Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Palmer Method

One of the ways I hope to bring this show to life for my readers is to present the participants as real people who had real lives—both before and beyond their time in The Wizard of Oz. It's easy to look at a photo from the early 1900s and not see the individuals, the human beings who lived with this show—sometimes for years. Chorus girl Allie Palmer is a good example.

Allie as an Emerald City boy.
Allie joined the Hamlin and Mitchell Wizard of Oz Company No. 1 at the beginning of the 1905-06 season playing Premonia the Munchkin girl and a Poppy. As a chorus member she would have played many uncredited parts as well, such as this charming lad from the Emerald City (seen at right).

Later in the year she began playing Claude Cliquot (a Cook) and eventually swapped that role for Gloria Jane, one of the Waitresses, both parts in Act III. She was also working as an understudy, and in October of 1906 she went on as Locasta, the Witch of the North.

In the 1906-07 season, the first year of the Hurtig and Seamon tour, she began playing a Snow Sprite (helping to kill the poppies at the end of Act I) and got two speaking parts in the show: Leo, Captain of the Relief Guards; and Bardo, the Wizard's factotum. She kept these two parts until the end of the Hurtig and Seamon tour in 1909.

She was born Alice Sayers on July 7, 1876. She began her stage career by 1896 when she and her sister, Edna, became "The Palmer Sisters." Where the girls got the name "Palmer" is unknown. Her sister eventually left the act and Allie went solo and began appearing in better and better shows.

But what was Allie like? What happened to her after The Wizard of Oz? Well, immediately after Wizard she went into Lew Fields's The Merry Widow and the Devil for the 1909-1910 season; but after that I find no more evidence for her career. But thanks to her great niece, Blanche Madden, I can share a good deal of information regarding Allie's personal life.

She had married William E. Allen, a Spanish-American War veteran, on March 22,1903. They never had any children. But in 1910, at the end of her season with The Merry Widow and the Devil, Allie's second sister, Pauline, died and Allie and William took in Pauline's son, Fred Wagner, to raise as their own.

Allie, husband Bill, and nephew Fred lived on a large houseboat on Sheepshead Bay, in Brooklyn, with their French Bulldog from 1913 to 1916.

Allie & the French Bulldog on the Allen's Houseboat circa 1913-1916.

After the houseboat, the family moved to a house in the NYC area for several years while "Captain Bill" owned and operated a fishing boat, called the "Yankee Doodle," part of the fleet from the Bay.  When he sold the boat, they moved to Manhattan, where Bill worked as a doorman.

Allie (in an amazing dress) and Bill circa late 1930s.

After Bill's death, Allie moved back to Sheepshead Bay.

Allie's time in The Wizard of Oz must have been a big deal to both her and her family. One of her nieces was named Dorothy after Dorothy Gale in the show (see below). Seated in front of Dorothy is another niece, Blanche, who was a nun for over sixty years.

Allie with two nieces: Dorothy standing, Blanche seated.

Allie's great niece, Blanche Madden, (with whom I've been corresponding) was named after Blanche the nun.

Allie at great niece Blanche's wedding in 1953.

Allie remained active and vital till the end of her days. In the late 1950s she demonstrated some "buck and wing" dancing like she had performed in The Wizard of Oz with Dorothy in the "Ball of All Nations."

Allie performing a "Buck & Wing" dance like she had performed in Wizard.

Allie's great niece Blanche, who saw the dance, remembers Allie "moved around the floor quite a bit with some of her steps, while others were more like tap dancing."

Allie spent her last years at the Percy Williams Home for Actors on Long Island. She died on October 5, 1957.

Allie as a Cowboy in Act II of The Wizard of Oz.

Copyright © 2020 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I lived in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood for 29 years.