace Kimballs. The third was another chorus girl who also got her name in the papers.

The article accompanying the photo at left explains Grace R. Kimball is a pretty actress from Lynn, Massachusetts. She is the daughter of a police officer and had sung with the First Baptist Church of Lynn before joining Anna Held's company of The French Maid (1897), and was later in The Sunshine of Paradise Alley company.

She is to marry an unspecified Washington millionaire and will take up residency "in one of the most attractive mansions of the capital city."

This Grace Kimball apparently didn't marry the fellow, but let him send her to Paris to study, as seen in the clipping below.

May 15, 1901, Portsmouth [New Hampshire] Herald.

And that is the story of the three Grace Kimballs. One of whom was never in the chorus!

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Gibson Girl in Oz

On May 11, 1902, the Chicago Sunday Tribune announced that rehearsals for The Wizard of Oz would soon begin at the Grand Opera House, under the direction of Julian Mitchell. The management also mentioned “. . . with an air of mystery, that Charles Dana Gibson’s original model for the 'Widow' in his series of pictures entitled A Widow and Her Friends, has been engaged to make her stage debut in The Wizard of Oz.”

This gossipy tidbit would certainly have caught the eyes and imaginations of readers in 1902. Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) was at the height of his popularity as an artist. Gibson created the “Gibson Girl” in 1890 for Life magazine. In 1894 he began publishing luxurious coffee-table books reprinting his exquisite pen-and-ink drawings of high society and his “Gibson girls” exploring life, relationships, independence, and, in subtle ways, their sexuality. 
A Widow and Her Friends by Charles Dana Gibson. Click to enlarge

 In 1901 Gibson drew a new series of drawings, A Widow and her Friends. The “Widow” was a stunningly beautiful young woman, who lusciously goes through mourning, weighs a possible career, and, well, is a Gibson girl or, at least, a Gibson woman.

Charles Dana Gibson's "Widow" is feeling better. Click to enlarge
So did the management of the Grand Opera House truly secure the model who had posed for the “Widow,” or was this just a bit of publicity-seeking “name” dropping? Or rather publicity seeking “name-withheld” dropping—as the Wizard of Oz article continues “ . . .[the Gibson girl model] has made it an absolute condition that her real name and identity be kept strictly secret. Mr. Hamlin is said to have pledged his word.”

This story has some legs, like presumably the Gibson girl does, though of course she would never show hers. On June 8, 1902, the Chicago Inter Ocean reported, “Manager Hamlin of the Grand opera-house is willing to wager real money that he will place on exhibition in the chorus of The Wizard of Oz next week the only and original Gibson model for the widow in the artist’s series of pictures known as The [sic] Widow and Her Friends. . . . According to the Chicago manager, he was in New York recently, when he heard that the real Gibson widow had determined to become a sextet or an actress, or something back of the footlights. He investigated, and discovered that the young woman’s name was Jane Blair, that her beauty had not been overestimated, and that she was really anxious to make her stage debut.”

Hamlin interviewed the girl and found “that Miss Blair’s record was genuine, and the engagement followed. She has been rehearsing with the chorus of The Wizard, envied by the less beautiful of the girls, and admired by the promoters of the entertainment. She declares that she is glad to get her first training in Chicago, as her society friends in New York might try to play some joke on her if she made her debut there.”

Jane Blair model for C. D. Gibson & Chorus girl in Wizard of Oz  Click to Enlarge
The young woman chose to appear in The Wizard of Oz as Jane Blair. Her photo appeared in the June 8, 1902, issue of the Inter Ocean—and she bears a good resemblance to the “Widow.”

Jane Blair and Gibson's "Widow." Click to enlarge
On June 15, 1902, the Inter Ocean updated Chicago on the chorus girls in the forthcoming Wizard of Oz: “Jane Blair, [is] another example, the only genuine model for the Gibson widow, who is going to be noticed for her beauty, it is said, as well as her reputation as a famous model.”

Jane Blair performed in the chorus of The Wizard of Oz during the summer of 1902. She played a Munchkin, a Poppy, a Lady in the Wizard’s Court, and a Dreamland Maid. I’ve not been able to identify her in any of the photos from the original Chicago rehearsals or the production photos.

On August 24, 1902, the Jane Blair story made the news again. The Buffalo Courier published a short piece on the backgrounds of some of the Wizard chorus girls, including “ . . . the nom de theater of Jane Blair conceals the identity of a daughter of one of the first families of New York.” And that’s the last one hears of Jane Blair.

So did this young woman from the upper-crust of New York society really pose for Charles Dana Gibson? She might have. She is pretty enough, and the story kept on going that summer, so maybe she did!

Only the “Widow” knows for sure . . .

One final note: There was another actress named Jane Mae Blair (sometimes credited only as Jane Blair) who appeared in Miss Bob White and The Messenger Boy around this time. But she is known to be elsewhere during the Chicago run of The Wizard of Oz and is thus a different Jane Blair.

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.