The its-behind-you.com archive gets fuller each and every year. Filing cabinets full of pantomime programmes and handbills marked “Ancient” and “Modern” (ancient being from the earliest examples and modern from 1970s onwards!).
When I get hold of programmes these days I am increasingly aware of a “degree of separation” with the contents- quite often I’ve worked with, or watched someone featured, or played the venue- a sign of getting older I guess, when the programmes pre date me! This Pantomime Business that we love is often based on traditions handed down from one generation to another- there is a cross over. I did my early pantomimes in the 1970’s with Panto stars of the 1940’s and earlier, and they taught me routines and traditions that I have tried to pass on in the same way.
Each programme I look at often has a connection to these traditions and maybe that is why I find them so fascinating. The programme or handbill tells a story of the artistes and the theatres and the era they were performed in. Here are a few recent IBY acquisitions I thought I’d share. Every one has a story to tell! Starting with:
“Dick Whittington”: 1955.
“Dick Whittington”, The Winter Gardens Morecambe-under the management of L.Benjamin for Val Parnell & Moss Empires. They had taken the lease two years before this panto.
This Pantomime featured Jack Stanford– “The King of Eccentric Dancers”.
Here’s a clip of Jack from 1935 on Youtube. : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZvUlVudNwc&feature=youtu.be
And from Pathe: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/jack–stanford
I did a panto once with Jill Stanford-Jill was a relative of Jack Stanford, and I recall also related to the Salberg Family. I believe that Jill was my agent Keith Salberg’s neice.
In 1956 Derek Salberg put Jack Stanford into his production of “Babes In The Wood” at the Alexandra Theatre Birmingham alongside Terry Hall & Lenny The Lion.
the City Varieties Bill is from 1962.
Joe Crosbie– “Idle Jack”: His number in this show (according to the “Stage” archive” was a hit- entitled “You Can’t Keep A Cow on Cokernuts!”
Joe Crosbie comedian and entertainer was born Joseph Thomas McKeign in Atherton in 1908.
It was in the pre-ear years that he started his stage career, working the Northern Club circuit. In 1944 he made his professional debut at the Bolton Grand Theatre. On the 17th of December 1948 he made his first broadcast on radio in “Northern Lights”. In 1949 he made his first TV appearance when he topped the bill in “Variety Bandbox”.
It was in 1951 that he signed up with the impresario Emil Littler to appear in Pantomime at the Empire Theatre Sheffield, followed by a summer season at the Blackpool Hippodrome. He toured in his own show “Give it to Joe”. In 1959 he signed with Jack Gillam Entertainments Ltd and topped the bill in many of Gillams Pantomimes and Varieties.
This handbill gives some indication of the hard work involved with eleven shows in the week and at the same time Joe would have rehearsing for his next show. He made several more appearances on TV, a number of times with Morecombe and Wise, Joseph Lock and a very youthful Petula Clarke.
Jeanette Landis 1963 “Doctor In Distress”
Jeanette Landis was the Principal Boy-Born in 1928 , She appeared later in television, most notably “Doctor In Distress” (1963) “The Rag Trade” and “Dr Jeckell” 1968. That year she appeared in the film “Star”, which had Julie Andrews as Gertrude Lawrence. Jeanette Landis was a comic Daffoldil Dancer appearing in the number “In My Garden Of Joy”.
The Emperor in this”Dick Whittington” was played by Frank Seton. I had the great joy of working with Frank twice in Pantomime, some twenty five years after this show.
The year before this Pantomime, Frank had been Arthur Lucan’s understudy . In fact he had never been on stage for “Old Mother Riley” until that night on the 17th May 1954, at the Tivoli Hull when Arthur died in the wings, and Frank was ushered onstage in his place in “Old Mother Riley In Paris”.
The full story of Frank’s appearance as Old Mother Riley can be found in Dr Robert V Kenny’s book “The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley”published by BearManorMedia (ISBN: 978-1-59393-771-3). Some of the anecdotes Frank told me, as well as those related to me by the chief Electrician of the Tivoli in 1954- Roland Watson, can be found in this excellent book.
The first Panto I did with Frank was a “Puss In Boots” at the (then) Civic St.Albans.1980. It was, I think Hilary O’Neil’s first panto as Principal Boy. I later worked with Frank in “Dick Whittington”, a lovely gentle and very funny man. The press cutting above from 1980 shows Frank dressed as King, third from left (front row), I’m sitting in the rickshaw with Hilary O’Neil .
The Dave Lee who played “Daphne The Cook” in the Morecambe pantomime is of course not the same Dave Lee, sadly no longer with us, who played Dame to great acclaim at Chichester in recent times. This Dave Lee had a number in the Pantomime entitled “On Windmill Hill”.